Creative agency DBLG has collaborated with Animade on Hey Pressto an experimental stop-motion animation using the naked human body as its canvas. Created for DBLG’s tenth anniversary, the team first came up with the idea of using 3D printing to create a stamp that could be pushed into skin and leave an imprint. “Initially the stamp was typographically based but after some experimentation we felt it didn’t have a tone of voice or playfulness that resonated with us so we started to explore other avenues,” explains Grant Gilbert, founder and creative director at DBLG. “That’s when we got in touch with Animade. We’d been fans of Animade for a long time and always loved how their animations convey a huge amount of character in such a simple and universal way. Animade were absolutely perfect collaborators for this project and we were really excited with the idea to make an animation that crossed into a physical world.”
Next steps involved DBLG and Animade developing ideas around fun things to do with the body and which parts to focus on including “nipples, bum cracks and belly buttons”. “After a lot of tea, biscuits and brainstorming we eventually narrowed it down to five animations that would form, Light Bulb, Nipple Walk, Sneeze, Tennis and Party,” says Grant. In the film we see characters play tennis across bottoms, a strolling nipple with legs and a party erupt out of an armpit all in a tongue-in-cheek style. “Animade crafted the individual animations and passed the files over to us. We then set to work modelling every frame in Cinema 4D and exported them as a physical 3D print,” Grant says.
The team put out a casting call for models who would be “willing to have plastic prints pressed into various parts of their bodies” and they got over 270 responses, which they then narrowed down to four men and four women. “Initially we were worried about finding willing participants who’d want to be involved but we ended up getting an overwhelming response,” says Grant. The next challenge was to work out how long to press on to the skin to get the best print while not hurting anyone, and this often depended on the individuals’ skin. Yet these differences and the residual imprints left on some models simply adds to the aesthetic of the film, making it feel more human and genuine.
The team split the shoot into two sets and filmed simultaneously, with men on one side of the studio and women on the other. This saved time as there was a 40 minute wait between each frame to give the models’ skin time to recover. DBLG worked with director of photography Malcolm Hadley on the project, who has just finished working on Wes Anderson’s upcoming film Isle of Dogs, and audio creative agency Mutant Jukebox, who “created bespoke composition and sound design for the films”. The joyful sound effects bring all the visuals together, giving it pace and energy.
A true labour of love, the film has a cheeky tone (literally) and demonstrates the advantages of collaboration to make a logistically impossible idea possible. “As with all creative processes it’s a pleasure to collaborate with another creative studio we really admire,” says Grant. “Above all we wanted to create a piece of work that was original, shareable and made people smile.”