Sunday, June 24, 2018
  • Friday, Apr. 1, 2016
VFX/Animation Chart Topper: "Malak and the Boat"
Adhemas Batista
UNICEF Short Shows Plight Of Syrian Refugees

Malak and the Boat, an animated short for UNICEF from agency 180LA, shows the plight of Syrian refugees, transitioning to live action to show that the tale of a seven-year-old girl named Malak is rooted in real life.

In the piece, we see an animated characterization of Malak’s harrowing journey across the Mediterranean. She is aboard a small boat to freedom, accompanied by her mother and several friends. She battles the cold and turbulent waves, which at one point take the shape of an octopus, throwing the boat violently to and fro. Once the sea calms, we see that Malak is the lone person left on the boat. A super reads, “There are some stories never meant for children.”

We then see the real-life Malak as one of the “lucky” survivors. Malak is but one of millions of kids adversely impacted by the Syrian conflict. Currently two million children are living as refugees in neighboring countries or are on the run in search of safety, with eight million Syrian children, inside and outside of the country, in need of humanitarian aid.

Malak and the Boat is the first of a new animated series of shorts in UNICEF’s “Unfairy Tales” campaign created by ad agency 180LA. The series will chronicle real children’s journeys from Syria by juxtaposing animation with terrifying narrations of events. The series highlights tragedies that are beyond what any person should experience, much less a child.

Malak and the Boat was screened at the Supporting Syria and The Region donor conference last month in London. The short is also gaining viewership online.

The violence and political conflict in Syria today is one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in history, so much so that UNICEF, the world’s leading organization for children, declared 2015 the “year of the refugee child.”

Visual design company House of Colors built a custom animation algorithm for the film that gives the waves a stylistic behavior to the sea as if it has a mind, becoming another character in the story. Using a combination of bluish and dark tones for the entire scene, Malak stands to have a bright future, with the end of the film finally introducing sunlight, bringing warmth and hope to her story to represent what is possible with the world’s support.

Jack of all trades
Adhemas Batista via House of Colors served as a jack of all trades on Malak and the Boat, with André Holzmeister serving as overall director of the short.

Batista shared, “The whole project was a big challenge for me as a professional and an artist. Within 20-year career I was already in my comfort zone, doing projects I understand backwards. So when my friend Rafael Rizuto, ECD at 180LA, asked me if I’d be up to participating on this project, first I hesitated and was very surprised. Then I was insecure if I really could deliver in that this was something new for me. Working for charity, the resources are very scarce and I had to use what we had in my studio, our knowledge and will, and luckily the help of wonderful friends. I had participated in motion graphics before, but nothing like this, so I felt it was important for me to take on the challenge. I gave my word to Rafael that I could deliver and make it happen. My friendship and professionalism was at stake on this.

“My role from the beginning to the end wasn’t the role of a film director,” continued Batista. “I was responsible for creating concepts, helping with drawings, artistic insights and organizing the team. I took the project under my arm and found myself leading production and coordinating expectations. Therefore I left the role of film director for André Holzmeister—he has more experience than myself with animation and is the talent behind all the CGI. He also understood my artistic vision and gave great ideas and input to make the film.”

From a technical standpoint, Batista assessed, “the biggest difficulty we had was to work around our schedules, to create time for this project. From creating the characters to modeling them, to finding solutions to save rendering time were the most challenging parts of the project. Things like keeping the story on the boat over the sea and making the most of it was all thought out to save production resources. Everything we discussed had to be possible to produce within our little resources, so we watched ourselves creatively to maintain the high quality and still be able to deliver the film.”

The 180LA creative team included chief creative officer William Gelner, ECDs Rizuto and Eduardo Marques, creative directors Dave Cuccinello and David Povill, director of integrated production Natasha Wellesley, and art and content producer Jason Lau.

See the VFX/Animation chart here.

Embedded Video Credits: 

Client UNICEF Agency 180LA William Gelner, chief creative officer; Stephen Larkin, chief marketing officer; Rafael Rizuto, Eduardo Marques, executive creative officers; Dave Cuccinello, David Povill, creative directors; Natasha Wellesley, director of integrated production; Jason Lau, art and content producer​; Florian Bodet, Irene Luevano, Bethlehem Herhane, translators. Animation House of Colors, Los Angeles Adhemas Batista, designer/character/storyboards/concept art; André Holzmeister, director and script, CGI, visual direction, character; Jonathan Marshall, character/concept art/storyboards; Ricardo Almeida, Guilherme Neder, animatic; Luiz Abud, project manager; Rodrigo Henrique, render wrangler (Rendering sponsored by RebusFarm GmbH/Reederservice. Editorial Melvin Editorial Dave Groseclose, editor; Brian Scharwath, postproduction manager. Sound Design/Music Hefty Audio Edu Luke, Elisa Gatti, sound design/music

Toolbox: 3D Studio Max, After Effects, Corona Renderer, Zbrush, Rebusfarm)