Northforge deliver animated film to highlight the plight of caged bears in Armenia

Leeds based studio Northforge have written, animated and delivered the moving film ‘Break the Cage’ for the charitable organisation International Animal Rescue. Hoping to shed light on the appalling situation faced by caged bears in Armenia, the film is both poignant and beautifully crafted.

Every year wild bears are illegally caught or trapped by poachers. After being captured the animals are often forced to exist under terrible conditions in public spaces. They can be found in venues including restaurants, hotels and roadside zoos and are seen as a tourist attraction. Some may live under these conditions for many years, while existing on scraps of food and water. It’s a far cry from their natural habitat in the mountains, where they can freely roam and live on a healthy diet. Home here would be a cave or tree hollow, so very different from the cages they find themselves in today.

With such an emotive mission the Northforge team jumped at the chance to offer their services and help raise awareness of the issue. All that needed to be determined was the best possible way for them to tackle the project. Directing duo Jim and Matt proposed a style that would encompass a mixed technique approach, using both 3D and more traditional line animation. After hearing the bountiful ideas of the duo it wasn’t long before the marketing team were onboard.

First up was establishing the actual storyline. IAR had devised a story, but handed the creative reins over to Jim and Matt who developed it further. The opening scenes establish the mood and pace for what follows of an emotive, alarming and yet approachable animation. The intention was not to frighten viewers, but instead play upon more rational emotions.

A conscious decision was made to allow the music and cut away scenes to build tension. So for instance we never see the poacher shoot the adult bear. Instead the soundtrack sets the scene, before a large bang and a flock of alarmed birds allows you to interpret the unseen horror, without it being macabre. By doing so you feel personally invested in the film and not afraid of its message.

On selecting the animation style Jim and Matt comment:

“We knew straight away that the choice of animation would be key to the film’s power. The decision to combine 3D with more traditional line animation provides so many creative benefits. The mood is more natural and better reflects the plight of the bears. By combining the disciplines we gave ourselves more freedom to explore our creativity. The use of multi layered geometric forms came from this and we used it extensively throughout the film.

We also chose a colour palette that would take the viewer on a journey. From hopeful, sun drenched scenes towards the more oppressive ending, where tones of black and white are used to convey the mood. Overall we wanted the film to have a crafted feel, so it felt approachable and moving all at once’

Those who are familiar with the Armenian countryside will also notice tiny details that have been included to create an authentic environment. The flora, fauna and some of the mountainous scenes depicted are all taken from the region. Even the soundtrack includes traditional Armenian instruments.

From the start the team realised that the music and sound design would play an enormous part. So, they engaged the services of Leeds based composer Jamie Wright and sound designer Adam Nabarro- Steel. Their combined skills created a score that sits perfectly with the animation and highlights the emotive touchpoints of the storyline. The addition of the calming voice over provided by Actor Peter Egan delivers the perfect finishing touch.

On working with Northforge Tom Mumford, Digital Manager at IAR comments:

“Northforge have been a fantastic partner and a dream to work with from day one. They’ve always been passionate about the project and have gone above and beyond to create an animation we can be extremely proud of. We leant on Matt and Jim’s experience throughout the project and they have always been extremely generous with their time, input and resources. Everyone at International Animal Rescue thanks Northforge for all of their effort in creating such a beautiful animation, we can’t wait to work together on another project in the future”.

The final result is a film which is highly emotive, while being visually beautiful and deeply engaging.

International Animal Rescue hope to not only raise awareness of the bears’ plight, but also alert the Armenian people to the presence of poachers and the appalling practice of caging bears in public places.

Northforge have delivered a 2 minute film plus various 20” cutdowns that shall air across all of IAR’s social platforms and will be shared with International media channels to help them in their campaign to ‘Break the Cage’


Animation Directors: Jim and Matt
Further 3D and visual development: Northforge team
Composer: Jamie Wright
Sound Designer: Adam Nabarro-Steel
Voice over Artist: Peter Egan

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