Recently I worked on one of the longest projects I've ever been involved with. 4 solid months of long days and I had a BLAST!
Grab a cup of tea/coffee and prepare for the incoming wall of text.
Once upon a time
Jo, Ian and I worked together at the Leith Agency, here in Edinburgh, from 2012. in 2014 we all left pretty much at the same time. While Jo and Ian started that bundle of awesome that is Something Something I went off doing my thing. At the agency we worked on a bunch of projects together and we always knew that one day we were going to do something bigger together. We had no idea what, but we meant it.
One of the things I love the most about us working together is the feeling that we can do anything we fancy, and if we don’t know how to do it we’ll figure it out. If you can think it, you can do it, or whatever that famous quote reads.
At the very beginning the chat went more or less like this: “can we make an animation, like a bunch of episodes in a couple of months?” they asked. “Sure, what do you have in mind?” I said. About a month later, there we were, preparing the pitch.
The idea behind Wellpark was to produce a ton of entertaining content, instead of making just one big and expensive ad. The fundamental difference these days is that one ad is simply not enough. The amount of content flowing in and out the internet is so overwhelming that one big shot just doesn’t cut it anymore, IMHO. It works the same as a creative; you need to keep making, you need to be present, no matter what you do.. The same applies to brands. Saying one thing very loudly won’t capture people’s attention for longer than the second you are saying it. We wanted to start a conversation and keep it going for as long as possible.
Stairway to Wellpark
Once Ian/Jordan knew they had a shot at pitching the animation to Tennent’s together with the help of Bright Signals (a digital agency in Glasgow) we got our heads down. Pablo Clark, one of the best Scottish illustrators; living in Spain at that time, joined us. We were on fire by day one. All 4 of us clicked, it was great to see it happening; we are all weird in the best possible ways which meant that we just got each other straight away. We were IN. After a week of hustle, with the continuous feedback of both Tennent’s and Bright Signals we had 3 episodes plus the original Guide Dogs video Ian and Jordan made prior to start the project.
Here is a rarity, the video we used for the pitch. Note how similar Bobby and Paul are to the final artwork we eventually used.
Pitch week was a great way to make mistakes and figure out best practices, we learned LOADS about the project we envisioned and we were a lot more aware of it. We thought we could pull it off, now we knew it.
Welcome to Wellpark
After a long wait, the kind of wait which leads you through a whole set of emotions, we finally heard the news. WE GOT IT. After a couple of months of thinking about Wellpark, and what it could become, shit was now real. 35 to 40 episodes to make (then settled for 35) in 4 months.
Besides the initial disbelief and excitement, we got ready for mayhem: Pablo moved back to Scotland for good, the Something Something offices got a revamp and I bought a Nintendo 3DS to challenge Pablo at Super Smash Brothers. We were now ready.
One thing was sure since the beginning, making 35 episodes in 4 months was a challenge. 35 episodes divided by 16 weeks is 2.2 episodes a week, as simple as that. Each episode length had to be between 30 and 60 seconds long and they were targeted for digital, TV and for cinema. We had a few cardinal points, the client had to be on board with the style and the approval process had to be as fast as possible; one simply can’t make 2+ episodes a week while waiting around for feedback. The process HAD to be simple and understood by everyone. Jo and Ian had to run the thing while constantly delivering new ideas, script after script (we could make at least another 50 episodes with all the ideas that never made it, - remember the Lobsters, guys?!) and record the V/O once the script was approved, while everyone else had to keep on top of their own shit. Pablo had to design a character, sketch it and send it for approval in pretty much a morning, once approved he then had to work on the final artwork which would be then broken apart by Skelfie and ultimately passed onto me. At that point I had to rig it up and animate it while Skelfie worked on the lip syncing. From that moment onward I had about 1½ days to deliver the final render. After the final render was done Callum would deal with the audio which will take us to the final stage. NEEEEEEEXT.
About 1½ months into the project we decided to expand. Things got a touch tricky when I found myself juggling 10 episodes through amends, intros, outros and final renders; ASSETS, ASSETS EVERYWHERE. Every episode needed a bespoke intro/outro and we were still tweaking bits and pieces here and there. Andrew got on board and life got a lot easier. 2 animators made it a lot more manageable to keep the pace while tweaking and amending.
Wellpark and surrounding
Wellpark would have never happened without the agencies that helped us with delivery, PR and the other million things needed. Bright Signals was involved since pitch week, and collaborated with us to make sure that everything ran smoothly from presenting the creative ideas to delivering the files (- Oh, Hi Emma, which render do we need next?). Wire Media were masterfully on top of PR and Republic of Media made sure that the ads would be present in as many platforms as possible. We all worked around the clock especially when delivering responsive content. Sometimes we would get started early in the morning and finish early in the afternoon. Our record is with the Fly on the wall, from writing to PR launch in 5.5 hours.
Out of our control
The first 2 months saw us fighting our way through, episode after episode, to hit all our deadlines. It’s so easy to lose perspective after you spend day after day head down working as much as you can. The day the campaign launched we all felt physically sick and I think it was due to the amount of love and effort we all put in. It was going out of our control, it was now out there, it hurt. We saw the views, likes, shares and comments rolling in and we read every single one of them.
The response was super positive; we felt great. About 5 episodes in, people were loving it and Bobby and Paul got a great response with Girlfriend Voice becoming an instant hit. We all secretly (and less secretly) hoped for one of the episodes to go viral (boy I hate this word), and we got the pleasure with the Binder app, which hit the media jackpot. Peach is a fictional tech company based in Wellpark and after making the most scottish of smartwatches, the Aye Watch, created an app to dump your boyfriend/girlfriend, Binder. The app got HUGE national and international coverage, some people got the joke, other hated it with a passion BUT that allowed us to start a big online discussion on digital and human relationships.
We hit the emotional jackpot ourselves with two crazy days culminating with Jordan and Ian getting interviewed by the New Yorker. Fuck me, seriously.
What now, yo?
We’ve just delivered our last episode and I’d like to say I’m outside writing this in the sun, but this is Scotland after all; sun is no more. There is A LOT more to say about Wellpark. I’ll probably write a more in depth article, or a series of, about the tech behind it and a step by step guide on how to make your own cartoon series. For the moment I’m getting ready for my next (smaller) project and I’m looking for something else. If you need some motion graphic work, drop me an email.