Sunday, August 5, 2012

Animated for the Olympics

The problem with the Olympics is, if you look, you will be sucked in.  There's no escape.   
You'll find youself watching sporting events you would otherwise pay no mind. Volley ball. Water polo.  Synchronized diving.  Fast walking.  The Olympics are a sports black hole from which, once in its pull, there is no escape.    
If you have found yourself in this position, you may want to get sucked into these twelve animated shorts commissioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee and produced at Duck Studios in West Los Angeles.

Executive Producer Mark Medernach explains:

The concept behind the spots was pretty simple.  They wanted the athletes to freely tell viewers who their inspiration was to get to where they were today, their mother, father, coach, sister etc.   As a way to make the stories come alive more they wanted a simple animation style to illustrate each of the stories.  They wanted each spot to have a different look and technique.  But dealing with a limited budget eliminated a lot of the techniques right away, as they would have just been too expensive to produce.

Our first approach to creating them was to find out who would be interested in working on the projects.  There was very little money, so the animators had to do these more as a labor of love.  There were 12 spots in all, so finding the people that had the time and inclination was a bit tricky. 

Once we had 4 or 5 commit and started seeing their work come in, it was a lot easier to get others to commit.  In all, we used 10 different animation directors to do the work.  The next step was in casting the right artist for the right project. 

They are all really great pieces, but one of my favorite is the Henry Cejudo piece  by Hsinping Pan.  Henry is a wrestler and his inspiration was his mother.  His mother immigrated to the US along with her 7 kids. She found ways to provide for them and care for them.  Initially we were not sure if Hsinping style would be an appropriate fit for 
a wrestler.  But once we heard his charming story it just seemed like a natural fit. 

As each story was presented to us, we chatted with the advertising agency (Y&R/NY) and choose who we felt would be the best fit for each story.  I think the agency had a really good feel for the stories and what would fit most of the time.  Other times, we also let the filmmakers have some input into the stories they wanted.  Chris Harding is a big boxing fan and it was a natural fit to have him produce the Queen Underwood boxing spot.

The spots live on the USOC's site.  They are being used to help raise more money for future olympians.  So, if you want to be a part of the team behind the team, go to USOC's site and donate a bit!

Read lots more about the spots and the artists behind them on Duck Studios' site.

Watch all twelve videos on this U.S.O.C. page under "From Our Athletes".