Building An Animated Ad

Every Home Has a Story

Every home has a story. Walls are dinged with dimples, not dents; our floorboards don’t creak, they sigh. At some point during our time within their walls, our houses quietly transform into our homes – a giant memory box with a roof for a lid. 

We at COCOON are invested in the story of each customer who steps through our doors – searching for a way to keep their current home as the setting for the next chapter of their life. Their home has become part of the family, and we have the privilege of helping it grow and evolve along with them. 

So, when the COCOON Marketing team pitched the idea to create an animated short film, Growing Up, that told the story of a growing family forced with the decision to move or remodel, the emotional response was strong and immediate. The appeal, the relatability, and the heart all came through even in its simplest form of a loose story with some rudimentary sketches. The decision was easy: “Let’s do it!” Leaving us with just one minor issue: “HOW do we do it?”

Designing and Refining

As luck would have it, one of the COCOON team members had over a decade of experience in the animation industry. In this way, COCOON was able to team up with Plus3K Studios in Carlisle, England, and set out on a brand-new adventure. 

The medium of animation provides unparalleled creative control, but there’s a flip side to that: nothing comes fast or easy in animation. Every detail – from the character design to the props, the color palette to the lighting, and everything in between– ALL of it has to be made from scratch. And even though a 60-second short film sounds brief, 12 illustrations for every second of animation meant that 720 drawings had to be made for our ad!

With that many images to be drawn, colored, and composited, it’s important to get the story nailed down BEFORE a single frame is animated. That’s why, unlike in live-action productions, editing animation happens at the beginning, not the end, through a process called “storyboarding.” Storyboards are a series of drawings that serve as visual representations of the shots within each scene. 

Even though the framework of the story was present from the first pitch, more than a month was spent refining the story through the process of storyboarding, deciding on exactly which scenes should be shown and in what order. 

And while “storyboarding” is the animation equivalent of editing, “character design” is the equivalent of casting a live-action production. The COCOON team had lots of fun figuring out what our characters would look like, not just as individuals, but collectively as a family, too!

Another element that required careful consideration was the color palette of the animated short. In fact, we even considered keeping it black and white for a time. We thought the story was powerful enough without color while also nodding to the fact that our home remodeling designs all start out as black-and-white images. But when presented with a color script (a series of images that show the color journey of a story) we couldn’t deny the power of color to evoke emotions and decided to harness it to its full extent!

Once the story, character designs, and color palettes were nailed down, the COCOON team had fun sprinkling little “easter eggs” throughout the short. Did you spot the COCOON truck in the living room or the butterfly mobile in the nursery? Or how about the jersey from a certain Philadelphia baseball team or a green pennant supporting our favorite avian friends proudly displayed in the kids’ bedroom?

With all those decisions made, it was finally time to start animating! As we know only too well as remodelers, few things are more exciting or satisfying than seeing a vision come to life; but this was something completely new and different to us. Instead of walls being framed, drywall going up, and finishes being installed, we witnessed static 2D characters spring to life as they played, laughed, and emoted their way into our hearts.

Our hope was to make more than “just a cartoon” with Growing Up. We aimed to create a heartfelt story that resonates and connects with our audience. Maybe it makes you feel nostalgic. Maybe it makes you feel happy or maybe a little sad, or maybe a little bit of both, and that’s okay! As long as you feel something, then that makes us feel happy. Because we poured our hearts and creativity into each frame with the hope that it surprises and delights each and every person who views it. Happy watching!

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