The Atlantic’s Animated History

TheAtlantic.com has been running a series of charming infographics on topics ranging from hairstyles in the 20th century to the history of weapons over the ages. Created by Jackie Lay, a designer, illustration and art director for The Atlantic Magazine, the brief animated timelines combine flat-graphic illustrations with one inconsequential element in the picture showing subtle movement. A wisp of hair gently moving out of place. A cloud slowly passing across the sky. Steam lazily curling up from a hot cup of coffee. The movement isn’t part of the storyline, but it entices the viewer to pay closer attention. It carries the viewer into the next frame. Without that almost infinitesimal movement to grab the viewer’s interest, the image would be what it actually is: A still illustration. Animation doesn’t always have to be a full-blown Pixar-like extravaganza. Sometimes a little movement makes all the difference between stagnant and intriguing.
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Nepia Tissue Animals

When the product is as commonplace as facial tissue, there’s no need for advertising to explain its benefits and uses. Civilized people know. So, Japanese ad agency, Dentsu, found a more compelling way to promote the Nepia paper brand by making origami animals out of Nepia tissue. The video performance feels like a magic act, with sheets of tissue transformed before your eyes into elephants, snakes and frogs and back into tissue. The white tissue and austere background help to suggest the clean, soft and feathery lightness of the product. This stop-motion animation was directed by Fuyu Arai with creative direction by Hitoshi Sato.

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A Big Hand for Honda “Hands”

Clocking in at two minutes, this Honda commercial would be a very expensive ad buy on prime-time TV, but thanks to the accessibility of YouTube and Vimeo, audiences are seeking it out online. The Honda “Hands” ad starts with a cog, just like its award-winning Cog commercial (see July 24 post below). This time Honda teamed with Wieden + Kennedy London to “celebrate the curiosity of Honda engineers” who have made Honda the world’s largest engine manufacturer and racing company since it was founded in 1948. Through “slight of hand” and brilliant animation, the cog morphs into a dazzling array of products, from motorcycles and jet planes to solar-powered cars and robots. The making of this video, directed by Smith & Foulkes and Nexus Productions, is a technological feat in itself. For brands that think they don’t have the budget for such an ambitious production, consider this: Is it better to do something middle-of-the-road and run it on prime time TV or to create something awesomely original that people will “google” to see on their own. If it is good, it will go viral.

The History of Typography in Stop-Motion Animation

There are many videos about various aspects of typography, and we’ve posted several of them here, but this is the only one I’ve seen to date that explains the evolution of type faces in such an engaging, clear and concise manner. The video was made by Ben Barrett-Forrest of Forrest Media, a graphic design and media production firm with offices in Whitehorse, Yukon, and Hamilton, Ontario in Canada. As charmingly simple as it comes across, making the five-minute video was an arduous task. It took Forrest 140 hours to hand-cut 291 paper letters and make 2,454 photographs for this stop-motion animation. It was worth it. Enjoy.

Philips Sonicare’s Brush With Time

The new Philips Sonicare commercial presents the history of mankind as told through a manual toothbrush. The spot poses the question: With so much advanced technology available, why do most people still clean their teeth using the same “stick with bristles” method devised more than 5,000 year ago? Then to make sure viewers understand just how long that is, ad agency Ogilvy & Mather and director Jonathan Notaro of Brand New School show an actor in appropriate attire and backdrop brushing his teeth for 5,000 years, transitioning from caveman to modern-day city dweller. Shot on location in Budapest, including at a Victorian train station and on studio lots, the film is elaborately propped, with toothbrush man zooming effortlessly along, shedding costumes and environments as he goes.This was made possible by tying him to a dolly and dragging it through the various period-specific sets, while the wardrobe was changed using green-screen animation on mannequins.

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Moleskine Introduces Color

For decades, Moleskine has been renowned for its little black notebook that artists, designers, and writers carry with them everywhere to capture their first inklings of brilliant ideas. Other brands offer notebooks too, but only Moleskine, in iconic black with its external elastic band and ribbon bookmark, signals that you are an authentic and serious creative type. So, Moleskine’s announcement that it is releasing its notebooks and planners in four bright colors, in addition to black, is newsworthy. Insecure creatives may be reluctant to buy a color other than black.

