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animation station #3: epic action man & epic sindy!

So, I'm just chilling out watching ITV when bang, out of nowhere, an amazingly hilarious advert pops onto my screen: the 'epic Action-man' minute-long animation for Money Supermarket. I've always found the Money Supermarket adverts quite funny (the Skeletor and pole dancing builder ones spring to mind), but something about this was different. This was animated. Stop-frame animated. By this point, you might have noticed I have a bit of a love for stop-frame animation specifically (hence the essay-like post on Isle of Dogs previously) so this really excited me. Naturally, I felt the need to document the advertisement in a blog post, so here we are.


In case the advert hasn't already graced your eyes with its' presence, it's here for you to see, below. I'm no musician, but the use of Cece Peniston's Finally definitely grabbed my attention as the most fun-loving, dance inducing song the creative agency behind the advert, Mother, could have chosen. It definitely gives the advert a fun vibe which is extremely well fitted to the visuals throughout the advert. The whole piece creates a positive reflection for the company and I can say that it definitely worked from where I'm standing (I recently chose Money Supermarket to compare contents insurance simply because of this advert!). In any case, let's get into some specifics that I really enjoyed in the advert.



One of the things I loved was the extremely natural feel of the characters, especially the primary Action-man at the start of the advert. It seems like extra frames were added in order to create more natural, complex movements to avoid the characters having a robot-like or stiff feel (which is sometimes felt in Isle of Dogs, in my opinion). This is especially apparent in the close-ups of Action-man talking into the walkie-talkie and just after he removes his helmet; we see his head and shoulders bob around side to side and up and down, creating a very natural turning of the head. I was also particularly impressed by the full body movement and the appearance of his limbs as he danced as these again felt particularly natural; I can imagine that the team at Mother used references to replicate real human movements.

There was also a high level of visual consistency throughout the animation; characters / vehicles are commonly moving to the left, or the camera is panning that way, creating a feeling of progression and direction. This is also used to link scenes together; for instance, when Action-man dances from right to left and then jumps left out of the frame at 0:23, he is shown to be landing from right to centre in the next shot. This is a great transition between scenes and easily allows for a change in angle / perspective while still leading the viewer through the series of scenes without being lost. As well as this, every shot in the advert has a very clear focal point and has a great sense of balance; the shots never feel overcrowded or confusing to watch as there are a limited number of elements on the screen at once. I also noticed a great variance in the different types of shots used, with some really wide angles and some much closer, focused in on the face of the characters. This creates a lot of interest and diversifies the visual language of the advert, which is especially important as the majority of it has the same colour scheme and rocky background which may have otherwise become a bit stale.

In particular, I really enjoyed the ending of the advert as it is a clear culmination of the atmosphere built up throughout the animation, with every character present and taking part in a group dance. This series of shots also culminates with the ramping up of Finally in the background, creating a harmony between the visuals and audio. I really liked the variance in angles here as they are quickly changed from mid to wide shots. I also really liked how the shots were set up, in that the main Action-man remains in the centre of the shot but is surrounded by his counterparts, which are all further into the background, creating a visually pleasing formation, like those I saw in Isle of Dogs. These shots feel well balanced and although busy, still don't overwhelm the viewer as they still have a main centre focus.

A week or so after seeing this advert for the first time, a similar one, again for Money Supermarket, appeared on my TV: the 'epic Sindy' advert. This project seemed more extensive, taking place over a much bigger scale due to the multiple different environments and model scales used throughout, which heavily impressed me. Again, here it is in full below, if you haven't seen it already:



One of the first things I noticed with the Sindy advert was a continuation of the focus on a centre point; most shots have a very clear central focus either by placing a character there or through the repeated use of the road motif with a vanishing point in the centre. This is established at the beginning of the advert with the road being the first shot the viewer sees, but is maintained continuously throughout the advert as it almost alternates between shots with a centre focus and shots without one. One added detail I really liked was the use of a horizon; in almost every shot of the advert, there is a horizon line that runs across the background, establishing the environment as either the picture-perfect green neighbourhood or the rocky wasteland (note that the rocky wasteland feels almost exactly the same as the 'epic Action-man' environment- maybe the team reused resources?). These environments also feel much more fleshed out and considered than those used in the Action-man advert; there is much more detail in terms of extra elements like houses, cars and telegraph poles that establish the environment but also add a little more interest and visual diversity to the animation, especially in the wide angle shots.

