Flux Animation: The Kiwi animators behind Disney's tear-jerker running in 27 countries

Business

Disney’s global Christmas ad was developed by an Auckland-based animation studio. Image / Flux

The creative work of a team of local animators is currently being showcased in 27 countries around the world.

The three-minute short film, telling the tear-jerking story of the bond between a grandmother and granddaughter, was developed by Flux Animation for Disney’s annual Christmas advertising campaign.

While Flux has worked with Disney on a number of campaigns over the past few decades, the animation studio’s general manager Joshua Forsman says this is the largest-scale piece of work his team has ever worked on for the entertainment juggernaut.

Flux landed the brief for the job in the first week of lockdown and then spent the next six months working on the project around the clock.

Forsman says that given the rapid turnaround, Flux established a 24-hour work cycle that saw contributors working on the project in New Zealand, Europe and even South America.

“The limitations of geography disappeared due to coronavirus,” says Forsman.

Having visited Los Angeles a few weeks before New Zealand’s lockdown occurred, Forsman said his team realised relatively early that they would have to get accustomed to remote work.

“We saw how things were escalating in the United States and we knew the same was inevitable for New Zealand,” he says.

Before production on the Disney campaign started, Flux had already set up the entire team for remote work – meaning everyone was able to transition seamlessly into the strange working conditions.

From the outset, the project posed a number of interesting creative challenges.

Animation director Laban Dickinson says the challenge of making an ad resonate across 27 countries – and their cultures and languages – meant that Flux needed to find a way to tell the story without losing anything in translation.

The creative team felt that the best way to do this was by telling the story without the use of dialogue and letting the expressions on the animated faces do all the talking.

“In advertising, we normally only have around 60 seconds, so we felt quite fortunate to have three minutes to tell this story,” says Dickinson.

“We ended up using more of a short-film approach to the idea.”

The ad was launched in the UK as Disney’s contribution to the Christmas advertising tradition in that country and it has since been rolled out around the globe.

This is not the first time work by Flux has appeared on a giant global platform. A 2019 ad by Flux for Ram Trucks appeared on arguably the world’s biggest advertising stage – the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl 2019: Kiwi animation studio Flux develops Ram Truck ad. / Flux Animation

Any time an ad appears in such a competitive space, the pressure is on to develop something that stands out from the crowd.

This challenge of standing out in the cluttered Christmas ad market was already tough, but the stakes were heightened by the pressure of developing something suitable for a company long celebrated for its ability to enthral audiences.

“It was the first time Disney had gone this route, so we really needed it to hold up,” says Dickinson.

If the early metrics are anything to go by, the campaign seems to have hit the mark by attracting over 1.8 million views online within the first 24 hours of its launch.

And despite this success along with the recent appearance at the Super Bowl, the Flux team isn’t ready to rest on its international laurels quite yet.

“You’re only ever as good as your last project,” says Forsman.

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