We wanted to know more about the recently posted “Sea Orchestra” spot for United Airlines from Shy the Sun (founded by members of The Blackheart Gang). Thankfully, the studio is full of friendly people who were happy to tell us more.
How did you win the United Airlines job? Did the agency seek you out based on The Blackheart Gang’s previous work?
BDM stumbled upon The Tale of How as they were seeking talent for this year’s United campaign. At that stage, they called us up. We were keen to do the spot, and they awarded us the job—obviously, still based on that specific style.
What was the brief from the agency, and were you given some creative freedom in your interpretation of it?
BDM supplied us with a one-liner brief: “sea creatures serenading a passing plane.” Further to that, we were given creative freedom, as long as it was organic and as naturalistic as possible.
Was the process iterative? In other words, was there a lot of back and forth between you and the agency during the concept development and production phases? Or did they essentially let you work on your own?
Between BDM and us, we had a great understanding: it was more about communication than anything else. They understand the dynamics of working with artists and allowing artists to do what they intend, as it is style based. BDM is professional, always progressive and constructive.
Throughout the process, we came up with suggestions here and there and they would say “great” just as long as the idea would emphasize that our creatures were still serenading a passing plane. They enabled us to be the artists and do what we’re good at.
What was it like working with Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”? Was the music handed to you as a finished piece or was there some dialogue between you and the orchestra?
The trickiest part of the process was syncing animation to music. Gershwin’s track is 13min long. The big challenge was to pick the best part, compressing it into a minute to tell our story.
We created an initial base track that accompanied our animatic. That was then given to Trivers/Myers Music, who were the composers; they then supplied us with a closer-to-final track to animate to, which was then developed throughout the process. Finally, a recording was made as the orchestra played live to our final animation.
Who are your influences for character design and/or for your illustrative aesthetic in general?
Overall, Patrick Woodroff, Ernest Hackle and old prints of scientific explorers influenced us.
What’s it like to work in South Africa? What’s “the scene” like there?
Cape Town is quite cosmopolitan and fun. Everybody wonders why everybody is always on the beach and what they do for a living. The lifestyle is awesome, you can bribe traffic cops, so yes… I guess the professional scene is small, but the playing scene is huge.
Our office is in a tree house, we have a solar powered rendering farm, and we’ve got insurance against monkeys stealing our computers. If you wake up really early you can see zebras from our office window. That’s pretty much the standard work environment over here.