I was also really impressed by the different scales of models used throughout the advert. At first glance, you might not notice, and simply assume the same scale was used throughout. But when I was rewatching the advert online, I noticed that tiny toy cars are sometimes used especially in the wide angle shots (like the second example below). This is a really clever and interesting way to produce larger shots without having to use a larger set. The shots are also really believable, which is helped by the tyre marks in the ground and the cliff face next to the cars, which is sized down to demonstrate the scale of the cars in comparison. Another thing I was drawn to was the different facial expressions shown by the characters; they are incredibly emotive and really help to tell the story of the advert well, especially considering that there is very little dialogue throughout - most dialogue that is heard is said off screen, anyway. I wonder if the models had replaceable faces or if the movements could have been added afterwards in post production...

Below are some of my other favourite shots in the piece. I really appreciated the use of the mirror in the first example, as it is a much more believable way to see what Sindy is doing and allows us to understand what is happening as well as get a better sense of her character, all while seeing a visually interesting shot, as the mirror creates interest that would have otherwise been missing. I also really liked the final shot in the advertisement; it feels really well balanced: the Money Supermarket logo balances the rock on the very left side of the shot, and the lower rocks balance the sky above them. The rock pointing upwards in the background also points towards the car, making it the clear focus, which I found really polished off the shot (whether it was done intentionally or not, I'm not sure!). Regardless, I thought this was a really memorable way to finish off the advert, and although it doesn't feel as fun as the Action-man advert, I feel much more invested in the story and work put into this Sindy themed one- I think I actually prefer it!

While taking the screenshots for this post, I noticed a specific series of shots that heavily reminded me of multiple scenes from Isle of Dogs. It was similar to the others in this advert; a central focus of one car, that then becomes a triad still in the centre of the screen, reflected in the mirror of Sindy's car, all while the road behind continually scrolls to demonstrate the speed of her car. I really liked the shot, but was intrigued as to whether I could find some kind of evidence that the animators had taken inspiration from Wes Anderson's movies. You can imagine how delighted I was when I discovered that some of the animators who worked on Isle of Dogs and Anderson's other stop-frame film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, actually animated these very adverts: Andy Biddle and Tony Farquhar Smith! Regardless, I immediately loved this shot and how it uses focus so well; I love that the road in the background is out of focus but still communicates movement really clearly (you can see in my screenshots below that rocks and a pole scroll through as well as the lines in the road) without distracting from the main visual information at that point, which is that the Police are now chasing Sindy.

These final shots also make much more sense knowing that the animators behind it worked on Anderson's work (particularly my second example below). I love the feeling of great balance in all of these shots, and how they use different perspectives and heights in order to make the communication as strong as possible. Seeing these examples has really helped me to understand how I could potentially be inspired by other animator's work in the future, even when working on a project that is completely different from the original source material: this advert has a much faster pace than Anderson's work (mainly because it only lasts for one minute) and has a completely different feel, as it features a much brighter colour palette and a light-hearted vibe due to the use of music, as well as the subject matter.

Overall, I really do love both of these adverts for their style of animation but also because in my opinion, they meet their purpose really well; as I said previously, they definitely help to create a positive image for the company by making it feel fun and approachable for customers - all of the 'epic' adverts do this. However, in these examples, the toys used as the focus are from the era that current adults will remember from their childhood; this really helps to make the brand feel familiar and fitting to them. I'm also just generally happy to see more animation in the advertising industry, as I find it really inspiring.

However, I did take a look at what the creative agency behind these adverts, Mother, has also been creating recently, and I was pleasantly surprised to find the most memorable adverts around right now are from them (like the recent IKEA adverts- with the ghosts and the spinning teacups) so will definitely keep an eye on them in future!

Although I have loved looking at a lot of animations recently, I'm going to try and focus on some other topics in Graphic Design for my next few posts to keep my net as wide as possible. Bye!

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