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Aardman Nathan Love Animates Nick’s ‘Winter Refresh’

Characters from ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ ‘The Loud House,’ ‘Henry Danger’ and ‘The Thundermans’ star in a holiday promo campaign.

Aardman Nathan Love animated the ‘Winter Refresh’ holiday-themed promotional campaign for Nickelodeon.

NEW YORK -- In a fast-paced series of broadcast promos and bumpers, Aardman Nathan Love has given Nickelodeon viewers a zany gift: it’s the Winter Refresh campaign, which features many beloved characters from Nick series, animated in a style reminiscent of some of TV’s most iconic holiday specials.

There’s SpongeBob and Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants, cavorting on a frozen pond. Patrick does a flying leap into SpongeBob’s arms, and both of them plunge through the ice. And there’s Lincoln Loud and Clyde McBride from The Loud House, who get tangled up in holiday lights and tumble off a roof. Also making appearances are the twins from The Thundermans, Phoebe and Max, along with some of the stars of the Nick series Henry Danger.

Popping up throughout many of these promos are a bunch of snowball characters better described as goofballs. Looking a bit like giant marshmallows and wearing knit caps and scarves, they manage to get into all forms of mischief. Each promo ends with a holiday-themed typographic representation of the Nick logo, sculpted to appear as though rendered in clay animation.

The project came about, says ANL director Joe Burrascano, based on the studio’s longstanding relationship with the network. “We’ve worked with teams in almost every department, from broadcast and advertising to development, and we’ve always had a great experience,” he notes. “And the breadth of this opportunity was massive: to develop their entire winter ID package, consisting of 20 original IDs, featuring characters from their most important shows. It’s been one of our most exciting projects yet!”

“When we selected Aardman Nathan Love, we knew we were teaming up with the best collaborators for the job,” says Michael Waldron, SVP, Creative Director at Nickelodeon. “They really understood how we wanted to take this classic style and put our Nickelodeon spin on it. The amount of detail that went into this project is extraordinary.”

The brief from Nick called for a look that recalled holiday classics like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman, immortalized by the Rankin/Bass studio. The networks’ creative team referenced a number of CG projects in their brief, O’Hara notes, “including our own work, and that’s what inspired us to build a world rooted in tactile materials, but with the freedom to create some wilder narratives.”

The studio’s approach was to add depth and detail to the characters and highlight their unique personalities, as opposed to changing them in any way. “As both artists and fans, we balanced our work with respect and understanding for what made them who they are,” says Aardman Nathan Love Art Director and illustrator Tim Probert, who led the studio’s design and storyboard teams. “We explored different materials for the characters and their wardrobes, and studied their performances to translate these onto the stop-motion stage.”

Elizabeth Ku-Herrero, who was CG director, and lead animator Thomas Shek, jumped into the project like kids at a toy store, despite the challenges it presented. “For me, the biggest challenge was figuring out how all the pieces were going to come together,” says Ku-Herrero. “In a CG production, there are so many moving pieces. Simultaneously we can be working on modeling assets, lighting shots and even articulating characters. In order to work efficiently, we have to spend just enough time on the right thing at the right time, while taking our teammates’ strengths into account. In a way, the most challenging part is the most fun, because it’s ultimately like a big puzzle!”

Shek says his biggest challenge was nailing the style of animation the Nick creatives were looking for. “Usually, I’d animate on every frame, from blocking to polishing, but because we were going for a stop-motion aesthetic it took me a while to wrap my head around it,” he says. “Timing, spacing, and posing was treated differently, because I had to animate on twos -- that is, every two frames. Having a really strong team made it easier and more fun to work on this project. Everyone had their own approach for this style, and we learned a lot from each other.”

Source: Aardman Nathan Love

Thomas J. McLean's picture

Tom McLean has been writing for years about animation from a secret base in Los Angeles.