What was the initial pitch brief from the agency, and how did you choose to answer it? (I.e. by sticking closely to their wish list or creating something that was quite different?)
This project ended up with me through an art director friend – Dave Brady, who I have worked with quite a bit over the years so there was no competitive pitch as such. We did have to convince the client that this animated direction and style was the way to go though, so we very quickly started generating style frames and turning our conversations into solid design evidence that ticked all the boxes. This was quite a departure from what this client had been doing previously, so we did need to get some quite finished frames done quickly, by quickly I mean 48hrs. When a client hears ‘animated’ they usually think Toystory/Shriek, so it’s important to show them there’s other ways handle this communication – especially with their budget in mind.The agency ‘Barnes Catmur & Friends’ picked up the account early on in the job so I ended up working really closely with them. It was a great marriage as I was pretty much left alone with the visual style and we could rewrite shots where needed.
Timeline and production parameters: how long did the pitching process take? And how long did the production take from the gig being awarded to delivery? How about budget and crew size?
We had a couple of months to complete the 75 second commercial and an additional 4 weeks to make another two 15 second spots. It was just me and a character animator (Geoff Kirk-Smith). I really like working in small teams and sometimes budgets don’t usually allow for anything bigger …so that’s an easy decision! In New Zealand things tend to get turned around pretty quickly and we’re all a bunch of generalists, everyone can do everything. All in all this was quite a generous timeline for a predominantly 2D job.
What was your main inspiration for the spots? The final outcome feels very authentic, home-grown and sincere, we’re wondering if this is partly because the team has ‘grown up’ with the brand in some way?
The target market was slightly older, so part of my design research was around illustration styles like ‘Little Golden Books’. It was a matter of finding a visual language that would appeal to this group. There were definitely tones of ‘mid century children’s book’ that came through in the final piece. The trick was to augment it with some more contemporary design elements and take it to a new place. Texture played a hugely important role. The stories all deal with food and sourcing ingredients so there needed to be something very wholesome and organic applied to the clean graphic design. I used lots of kids paintings that I made little animation loops out of and mixed them over the top. I also hand painted elements straight in Photoshop.A lot of the style comes from a bit of a mismatch of skills too. I was designing characters and environments then handing them to Geoff (character animator) to rig and animate. He would then hand the character back animated/rendered and I would attach camera moves over the top with a complete disregard for perspective and add all my textures and integrate into the environments. I think this creates an honest handmade feel that seemed appropriate for PAMS as a company…and probably more importantly the way they want to be perceived.
What were your primary design/animation objectives and how did you achieve them? (in terms of character design, look and feel, animation of the spots, etc).
It was really about creating some accessible characters that could tell the PAMS story. I ended up writing a basic character brief for myself – they needed to be whimsical but not incompetent, their expressions needed to be controlled not over the top. The main characters get themselves into trouble, but do it with nonchalance and composure. The animals would be personified..or take on traits of other animals – the bear is more like a dog, the bull is wearing an old ladies scarf…that sort of thing. Just simple rules to keep them in line with the story and give them potential to be written into more scenarios with potential to grow. When I designed the characters I just treated it like a graphic design problem. I built a lot of the character into the image which meant Geoff could be a bit quirky with his animation style.You’re also afforded a few luxuries when there’s a voice over – you get to animate around the subject more, because the characters aren’t solely driving the communication, they’re just seasoning it at times. I quite liked it how at times the characters seemed like they were listening to the VO along with the viewer.
When it comes to the queen–were there any specific ‘rules’ you cannot break in portraying her? Were you required to run any design decisions concerning her character with anybody?
Ummmmm, let’s just wait and see. ..we might get in trouble yet. Paul Catmur (the writer) originally had her shoplifting cans of dog food, so it could’ve been a whole lot worse. If anything happens, I’ll blame him.
What were the most significant creative/technical stumbling blocks?
The biggest stumbling block I guess was getting graphic design and 3D character animation working really closely together. With design you want to be able to keep making mistakes and revisions, but 3D requires you to lock ideas down so that the technical side can progress.
Looking back, is there anything you would’ve done differently in retrospect?
Would’ve fought for the Queen shoplifting cans of dog food.
Looking ahead: what can we expect from you next? What are you working on?
I’ve just completed a commercial for Mercedes that was released on ipad, but I’m really concentrating on working with good people and setting up a studio in town that has the best of the best as far as talent is concerned. That’s taking up every spare minute at the moment….more news on that to come…
Design, Animation, Direction: Jonny Kofoed
Character Animation; Geoff Kirk-Smith (Oktobor)
Agency: Barnes Catmur and friends
Production: Two Birds