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Gangnam Style Flipbook Animation

Not much is known about the artist who created this Gangnam Style video, except that he goes by the moniker “etoilec1” on YouTube. The hand-drawn images are synced precisely to the music, making this animation fun to watch. Some report that the audio had to be removed for copyright issues, but it is up now…for how long, we don’t know.

Blue Mondays Made Brighter by Starbucks

Starbucks in the UK found a novel way to promote its discount latte special, available only on Mondays until February 18. London-based ad agency AMV BBDO created a stop-motion video to tout other great events that happened on a Monday, citing Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the moon, the first chiming of Big Ben, the first performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth as examples. The entire commercial was produced in-house at Brand New School, using items from Starbucks for props. Coffee cups, napkins, wooden stir sticks, straws and corrugated java jackets serve as stand-ins for super heroes, landmarks and Macbeth’s three witches hunkered around a cauldron stirring up “toil and trouble.” The charm of the animation is its playful homemade quality. The only question is did someone at AMV dream up the idea on a Monday?

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Getty Presents Life in 873 Images

How do you convey to designers and publishing customers that you have a stock photo/illustration for any and every subject, medium and use? In the case of Getty Images, it has more than 38 million stock images in its database to choose from. The question isn’t if Getty has the right image, it’s how you want to tell the story. This 60-second marketing video by Brazilian ad agency AlmapBBDO zips through 873 stills from Getty’s archives piecing together a universal tale of life, from first love to old age. Each frame is up for a fleeting nanosecond – kind of like life itself.

Origami Goes High Tech

Origami (which means “to fold” + “paper” in Japanese) is one of the oldest and humblest art forms around, dating back thousands of years, and stop-motion 3-D animation is one of the newest and most technologically advanced art forms. It’s interesting that the two mediums have found each other and it was love at first sight. As time-consuming and difficult as some origami forms are to fold by hand, paper as a construction material is sturdy but flexible, buildable at a small scale, and relatively cheap. In the case of this video ad for Hamburg’s charitable lottery, Deutsche Fernsehlotterie, a whole village with inhabitants and vehicles were brought to life out of paper. Hamburg-based agency, Zum Goldenen Hirschen spearheaded this ad, with Hans-Christoph Schultheiss directing.

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WWF Brazil’s “Think Again” Campaign

This animated video on climate change comes from the WWF Brazil. It’s part of a trilogy titled “Pense de Novo,” or “Think Again.” Without voiceover or text, the 30-second video shows how humans have managed to pollute the planet. As we commemorate Earth Day on Friday, it is something to think about…again.

A Very Short History of Film

Feature films are a universal language as the media design students from Hannover, Germany, who put together this animated video prove. Felix Meyer and Pascal Monaco picked 35 of their favorite blockbuster movies from over the decades and distilled them down to an iconic sight or sound from each. The answers don’t seem to be posted anywhere online, so you might have to email them to find out if you guessed right.

Student Assignment Celebrates the Ordinary

We love student assignments because the parameters are loose enough to let the imagination run free – no client demanding that the piece “work harder” at branding or asking to see the metrics to prove that the design solution had the desired effect on the target audience. They are unbridled creativity, pushing the limits of personal talent and skill. So, when we ran across some animations done by 20-year-old Matthew Young, a graphic and communication design student at the University of Leeds in the UK, we were charmed by his innocent storytelling. “Colin the Umbrella,” completed in a week, fulfills a creative brief to celebrate the ordinary by making it seem extraordinary. Young’s story line has the undercurrent of the soul-searching angst of a young person searching for a meaningful purpose in life — and a sad ending.

Inspiring New Zealanders to Read

A national not-for-profit organization, the New Zealand Book Council promotes reading in general, but with a particular emphasis on New Zealand writing and writers – “our own artists, stories, and point of view.” In this video, the Council brings the printed page to life by turning the paper itself into stop action animation art to move the story forward. For the video, it chose one of the nation’s most celebrated books, Going West, by New Zealand literary giant Maurice Gee. The book, published in 1992, describes a steam train journey across the country, and the title was adopted as the name of the Auckland region’s first writers’ festival in 1996. The Going West festival now draws over 350 writers and performers to Waitakere City for the annual literary event. We couldn’t find anything on the Internet about the creative team behind this video. If anyone knows, please share it with us in the Comments box.