Andrew Rae brings his oddball characters to the Pandemica campaign for global vaccine access

Created for Bono’s health organisation One and featuring the voices of Penélope Cruz and David Oyelowo, the comedic animations highlight the need for wealthy countries to share their vaccine supply.

25 March 2021


Illustrator Andrew Rae has created a brilliantly eclectic cast of characters for the Pandemica series, a set of seven animated short films released by One to urge the importance of global vaccine access. Co-founded by Bono, the global health and anti-poverty organisation campaigns for the end of preventable disease, and has turned its focus on the Covid-19 pandemic for this campaign, aiming to highlight the importance of wealthy countries sharing the vaccine with others. Under the tagline “If the vaccine isn’t everywhere, this pandemic isn’t going anywhere,” the animations use satire and cartoonish humour to discuss the cause, brought to life through Rae’s gang of humans, creatures, and anthropomorphised Covid viruses.

Rae was approached by Margaux Ravis at Hive, a social-impact creative collective founded by women, to work on the project with animation studio Titmouse and sound designers Father. The illustrator was brought in at the script review stage, “which is unusual and was really nice for me to feel more connected to the material,” he says, and was asked to bring his signature “oddball, playful perspective to the project”. As the team was familiar with his illustrative style, they “were brave enough to let me loose,” on the character design and scenery, he says, which looked to discuss the levels of access to the vaccine, and the divide between rich and poor nations in a creative and fun way. Importantly, Rae says the team aimed to do so “without resorting to patronising stereotypes and cliche,” and therefore the characters were posed not as victims but “more a varied cast of weird and wonderful characters who have agency and full lives, but lack access to the vaccine for reasons outside of their control”.

The films see this play out in original and funny ways, though with a serious undercurrent; for example in Hands, a hairy arm covered in blingy watches reaches above a crowd of characters to nab the vaccine. Island Nation shows a community on a remote island partying as they see their vaccine arriving, but are soon crestfallen as it diverts to a luxury private island instead. In Ivory Towers, the vaccine is shown dropping from the sky towards elated crowds, but snatched by tentacle and robotic arms stretching out of swanky residential blocks before it can reach the masses. “I really enjoyed drawing the scenery for Ivory Towers… It was fun to squeeze in some gaudy, gold, tacky statues, the kind of thing that rich people seem to love showing off,” Rae comments.

Andrew Rae, Titmouse, Hive: Ivory Towers, part of Pandemica series for (Copyright © One, 2021)

During the creative process, the illustrator says he began by loosely drawing a potential set of characters and scenery for each film in one large image, “so I could quickly create as much material as possible without getting bogged down by the story and layout or pacing of the films or stepping on the directors toes”. After that, he worked closely with Dante Buford at Titmouse, who storyboarded the films so that Rae could work them up in Adobe Animate. “We kept in close contact all the way through the process which meant there were no surprises or confusion and I learnt a lot form Dante about how to storyboard effectively.”

“The beauty of this job was that I could look back over my own work to find inspiration,” he continues, “and a lot of the drawings came to me very easily while sketching. As I was drawing, things would come to mind and I’d do the occasional image search to find some scenery or detailing. Fortunately this style allows me to draw most things from memory or imagination without having to search too hard for reference.”

From the first email from Ravis in November, Rae, Titmouse and the Hive team had only a couple of months to make the seven films, with Rae also handling co-parenting his two- and four-year-old during lockdown. “I ended up often working late into the evenings but at least during a lockdown I didn’t have any evening plans,” he jokes.

The final films feature the voices of A-list stars such as Penélope Cruz, Nick Kroll, Danai Gurira, Kumail Nanjiani, Wanda Sykes, Michael Sheen and David Oyelowo. Bono, who also lends his voice to one of the characters, says that the Pandemica world “animates a simple truth – that where you live shouldn’t determine whether you get these life-saving shots”. According to research by One, five countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, UK and US) plus the EU block have enough vaccine supply to inoculate their entire populations and still have one billion doses leftover to share. These excess doses would be sufficient to vaccinate the entire adult population of Africa.

Watch all the films via the One YouTube channel here.

Andrew Rae, Titmouse, Hive: Island Nation, part of Pandemica series for (Copyright © One, 2021)

Andrew Rae, Titmouse, Hive: Horde, part of Pandemica series for (Copyright © One, 2021)

Andrew Rae, Titmouse, Hive: Package, part of Pandemica series for (Copyright © One, 2021)

Andrew Rae, Titmouse, Hive: Hands, part of Pandemica series for (Copyright © One, 2021)

Andrew Rae, Titmouse, Hive: Covid-20, part of Pandemica series for (Copyright © One, 2021)

Andrew Rae, Titmouse, Hive: Destination Vaccination, part of Pandemica series for (Copyright © One, 2021)

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Andrew Rae: characters for Pandemica series for (Copyright © One, 2021)

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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