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Bonfire Labs Animates SF's The Exploratorium

Bonfire Labs is tapped to help announce the grand reopening of the renowned San Francisco interactive learning laboratory, the Exploratorium, with a whimsical mix of live action and animation.

Bonfire Labs

San Francisco, CA -- Bonfire Labs was recently tapped to help announce the grand reopening of the renowned San Francisco interactive learning laboratory, the Exploratorium, which is moving to Pier 15 on the historic Embarcadero. The 30-second spot is a whimsical mix of live action and animation.

Working closely with the Exploratorium, creative brand consultants from Landor Associates in Chicago and executive producer Lee Anne Weldon of Late for Yoga, Bonfire was challenged to create a commercial that would convey the true ethos of the museum and build excitement for the new space.

“San Franciscans love The Exploratorium for the hands-on nature of the exhibits so the Landor creative team wanted to find a way to include that feeling in the spot,” said Lee Anne Weldon, executive producer, Late For Yoga. “Bonfire brought so many talented people with excellent ideas to the table. We could not have been happier with their ‘all hands on deck’ approach and the final spot looks fantastic.”

“When Lee Anne brought Bonfire on board, she knew our expectations were extremely high,” added Christopher Lehmann, executive creative director, Landor Associates. “We needed folks who, deep down, already knew what makes Exploratorium so cool. Bonfire was that in spades. For all of us, working on this campaign was an act of geeky love as much as a fantastic creative opportunity.”

“A lot of the spot elements are handmade and pretty much everyone at Bonfire touched this project in some way,” noted Jonathan Keeton, executive creative director, Bonfire Labs. “We had a lot of fun coming up with all of the components and figuring out how they would interact.”

Directed by Keeton with assistance from lead artist Phil Spitler, the spot features hand drawn animation from Catherine Margerin and stop motion animation from Carl Willat. A majority of live-action elements were filmed in one day at a studio so that the exhibits could be captured with optimal lighting. As the creative evolved, additional shooting was done on Bonfire’s stage. Bonfire began working on the spot in October and it was finalized in December.

“Since the boards weren’t ever really locked, we worked off an animatic and slowly swapped out the rough content for the finished shots. Determining the final flow was a very iterative and collaborative process. Everything had to be shown in context to make sense,” Keeton explained. “Once the style was set, we created simple scenes to sketch out the timing. Then we replaced them with previs animation followed by real renders and finally added in the dancing animation. I think the end result really captures the essence of the museum.”

The Exploratorium re-opens on April 17, 2013. More information about the Exploratorium can be found at:

Source: Bonfire Labs

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.