For Mental Health Awareness Week, Niceshit animates the emotions of healthcare workers as kid-friendly characters
The Barcelona-based animation studio talks us through the character-building process behind The Feelings, visualising real emotional states identified by first responders.
- 13 May 2022
- Liz Gorny
With the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week – which runs from 9 May to the 15 May this year – being loneliness, it’s easy to see why the week is still crucial; it can often feel insurmountable to voice out feelings. Interestingly, it is an issue with which the creative world can often help, and challenge of visualising intangible emotions has been undertaken countless times by the industry – as seen in works such as Inside Out or Headspace’s Netflix animations. The effectiveness of making abstract thoughts approachable with simple forms is tried and tested. Yet, Niceshit was faced with perhaps more complex territory on its latest work, The Feelings, an animated musical made in collaboration with McCann Health London and production company Jelly. Tasked with visualising real emotional states experienced by front line healthcare workers, Niceshit creative director, Carmen Angelillo, says the work and character building was a “big responsibility”.
“As the emotional states came from interviews from real people who were struggling, it was a delicate task,” the creative director tells It’s Nice That. The Feelings follows a group of seven emotions working in healthcare, including Power Less, Rising Dread, Red Rage and Deep Sadness. Developing the right forms for these characters all came down to close adherence to the research. “The answers from interviews were absolutely key for the development of this set of characters,” says Carmen. After reading the answers closely, Niceshit knew that brushes, hand-painted textures and 2D characters were the right approach for the work, knowing it would make them “more relatable, sensitive and engaging.”
Working in animation itself was also a “big plus” on the project, Carmen tells us, “since we could think of [the emotions] in different states”. In the short film, Red Rage, for example, appears temporarily calm before bursting into a “spiky” state, while the teardrop-shaped Deep Sadness can morph into a puddle. For characters depicting constant anxiety, “working with messy and tangled textures was a great choice, especially when animated”, says Carmen. Some characters, like Powerless, ran through multiple forms before its final iteration; at one point, the studio imagined the character having to constantly walk against strong winds to illustrate simple actions taking extreme effort.
As for the style of The Feelings, Rodier Kidmann, Niceshit creative and art director explains: “Using a kid-friendly aesthetic/animation style is a powerful resource to speak about serious topics. You can focus more on the core message that has to be delivered while standing in a safe zone to talk about it without being hurtful or disrespectful. You can even be humorous about it, and that’s the key point to tell people – to look out for help if needed while getting a smile out of them.”
To create a hospital environment that wouldn’t feel at odds with a “kid-friendly” world, Niceshit combined 3D environments with 2D characters. According to the studio, this is a technique it plays with frequently. “It is always very powerful to use softer, more playful, minimal and approachable designs to tackle such important and delicate matters,” concludes Agusta.
The Feelings was supported by The Laura Hyde Foundation, an organisation ensuring health workers have access to mental health support as a high-risk group following the pandemic. According to the foundation’s Suicide Prevention Guide, emergency services staff are over 40 per cent more likely to be impacted by severe mental health issues and over 50 per cent less likely to take up support. By characterising emotions, The Feelings hopes to raise awareness, open dialogue and highlight the mental health resources specifically available to frontline healthcare workers.
Niceshit / Jelly / McCann Health London: The Feelings (Copyright © Niceshit / Jelly / McCann Health London, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.