Deck Up Buddy.
Every so often we get into work a little early, sip our coffee and have long philosophical debates about the cultural significance of 1987’s Masters of the Universe starring Courteney Cox and Dolph Lundgren’s pectoral muscles.Something about epic battles over otherworldly landscapes brings out the kid in us. While we’re still waiting for the call to bring He-Man back to the big screen, we did recently get an opportunity to check off another childhood bucket list item: Pokémon. Like Legos or Star Wars, Pokémon is a legacy brand that is now transcending generations, and our collective inner child squealed at the chance to animate some pocket monsters for an ongoing campaign with our close collaborators at Omelet.
One of the most popular gaming companies in all the land, Pokémon is armed with an endless library of video games, trading cards, television series and films. Working with a brand that boasts such a dedicated audience, all of whom hold the mythology very dearly, the stakes are incredibly high. We felt a great responsibility to remain authentic to these characters as we continue to tell their stories, while putting our own take on things. Six spots and even more interactive assets into the campaign and we’re thrilled to continue our partnership with Omelet and Pokémon.
Each of the spots features the premiere characters from that release of cards. New attacks, increased hit points, shinier characters are all highlighted in these micro-stories. Using the card artwork as our guide, we brought each character to life through dynamic animation and illustrative aesthetics.
We received the models used for the various Pokémon video games, and repainted their textures to match our environmental style. Each Pokémon was rigged to perform a simple walk cycle, so our character animation team custom rigged them to convey a sense of kinetic energy and dynamic movement.
Working alongside the Pokémon character experts, we ensured each animated action cohered to the bylaws of the Pokémon Universe
Bringing the Eviroments to Life
Equally important to the characters themselves were the landscape and environmental designs. From pastoral landscapes, underwater trenches, futuristic metropolis, and celestial vortexes, the terrain was as varied as Liam Neeson’s IMDB page. If this isn’t already clear we watch a crap ton of movies, most of which have release dates pre-1995, so naturally there we found our inspiration. Blade Runner, Temple of Doom, The Abyss, and Baraka all helped inform scenes along the way.
We promised not to mention the binge watching of Pokémon anime that our lead animator pursued one faithful weekend, we’ll call it “research” but let’s face it, Pat just needed a little more Pikachu in his life.
Somewhere in between his daily viewing of Thundercats, Brien pointed to the screen and said “This.” We knew that meant we were going to take a dive into cel effects.
No seriously, Brien watches an unhealthy amount of Thundercats… he might have a problem. But boy does it help inform Pokémon energy effects. It’s an appropriate reference for most of the Pokémon attacks, which went through a similar vetting process with the bylaws of the Pokémon Universe.
The cel effects amplified the movements of our CG characters.They added a wonderful secondary animation to our scenes – building energy in the edit. They’re also fun to do. Which is enough reason for us to get them in here.
With the characters animated, environments painted, and Thundercats properly deployed, we leaned on our comp team to pull it all together.
Our comp team had a metric ton of passes to recreate the illustrated, almost painterly style of the design. The intent was the achieve a heightened version of the card packaging – we one upped it by creating fully CG scenes from our matte paintings, using image planes to carry the light effects of the cel work. Some shots warranted a full CG build, while others relied on the matte paintings to frame our shot. In either case, we paid close attention to building depth, in an illustrated way.
ONLY EDIT BETWEEN THE BRACKETS
Like Bob Ross at a Botanical Garden, we were tickled by the opportunity to jump into the Pokémon Universe.
We Brought All Our Pokéballs…
This is one of those jobs that uses every facet of our traditional skill sets. From CG environments, characters and matte painting to cel animation and composite. Any time we can flex all our muscles on something story driven makes us smile. The fact that this was a blast from our past drove our team even harder to make them the best they could be. So much so, we’re continuing our relationship with Omelet, continuing to push and develop the campaign.
Plus, we got to catch up on some well needed Thundercats research studio wide, and played some mean rounds of Pokémon while we were “researching” our cel effects. Next time you’re in LA or Seattle hit us up for a friendly game. We’ll give you some pointers. Oh, and if you ever find yourself in possession of a First Edition Charizard card, give us a call. We’ll take it off your hands.