Caitlin McCarthy and Parallel Teeth’s Cheerios ad is “an unstoppable chain reaction of positivity”
The animation super-duo tell us about the subtle details – from textures and colours to sparing line work – that create joyful energy without being too “kids TV”.
- 11 August 2020
- Jenny Brewer
Dare to blink and you’ll miss some of the brilliant details packed into the new Cheerios advert by Anomaly. The agency partnered with production studio Strange Beast to create the animation, which is Caitlin McCarthy and Parallel Teeth’s first co-direct as a duo, done entirely in lockdown over three time zones: New Zealand, USA and London. Channelling the cereal brand’s image as “a fuel for positive energy” into a happy, high-speed zip through multiple vignettes, via some clever transitions, the film manages to exude joy without being too twee – and here, the animators explain how.
“The brief was simple: how a bowl of Cheerios in the morning can start an unstoppable chain reaction of positivity,” say Caitlin and Rob (Wallace, aka Parallel Teeth). Anomaly wanted to make a song-driven ad packed with energy, using bold colours and fluidity, and the animators aimed to make the film as playful as possible, using their character designs, colour palette, camera movements, visual distortions and flourishes to do so.
“We were aiming for something fun and exciting, but not too childlike,” the directors tell It’s Nice That. “We incorporated some more mature and muted tones in with the fun bright colours so it didn't veer too far into children’s TV show territory. There’s also a lot of yellow and orange hues to tie in with the Cheerios colours and feelings of positivity.”
They also added noise textures to create depth to the illustrations, and help separate objects, since linework is used sparingly throughout. As an added dimension to the artwork, the Cheerios themselves are CG. “We worked with the excellent artist Dan Lambert who created a realistic looking Cheerios texture that would blend well with our 2D styles, and then the 3D team at Passion replicated it and animated the Cheerios over 2D guides,” the animators explain.
The process of collaborating as co-directors was also a major influence on the final aesthetic, as they wanted it to feel “like it came from both our brains equally, combining our styles to make something unique. We’d ping-pong characters back and forth, editing it and making variations. The idea was to create something that was a joining of our styles, rather than just sitting on top of one another.” During the pitching phase, Caitlin and Rob tried “melding our minds together” by sharing YouTube videos each day. “These ranged from earnest teen films about cyberbullying all the way to what it would feel like being eaten by an anaconda.”
“We also each designed a character in the piece replicating each other’s normal aesthetic choices. Proof of our successful mind-melding,” adds the duo.
Part of the success of this ad is the transitions, seamlessly linking together so many different frames, which is one of the best facets of their discipline, says the duo. “Transitions are a fun way of moving between scenes and making everything feel connected into one big journey. Intricate morphs are also something that you can’t really do in live-action, so it’s fun to really push that unique element of animation.” Starting out with the main character chomping Cheerios, happiness bounds from scene to scene, character to character, with hidden details to discover on every viewing. “If you look at the busy lady's phone as she trips, the alarm clock on it is actually screaming along with her. It's only on screen for two frames,” the animators reveal. “There’s also lots of extra hidden Cheerios cameos to find, it’s a really aesthetically pleasing shape and it was fun to sneakily work them into handbags, buildings, etc…”