- Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017
In a fast-paced series of broadcast promos and bumpers that broke last Friday, Aardman Nathan Love has given Nickelodeon viewers a zany gift: it’s the “Winter Refresh” campaign, which features many beloved characters from Nick series, animated in a style reminiscent of some of TV’s most iconic holiday specials.
There’s SpongeBob and Patrick from “SpongeBob SquarePants,” cavorting on a frozen pond. Patrick does a flying leap into SpongeBob’s arms, and both of them plunge through the ice. And there’s Lincoln Loud and Clyde McBride from “The Loud House,” who get tangled up in holiday lights and tumble off a roof. Also making appearances are the twins from “The Thundermans,” Phoebe and Max, along with some of the stars of the Nick series “Henry Danger.” See below to view a supercut of the promo campaign and credits or go here.
Popping up throughout many of these promos are a bunch of snowball characters better described as goofballs. Looking a bit like giant marshmallows and wearing knit caps and scarves, they manage to get into all forms of mischief. Each promo ends with a holiday-themed typographic representation of the Nick logo, sculpted to appear as though rendered in clay animation.
The project came about, says ANL Director Joe Burrascano, based on the studio’s longstanding relationship with the network. “We’ve worked with teams in almost every department, from broadcast and advertising to development, and we’ve always had a great experience,” he notes. “And the breadth of this opportunity was massive: to develop their entire winter ID package, consisting of 20 original IDs, featuring characters from their most important shows. It’s been one of our most exciting projects yet!”
“When we selected Aardman Nathan Love, we knew we were teaming up with the best collaborators for the job,” says Michael Waldron, SVP, Creative Director at Nickelodeon. “They really understood how we wanted to take this classic style and put our Nickelodeon spin on it. The amount of detail that went into this project is extraordinary.”
Jon O’Hara, ANL’s Executive Producer, says the development process on this was a collaborative effort between the studio and the network. “It helped us decide on both the scope and look of the project,” he comments. “We won the assignment based on an incredible stop-motion CG look we gave to several beloved Nick characters, and then our original concept snowballs and their hijinks.”
Aardman Nathan Love has had extensive experience contemporizing and transforming established animation icons into new looks via new techniques, O’Hara adds. “With our experience working with characters like ‘Toucan Sam’ and the Crayola crayons, we’ve gained a skill set to redesign them maintaining their essence and personality but with elevated details and textures, and adding a third dimension.”
The brief from Nick called for a look that recalled holiday classics like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” or “Frosty the Snowman,” immortalized by the Rankin/Bass studio. The networks’ creative team referenced a number of CG projects in their brief, O’Hara notes, “including our own work, and that’s what inspired us to build a world rooted in tactile materials, but with the freedom to create some wilder narratives.”
“Our approach initially focused on characters,” says Burrascano. “Translating Nick’s top brands into tactile, CG versions was the first challenge, and it shaped the look of our winter world. The Nick team gave us an opportunity to add original characters to the mix, and our development process led us through elves to a crew of rascally snowballs.”
The studio’s approach was to add depth and detail to the characters and highlight their unique personalities, as opposed to changing them in any way. “As both artists and fans, we balanced our work with respect and understanding for what made them who they are,” says Aardman Nathan Love Art Director and Illustrator Tim Probert, who led the studio’s design and storyboard teams. “We explored different materials for the characters and their wardrobes, and studied their performances to translate these onto the stop-motion stage.”
Elizabeth Ku-Herrero, who was CG Director, and Lead Animator Thomas Shek, jumped into the project like kids at a toy store, despite the challenges it presented. “For me, the biggest challenge was figuring out how all the pieces were going to come together,” says Ku-Herrero. “In a CG production, there are so many moving pieces. Simultaneously we can be working on modeling assets, lighting shots and even articulating characters. In order to work efficiently, we have to spend just enough time on the right thing at the right time, while taking our teammates’ strengths into account. In a way, the most challenging part is the most fun, because it’s ultimately like a big puzzle!”
Shek says his biggest challenge was nailing the style of animation the Nick creatives were looking for. “Usually, I’d animate on every frame, from blocking to polishing, but because we were going for a stop-motion aesthetic it took me a while to wrap my head around it,” he says. “Timing, spacing, and posing was treated differently, because I had to animate on 2's – that is, every two frames. Having a really strong team made it easier and more fun to work on this project. Everyone had their own approach for this style, and we learned a lot from each other.”
SVP Art + Design: Michael Waldron, SVP Creative Promotions: Tony Maxwell, VP Animation + Motion Graphics: Kurt Hartman, VP Creative Director: Erica Ottenberg, Sr. Art Director: Giancarlo Barrera, Sr. Director Production: Joe Pappalardo, Sr. Director Project Management: Earl Marona, Jr., Director Graphics: Alessandra Sutera, Producer: Alexa Dumit-Sjoberg, Unit Manager: Josh Powers, Production Coordinator: Georgette Pierre, Production Assistant: Jonathan Shatoff
Production Company: Aardman Nathan Love
Director: Joe Burrascano, Executive Producer: Jon O'Hara, Producer: Rob Franklin, Art Director, Design & Storyboards: Tim Probert, Additional Design: Joe Bluhm, Jesse Aclin, Cassey Kuo, CG Supervisor, Character TD: Steve Mann, CG Lead: Elizabeth Ku-Herrero, Look Development & Lighting TD: Eric Cunha, Character, Asset & Environment Artists: Elizabeth Ku-Herrero, Eric Cunha, Jin Fang Jiang, Pedro Conti, Paul Kim, Andy Tai, Animation Lead: Tom Shek, Animation: Doug Litos, Henning Kozcy, Nicole Morciniec, Jordan Blit, Additional Rigging: Brett Taggart, Lighting: Christine Kim, Jin Fang Jiang, Luke Pikora, Shading: Jin Fang Jiang, Christine Kim, Paul Kim, Andy Tai, Ylli Orana, Compositing Lead: Eric Concepcion, Compositor: Matt DeFranco, Matte Painting: Christine Kim, Editing: Yi Ju Tsai
Original Music, Music Supervision and Sound Design: Explosion Robinson