Toward the end of 2014, New York-based animation/production house Mixtape Club partnered with Google Creative Lab to create a multi-platform campaign for the Android mobile OS. Mixtape Club created five 30-second spots and one 15-second spot for TV. Also included in the campaign was a multi-screen animation for 10 digital out-of-home installations on newsstands throughout Manhattan. To get a taste of the campaign, click here.
Mixtape Club got involved early in terms of concept development as well as provided character animation. Their sister company Huma-Huma provided the sound and music, including the
music that plays during the title card sequence at the end of the spots.
postPerspective reached out to Mixtape Club partners and creative directors Chris Lenox Smith and Jesse Casey for details of the campaign and working with Google’s in-house agency, Google Creative Lab.
You got involved early on. Can you describe that process?
Chris Lenox Smith: We worked on a number of explorations with Google Creative Lab that ranged from fully mocked-up spots to simple exploratory moments of character acting. The idea was to just try various options for how the characters moved and sounded to help figure out the language for the spots.
A number of the early tests revealed unexpected ideas. For instance, while making an exploratory animation of a pair of characters riding a see-saw, one of our animators thought to add the detail of the character’s glasses falling down his nose accidentally, causing him to nudge them back into place. It was a small touch, but it helped inspire one of the larger rules: that the characters work best when their animation is based in reality, rather than exaggerated and cartoony.
What was the overall goal of the campaign? What needed to be conveyed?
Jesse Casey: We can’t speak to the overall goal of the campaign, but our goal within the campaign was to make fun, engaging animated films with real human moments.
What was it like working directly with Google Creative Labs?
Lenox Smith: The process was a true collaboration. A team from Creative Lab worked with us in our studio for the duration of the project, and we worked together with them to solve creative problems and brainstorm new ideas.
Were they open to new ideas?
Casey: Absolutely. The workflow was iterative and fluid, and there was always an opportunity to try a newer, better idea.
What was the biggest different in terms of creating the traditional TV spots versus the billboard?
Smith: The thing about the billboards is that they were big. Huge. So big that it was impossible to take in everything at once. So instead of telling a single story to an attentive audience (like we would in a normal TV spot), we created a world with dozens of little stories that play out organically.
Someone passing by on the street can look up and follow a single character’s story, and the person next to him can look up at the same time and see something totally different. It was a fun exercise in mood and texture rather than linear storytelling.
Can you talk about creating the animation?
Smith: The character design and movements look very clean and simple, but the simplicity of the visual language is actually quite challenging. Making the characters really come alive is an exercise in restraint. The key is always finding the simplest, cleanest way to convey their emotions and removing any extraneous movements.
What tools did you use for this project?
Casey: We used almost every tool in the Adobe Creative Suite toolbox: Illustrator, Flash, After Effects, Premiere, SpeedGrade. Music and sound were put together in Avid Pro Tools.