Director Richard Bazley has just completed a 60-second spot for Sky through WCRS and Animation Company HRA.
Exec-produced by Jerry Hibbert and produced by Charlotte Loynes, we follow the character of 'Cool Cat' as he makes his way through the idyllic English countryside to the beat of Three Dog Night's song Joy to the World. The end line "The World is a beautiful place, lets help keep it that way" is designed to reflect Sky's global concerns and draws attention to the website detailing Sky's ongoing action in working as a carbon neutral company.
With influences in the animation ranging from the 30s rubber hose style and backgrounds with a Miyazaki influence (Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away) Bazley has created a fresh and unique ad which feels like a short film in its own right.
"I had just got back from another stint of work in LA and was doing some storyboard work for HRA when Jerry Hibbert mentioned that there was a project "just up my street", says Bazley. "The Creative Directors (Luke Williamson and Yan Elliot) at the agency were huge fans of The Iron Giant, which I had supervised and animated on three key sequences and the agency guys as well as knowing my background at Disney and Warner's were well aware on my work on The Iron Giant.
"Firstly, I was delighted at the choice of music which was integral to the idea of the ad. Joy to the World by Three Dog Night. I had always loved their music and was very excited at the prospect of animating to this song.
"Following an initial meeting, some pitch work and a Director's Interpretation (DI), we won the business. A 60 sec spot for Sky. This ad wasn't advertising their channel however. Sky are and have been a Carbon Neutral company for a while now. I was totally unaware of this as are most people and they wanted to get that message out and draw attention to their Web site with details about it.
"The first part of the process is to draw the storyboard and get an animatic together to show the agency and client for discussion. Whilst doing this I was also preparing the team I wanted to work on this ad. Whilst at Disney I had been aware of a very talented background artist called Peter Moehrle , especially his wonderful watercolour backgrounds in Lilo and Stitch.
"The backgrounds in the commercial however I wanted to look more like the spectacular paintings in Miyazaki films but I knew Peter was very capable of adapting to any style. I found he was available and he started work from my layouts. Also as the music is so upbeat and I wanted the artwork to reflect this. The end line is "The World is a beautiful place, lets help keep it that way" so the mood and atmosphere were of particular importance.
"To get this look I had at my disposal one of the best Art Directors in town Gethyn Davis. He was able to pull everything together on every shot and make sure all the shots looked great from the composition, the lighting and compositing. We studied the masterful shots of Miyazaki and tried to figure out what made them work so well. I would even study the landscape in motion on the Friday night train home from London to Bath and see how the hulls would pan in relation to the nearby bushes and try and take a mental picture. The evening skies with a hint of red and yellow tinge were also an inspiration for the end shot.
"The original sketch of the cat in the pitch had a 30s look to it so when I designed the rest of the characters I wanted to make sure the theme carried through all of them. The little triangle cut out in the eye, the rubber hose limbs. The Agency, although they liked the retro influence didn't want it to look like "an old cartoon", so the anime influence on the backgrounds made an interesting hybrid. What the old black and White cartoons and anime have in common is a strong sense of light and dark and use of shadows so I knew it would marry together well.
"Luke and Yan had put together a mood board (samples of other animation form other films) together with clips form The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the 'Elephant Parade' in Dumbo, Steamboat Willie and other material. All helped me get a feel for what they were after. Once I got the first animatic together we showed it to the agency and after their approval showed it in turn to Sky and ultimately James Murdoch. With their final comments we were ready to go to animation.
"The wonderful thing about the style of the 30s characters was that we could be loose and have fun with the animation.The cats legs and arms could stretch ridiculous lengths so in one scene his arm stretches out to the other side of the road to shake some children's hands and in another his legs stretches over a lake to get to the other side."
UPDATE: You can now watch the ad itself (in Quicktime format) at http://download.guardian.co.uk/sys-video/Media/video/2007/09/14/coolcat.mov