You may have spotted that over the Super Bowl weekend, the world’s most famous egg, @world_record_egg, cracked. The egg was brought to life by the London-based animation studio Animade in collaboration with the Egg Gang, the creatives behind the original campaign. In this exclusive essay, Ed Barrett, Animade’s executive creative director, talks us through how he and his team went about breathing life into the world’s most-liked image.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past month (or you know, you’ve been too busy worrying about Brexit or global warming), it’s likely that you’ve become digitally acquainted with the world_record_egg: the unassuming photograph of an egg that managed to usurp Kylie Jenner of her world record for most “liked” photograph on Instagram. That same egg has gone on to exceed 50 million “likes” (some 30 million more than Kylie), has appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show and is now worth a reported $10 million dollars.
Our studio specialises in characterful animation and the power it has to bring all manner of stories to life. Our team works both commercially and on our own short films, games and passion projects. Over the years we’ve had the privilege of working on some incredible projects that have seen us working with amazing clients all over the world. None of these clients has been an egg. Or at least that was the case up until this time last week.
I’m sure you’re all dying to know just how our studio found itself with the most famous egg in the world as a client. Many of you probably only clicked on this article for that reason and to you, dear reader, I apologise. The client relationship is sacred and – rather boringly – strictly confidential. However, what I can tell you is this: the creative production process behind this animation was much like the stratospheric rise of the world_record_egg itself: fast, unexpected and joyfully absurd.
I’m going to talk you through how we animated the famous world_record_egg. The animation debuted on US streaming service HULU directly after the 2019 Super Bowl game last weekend. It has also amassed over 11 million views on the world_record_egg Instagram account to date. Some client projects are big, others are cracking the world_record_egg.
The brief was simple – help develop the egg into a character that can help spread a very important message to the world. Rather unusually, our character-development process began with scrolling. Lots and lots of scrolling. We scrolled through comments left on the world_record_egg’s distinguished Instagram posts of an egg that appeared to be slowly cracking. It seemed as though everyone on the internet had a theory about what was inside. The theories ranged from the hilarious (“WHAT IF SHAGGY COMES OUT OF THE EGG?” – @borntooearly) to the philosophical (“So bold, yet so mysterious. Broken, but beautiful” – @malikearnest) to the frankly quite bizarre (“Give it … ApPlE jUiCe” – @onlyone_valerie).
Several thousands of comments later, one thing was clear – this wasn’t the time for a character to crack out of the egg. Animade has made a name for itself on the back of its signature style of character design and animation. I like to think that this also means we know a good character when we see one. The world – for reasons none of us are really quite sure – has been captivated by this egg and we weren’t about to be the studio to bring that to an end. The egg was the character – the job at hand was going to be bringing it to life.
By adding characterful inflections to the egg in its current form, the narrative of the egg’s story progresses whilst still retaining the synonymous imagery the internet has come to know and love. Audiences can continue to perceive the egg as this abstract entity free of gender, ethnicity or class, a sacred symbol of inclusivity – the ultimate “good egg”.
I dubbed this creative pathway “The Gordon Freeman Effect” based on the protagonist of the iconic 90s first-person shooter, Half-Life. The video game sees players take the form of protagonist Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist fighting his way out of the Black Mesa research facility following an experiment that has gone awry. Half-Life players experienced game-play through the eyes of Gordon Freeman, rather than trailing a predetermined character and was widely noted as one of the first games to master this style of first-person gaming. Gordon could effectively be whoever gamers wanted him to be – and all of us involved in this project wanted the same for the world_record_egg.
With our character now in place, we started to experiment collaboratively with the Egg Gang, looking at how we could convey the emotions of Instagram’s most in-demand influencer, lovingly given the name Eugene by its creators. We tried to imagine how Eugene might be feeling having been plucked from obscurity and thrust into the global spotlight a mere three weeks earlier. Maybe Eugene felt happy; however, suddenly every global conglomerate was vying for a piece of Eugene, which may have in turn triggered an onslaught of existential dread and left them feeling very vulnerable. Perhaps Eugene then felt angry. Or maybe just a little overwhelmed.
With half of the world expecting a high-production, dancing CGI Coca-Cola can to crack out of the egg at any given moment, it was important that we actively subvert those expectations by channelling simplicity and lo-fi charm into the animation. Eugene would be brought to life with simple hand-drawn features. Our mantra was “maximum emotion with minimum manipulation”. The egg’s hand-drawn, marker-pen face is subtle enough to trigger powerful feelings of pareidolia (the phenomenon that causes us to see faces in non-human objects) with only a few pen strokes. In essence, all that was needed to bring the world_record_egg to life was two photographs and some drawing over the top.
The simple sentiment was echoed with the font we created to deliver the egg’s important message, created by Michael Davies, our creative director. We opted for hand-drawn, marker-pen typography which is relatable, youthful and yet slightly anarchistic – just like the egg itself. This in tandem with the mix of upper and lowercase letters and gentle “boiling” (pun most definitely intended) of the text offers compassionate warmth to the messaging. Our typography was inspired by the hand-drawn font used for Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes series – a well-loved comic strip that came to prominence in the 80s.
When it came to cracking the world_record_egg, we opted for a little Adobe After Effects wizardry, using a still image of our cracked protagonist. The instantaneous “smash and drop” motion-trickery creates maximum impact on the crack without the need for time-consuming stop-motion shooting or high-end 3D rendering.
Sound design was integral to realising this vision for the world’s first celebrity egg and our friends Sounds Like These were right on the case. Channelling the brief which stated that the egg needed to be “endearing, loveable, cute, honest and inspiring”, they set to work. Sam Heath notes that their main challenge was balancing the level of sound design for the animation: “With the animation being so minimal, having too much sound felt inappropriate – the key was to reinforce the character whilst keeping things simple, playful and not interfering with the very important message.” How many eggs did Sounds Like These have to crack to get the perfect egg cracking sound? Untold thousands.
Working collaboratively with the Egg Gang, we made sure the important message was delivered with maximum impact. By combining creative insight and strategy, the messaging was presented in a refreshingly no-frills fashion and supported by an affiliation with Mental Health America to further open up the conversation online following the animation’s premiere on HULU in the States. On the world_record_egg Instagram account, a new version of the animation debuted unveiling talkingegg.info: a website compiling a list of global mental health resources for those that need support.
The final animation has already got a lot of people talking. Some were disappointed that Kylie Jenner didn’t emerge from the crack. Others praised the egg for using its platform to start a conversation on the pressures of social media and the effect that can have on our mental health. Others were, unsurprisingly, a little confused. Whatever your position, Animade has loved being honorary members of the Egg Gang. Your guess is as good as ours as to what our elliptical friend will get up to next, but with its hopeful optimism and 10 million followers, we bet a whole load of people are going to “like” it.