O2 goes for animated epic to promote rugby sponsorship

O2 has released an epic two minute-long animated spot to celebrate its sponsorship of the England rugby team, which sees players including Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown and Courtney Lawes become giants through the support of fans. We talk to director Elliot Dear about how the ad was made…

Created by ad agency VCCP, Make Them Giants sees the sport stars going about their every day business – going to the cinema, playing with their kids – while all the time growing taller and taller. By the end of the ad, the enormous players band together and are shown striding to the stadium and (hopefully) to victory.

While its storyline might be simple, the making of the ad was a lengthy process, beginning in March and requiring over 30 animators working across studios in the UK, the US and France.

The animation was largely hand-drawn (onto computers), with the team using traditional 2D cel animation techniques and drawing over 6,500 character frames by hand. To ensure the film had a modern feel however, Dear used camera point projection, a technique using CG, to create layouts and camera moves, which were then passed over to the digital matte painters as reference for their backgrounds. To add to the epicness, the spot is set to a rousing soundtrack, created by a 65-piece orchestra.

An animator working on O2's Rugby World Cup spot, Make Them Giants
An animator working on O2’s Rugby World Cup spot, Make Them Giants
Drawing of England rugby captain Chris Robshaw for the O2 ad
Drawing of England rugby captain Chris Robshaw for the O2 ad
Initial drawing for the O2 England rugby ad
Initial drawing for the O2 England rugby ad
Still from the final O2 ad
Still from the final O2 ad

The style of the ad was influenced by the film The Illusionist, with some of the lead animators from the movie brought into to work on the spot, and it also brings to mind the movie version of the BFG. In terms of the animation approach, Dear (who previously co-directed the 2013 John Lewis Christmas Spot, The Bear and the Hare) was keen to avoid anything too overtly ‘cartoony’.

“The agency and the client certainly didn’t want anything that felt cartoony so it was our job to try and find something that was more sophisticated and grown up,” he says. “It comes down to the type of line work you use and the way things are filled. It’s a lot about detail – cartoons look the way they do because quite often they have to be turned around very quickly … but we wanted to get extra things in, like the players have stubble. Hopefully it’s not something that really sticks out but if you look there’s a lot of fine detail in the faces that you wouldn’t usually find in a cartoon.”

Work in progress on the O2 spot
Work in progress on the O2 spot
From the O2 animatic
From the O2 animatic
The same scene in the final spot
The same scene in the final spot
The England team as they appear in O2's ad
The England team as they appear in O2’s ad

The biggest challenge of working with such a large team on the project was maintaining consistency, continues Dear. “You have so many people working on something that has to look the same every frame, every shot,” he says. “We had four background artists, 15 colourists, and four or five lead animators, and they all have their own native styles and different ways of doing things. It was making sure that everything tied together nicely and felt like it was coming from the same world. I can look at it and tell who did what drawing but hopefully everyone else just sees one complete piece. That I think is the hardest thing – getting everyone to communicate and make sure that we’re all making the same picture.”

The spot will play out online, TV and in cinemas from this week, and will be followed by a series of 40-second ads that will play out during the Rugby World Cup in October.

Make Them Giants credits:
Agency: VCCP
Creative directors: Johnny Parker, Chris Birch
Creatives: Tom Houser, Christopher Keatinge
Director: Elliott Dear
Production company: Blinkink

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