The Scoop - An Animation Studio's Blog

Keep Calm and Animate!

2d illustration of someone throwing toilet roll out of a window

Conquest, war, famine and plague notwithstanding notwithstanding, it’s probably not a bad time to be one of the busy London animation studios. People may be broke, scared and more interested in proving sourdough than being nudged along your marketing funnel but that will change soon enough.

Of course the main benefit of animation over live-action is that it’s much easier to do from a distance. In fact, for most animators, the more distance the better, particularly if you don’t have to talk to anyone, ever.

Shooting live action is a different story. Even the smallest of productions need at least 500 people to fuss around making you redo a shot you were happy with on the first take anyway. It’s expensive, fiddly and very hard to do at arm’s length. For now it seems hard to plan for much beyond a simple greenscreen shoot in a studio.

Like most London animation studios, Hocus Pocus switched to remote working pretty easily. The main difficulty has been adjusting to the general tone. We tend to make colourful, positive, personality driven films. Most of the time they’re flogging something ultimately, or at least getting people to go somewhere where they might buy something. So when people are only buying bog roll and dried pasta, there’s not much for us to say.

But as the lockdowns around the world begin to lift, so does the tone and visual language. We move away from the DIY adverts, the zoom captures, the regional reassuring (or patronizing) VOs and we emerge to a brighter, colour-filled (albeit CGI) world. And us animation studios can get back to doing what we do best: getting people to buy a load of stuff that of course they don’t know they need yet.

Video Moves Us

Successful advertising begins with effective communication; telling your brand’s message in a memorable way that will have impact with the target audience. Emotional storytelling through video can be a very powerful method of engaging that audience. Here are three important considerations of emotional storytelling through video:

01 – Have a Simple Message

Why are you making this film? Pare down you messaging until you get to the simple truth. Don’t try to be too clever. Emotional messaging works best when it’s succinct. Android’s ‘Friends Furever’ is a great example of this, a simple edit of cute animal behavior reflecting our own feelings about friendship and togetherness. Inexpensive to produce – no fancy graphics or expensive shoots, just a great edit and a powerful message.

02 – Music and sound design

Music and how it impacts the Brain, is a common phenomenon that crosses all borders of nationality, race, and culture. A tool for arousing emotions and feelings, music is far more powerful than visuals and language alone. At its most obvious it’s the stabbing strings in Psycho, or the grinding bass and bassoon in Jaws. Don’t put music composition and production to the bottom of the list. Allow proper budget and time. Let the music work for you. Just ask John Lewis:

03 – Narrative and Voiceover

Most of the films we make are 2mins or less, so again a real need to keep the narrative structure simple. During our ‘Lived Experiences’ series of films for Essex Youth Offending Services we wanted to engage emotionally with the audience but not to sensationalise or glorify the world we were presenting in any way. So all stories are taken from transcripts of real interviews, and the voiceovers themselves done by young people from similar backgrounds.