LA and Wuhan-based animation studio Taiko has created the first ever animated ad for Airbnb China, bringing its experience in heartwarming tales to a film about reuniting families at Chinese New Year. The three-and-a-half-minute 3D short is co-directed by Shaofu Zhang, who previously worked as an animator on Big Hero 6, Zootopia and Moana, and was nominated for an Oscar for his animated short One Small Step in 2018, as well as fellow former Disney animator Andrew Chesworth, whose animating credits include Klaus, Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph.
Fú tells the story of Jia Jia, who grows up celebrating Spring Festival with her parents, but eventually leaves home to pursue a career as a nurse. While the holiday traditionally sees families reunite in their hometown, Jia Jia's work means she can't make it back for the New Year celebrations – a sad rite of passage that is increasingly common in modern China. The running joke in the film is that Jia Jia always hangs the Fú (blessing) banner upside down when she's a child, and this becomes a symbol for "turning tradition on its head" when her parents surprise her with a visit to the city – staying in a very nice Airbnb, of course.
On the use of animation, a rarity for major holiday campaigns in China, Airbnb China creative lead Justin Leung says that the company "wanted to address an emotional topic, and tell a story that Chinese millennials can relate to, and feel could have been them or anyone they know".
Shanghai-based production house Final Frontier enlisted Taiko as creators, for its "unique combination of genuine Chinese cultural insight combined with world-class storytelling sensibility and cutting edge execution developed over the years with Disney," explains executive producer Chris Colman.
Zhang describes the project as "immediately personal... Much of our team in Wuhan is around the same age as the protagonist and we realised that many of us had the same experience of missing Chinese New Year at home. It was such a good fit for us because of how closely we identified with the core message of home and family."
Made in 3D with a 2D painted brush aesthetic, the intention was to create a style that felt painterly and handmade, Zhang explains. "The biggest challenge was creating the dry brushed edge feel for a 3D environment and retaining the graphic and 2D look." A particular attention to detail went into making the scenes idiosyncratically familiar, so props were added into the background to make it accurate to the changing time periods as Jia Jia grows up against an exponentially growing city in the distance.
"We have received many comments from viewers that the sequence gave them a big hit of nostalgia," adds Zhang, "and it reminded them of growing up during an incredible period of development and change in China."
GalleryTaiko and Final Frontier: Fú for Airbnb China
Taiko and Final Frontier: Fú for Airbnb China