[Interview] Buck: Good Books “Metamorphosis”

From Buck’s website: “The Buck team dug deep, channeling our inner gonzo, to direct and produce this homage promoting Good Books, the online bookseller that passes all its profits through to Oxfam.”

While Joe Mullen’s and Joshua Harvey’s style frames are awesome enough, below you can watch the official Good Books making-of video which shows the various stages of production …

Read on for an interview with Ryan Honey and Joshua Harvey, creative directors at Buck, and Motionographer’s Angelo Collazo.

How did this project come about?

We were approached by String Theory, a NZ-based agency/production company, in June of last year. They had three scripts for their Good Books — “Great Writers” Series, and they were looking for an animation director to take one or all of them on.

This one really struck a chord with us for three reasons: One, they were looking to have the director take full creative control; two, the Hunter S. Thompson script was amazing and we are big fans of his and his writings; and three, it was for an organization called Good Books (usegoodbooks.com), a non-profit organization that passes all of its profits through to Oxfam. Really it was the holy trifecta, good creative, open brief and for a good cause.

Can you give us a little background on how the project started and the approach you took with it?

The project started with a phone call where we discussed the goals of the project. They asked that we provide them with a director’s treatment so they could decide if we were right for the project. We provided a few styleframes, a moodboard, and a written treatment.

What was your creative process like? And why did you choose the style that you did?

Our creative process was pretty fluid and collaborative. We started by pulling inspirational images that we liked and then our ACD Joshua Harvey and AD Joe Mullen created some initial look frames for the pitch. Next, we sat down and went through the script and talked collaboratively about imagery for each scene and the transitions between them. The next step was storyboards and a boardomatic, where we figured most things out, but there were a couple scenes that we revised right up till the end before we were happy with them.

When we went into animation we approached every shot a little differently. Some needed 3D, some pencil tests and some only needed a few keyframes. It really depended on the complexity of the shot and the artists who worked on the shots.

We chose the style because we wanted to create something unique that was somewhat dark but arty, and could be animated in a fluid manner complementing the verbal tirade of Hunter S. Thompson.

In “Metamorphosis”, what is the story being told?

The story is essentially Hunter ranting about his need to buy the book Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and why he has come to the conclusion that he should buy it from Good Books. He doesn’t actually want to read it; he despises Kafka. It just so happens that the book is the exact height that one leg of his desk is off the ground and he wants to use it to stop the damn thing from rocking when he types. He doesn’t want to buy it from the Great River of mediocrity (Amazon) and have the greedy capitalist bastards get their hands on his hard-earned cash. Rather, he wants the money to go to the insane pollyannas who give their profits away to people who wash their children’s heads in raw sewage. After some mind-melting contemplation he goes to the website, types in the address and as he presses enter, his desk shifts again and his tea spills onto his pants.  He looks down to see a beetle sipping his bong water tea, the beetle then convulses and dies.

Please tell us more about the morphing animation. How much was 3D and how much was 2D?

The only morphing animation that was created in 3D was the book to flowers transition. The rest were pencil tested and finished in Flash/Photoshop/AE.

Given the uniqueness of the project, what was your production pipeline and work flow like? Was there a lot of back-and-forth between departments?

Again, it was dependent on the shot. Some elements were animated in 3D as reference for cel; Hunter’s sunglasses and hat. Hair dynamics and processing were also used as a base for some of the loose squiggly/dotted lines. Sometimes shots would be pencil tested a few times and we’d realize we could get a more direct result using 3D. With the beetles and goat scene, we had a tremendous amount of back and forth as we made the hero elements in CG and created illustrative textures for them. We drew on top of them and of course added lots of paint texture/compositing love.

From a technical point of view, what was the hardest shot or sequence?

It was probably the aforementioned shot with the tethered goat and hundreds of beetles. The most difficult cel shots were the pollyanna and the end head-twist shot. Both shots were re-animated so many times we stopped counting. Lens-distorted human bodies are not the easiest thing.

From concept to delivery, how long was the entire project?

We started late June and delivered it in November of 2011. There was a bit of downtime due to other projects — I would say five to six weeks — so it was about four months of production.

Thank you for a wonderful, informative interview, Ryan and Josh! May God bless you on your future projects!

To bring this article to a close, please check out the following video interview with Buck’s Orion Tait (created by Submarine Channel). It’s truly a beautiful interview. One thing I love about Buck is how they take what the agencies give them and successfully infuse the original concepts with far more creative design than was there before … and they get away with it.

Tait comments, “Commercial production is a playground. It’s an extension of art school. You have the freedom to experiment and try lots of different things and not get hemmed in to one style … That’s why a lot of us are in this game … not because we love advertising.”

Buck brings such a rich uniqueness to every work they create, in all areas, from visual design to compelling storytelling. It’s an honor to have interviewed with their best and brightest.

Buck: Good Books “Metamorphosis” Credits
Concept by: String Theory
Directed by: Buck
Creative Director: Ryan Honey
Executive Producer: Maurie Enochson
Producers: Nick Terzich, Alyssa Evans, Emily Rickard
Coordinator: Ben Tucker
Associate Creative Director: Joshua Harvey
CG Supervisor: Doug Wilkinson
Animation Director: Steve Day
Art Director: Joe Mullen
Designers: Joshua Harvey, Joe Mullen, George Fuentes, Trevor Conrad, Jenny Ko, Jon Gorman
2D Animators: Joe Mullen, Harry Teitelman, John MacFarlane, Jamal Otolorin, Joshua Harvey, William Trebutien, Matt Everton, Taik Lee, Tristan Balos, Regis Camargo, Kendra Ryan, George Fuentes, Trevor Conrad, Jahmad Rollins, Matthew Wade
3D Artists: Jens Lindgren, Timm Wagener, Kai Wang, Joao Rema, Albert Omoss, Joshua Harvey, Christine Li, Kelsey Charlton, Ana Luisa Santos
Compositors: Nick Forshee, Alex Perry, Joshua Harvey, Joe Mullen, Moses Journey, Matt Lavoy, Jenny Ko, Helen Hsu, Elizabeth Steinberg, Adam Smith
Music and Sound Design: Antfood
Voiceover Artist: Thor Erickson
Voiceover Recording: Post Audio Labs
Software: Flash, After Effects, Maya


About the author

Angelo Collazo

/ www.angelodcollazo.com
I am a doodling high-school artist who became a professional 3D computer animator. (Thanks SVA!) While still doodling, I have been blessed by God to work on large projects such as Psyop's Michelin Man tire campaign, Blue Sky Studio's movie "Rio", and Nick Jr's "Team Umizoomi". I also enjoy working on my own side personal projects (I aspire to be a director). Currently, I am fully enjoying a new life-chapter as a happily married man.


Keith Jurow

Amazing work! I just wish the voice, though cool, was edgier with more raspiness in it; kind of like Mickey Rourke narrating Sin City.


really is a phenomenal piece. amazing as usual.

Chris Anderson

I am buying from Good Books from now on because of this fantastic piece.

Rico T'melo

its going to take a renascence to get better than this… 

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