Cannes Lions

The Leafcutter

McGARRAH JESSEE, Austin / COSTA SUNGLASSES / 2017

Film
Demo Film
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Overview

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Credits

Overview

Description

Running counter to society’s message that success is the steady march toward predetermined milestones, in this short animated fable Costa offers an alternate perspective on the value of exploration, and the life-altering experiences that come with it.

On the surface, it’s a story about a leafcutter ant heeding the call of adventure. But it could really be about any of us. The metaphorical ant is caught up in the grind when he is unexpectedly given the opportunity to pause and question what he’s doing and why. After some contemplation, he decides to see what else is “out there.” He sets out on a journey filled with challenges to overcome and by the end he discovers there’s some pretty wonderful stuff in this world – and in himself. 

Execution

This piece used a mix of 2D and 3D animation to create a unique textural illustrative style that had unexpected depth of field.

One big challenge was how to generate empathy for an insect - a character with minimal facial features. Animation gave us the ability to convey emotion and expression by manipulating the leafcutter’s antennae or with a subtle tilt of his head. These details all helped contribute to the greater storytelling of the piece.

To live up to the highly-designed aesthetic we envisioned for the environment, we used a projection mapping technique to transpose our original illustrations onto 3D geometry. This meant every carefully illustrated detail ended up in the final film - no design was wasted.

One of our conceptual challenges was how to create empathy for an insect, and in particular a creature with minimal facial features. Initially we had considered using a 2D approach for the ant, but ultimately decided to create our character in full 3D to allow us a broader expressive range. With a thoughtfully rigged 3D model we were able to manipulate the ant’s antennae and body segments to show his emotions and aid in the overall storytelling.

The character animation was done in Maya, but the final environments were built and textured in Cinema4D before a long compositing process in After Effects.

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