Lucas Zanotto: The Real Bears

Here in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg recently championed some controversial restrictions on the sale of sugary soda drinks, sparking debates about how much government should intervene in protecting the health of citizens.

While not everyone agrees about Mr. Bloomberg’s tactics, the health risks of sugary sodas are obvious. Or at least they should be.

In an effort to spread awareness on the topic and skewer companies that manufacturer the offending drinks, The Center for Science in the Public Interest has launched The Real Bears. Alex Bogusky (formerly the “B” of vaunted agency CP&B) masterminded the campaign, tapping one of our favorite directors here at Motionographer, Lucas Zanotto, to direct the music video that sits at the center of the project.

Mr. Zanotto recently released the director’s cut of the video featuring an alternative soundtrack. (Jason Mraz penned a sugary sweet tune for the official version.)

Interview with Lucas Zanotto

We caught up with Mr. Zanotto to get some inside information on the project.

Who approached you for this project? Why did they choose you?

I got an email from Marty Butler, from The Butler Bros. He wrote that he likes my work and ask if we could have a chat about a potential project they are working on. We had a Skype conference together with Ronny Northrop, who wrote the script for the movie. They presented the whole idea.

Marty said they liked my style and the way I bring in an analog and organic feel to the work. They wanted something minimal and crafted.

When you first read the script, were you aware of this topic?

I was aware of the topic, especially because a few months before, I had to go on a diet for health reasons, avoiding sugar for two months. It is incredibly difficult to find products that do not contain sugar these days.

Did working on this project change the way you think about this topic?

I read more and more about this topic during production, and it definitely made me more aware of how bad sugar is for your body, especially in the amounts we are consuming it today. Basically, we are all sugar addicts.

And a major cause for that is the soda industry.


What was your first step after reading the script?

We first worked together on some details of the script, storytelling and scenes to find easier and more effective ways to show things through animation. After that, I started sketching and trying to find the style which would work the best for the film. The basic Idea was to use the nordic icy landscape as a very subtile white background and play with hand drawn animation on top. A bit like having a white paper with shadows.

In the beginning I wanted to build the actual landscapes out of white paper and track the bears digitally into it.

We decided to go for a more low polygon CG landscape and combine it with some 2D crafted animation for the characters.

In this way, we had more control during the process for the landscape and the scenes.

How was this project different than your previous projects?

I was very impressed about the workflow we had. Once a week, 8 people sat together in virtual meetings. Everybody was in his own city, spread over the USA with me sitting here in a room in Helsinki. It was interesting to see these 8 video windows generating productive meetings and discussions to create real work in the end.

Was it difficult developing the look of the bears?

That actually came quite natural. I started looking at the main features of ice bears and tried to reduce them as minimal as possible.

Just using simple shapes and a few lines.

This is a pretty long project — over four minutes long. How long did it take to make this?

I worked more or less two months on this.

What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

I think the biggest challenge was to animate the bears. I animated them completely in 2D, and I tried to give them a mass and weight.

They also had to become fatter and fatter along the story.

Do you have a favorite moment? Why?

My favourite moment is in the end when the bears come to the cliff. There is a very wide shot from behind, where the family is running towards the sea.

This moment is very cinematographically interesting, and I am very happy with the atmosphere.

What’s next for you? Any projects in the works?

I am working on different commercial projects at the moment. At the same time, I will try to work on a free project on my own and to promote my MEMOVY app.


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About the author

Justin Cone

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.


Helge Kiehl

congrats Lucas! Great film and interview!


Awesome – but the twitter and site links aren’t working.

Justin Cone

Oops, just updated them. Should be fine now.


Interesting… considering Motionographer routinely posts high end Coke commercials. Do we bear (pun intended) any responsibility for making things look cool and appealing to the children who are largely the victims of the sugar industry? I applaud the work, and it is good to see an organization (CSPI) doing a job the FDA refuses to do because it would betraying their corporate benefactors and lobbyists.


yes, we absolutely do bear responsibility.

most of the folks who frequent or contribute to this site have probably done work for a client or product that’s, at least on some level, morally questionable. i know i have. and there’s really no way to argue around it. we’re hypocrites.

but maybe working on project like this help to balance the scale?

i don’t know.

it is an interesting question, though…and one i’ll probably struggle with the rest of my career.

Brett McEwen

If I drink a coke, I do so knowing full well that it contains obscene amounts of sugar. I just keep it to a “once in a while” thing so as to minimize the potential negative effects on my health. If I were to drink too much and then develop issues with my teeth or pancreas that is my own fault, not Coca Cola’s, and not whatever ad agency made the ad I saw. Ad people are not hypocrites they are business people.

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