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New Animated PSAs Bring Home the Dangers of Distracted Driving

Design studio Brigade produced three spots for the New Mexico Dept of Transportation; crayon-like drawings were used, along with narration by children, to graphically illustrate what can result from dangerous driving - all seen from a child’s point of view.

Brigade design studio was recently tasked with producing a new animated PSA campaign, for agency RK Venture and the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT), to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and drunk driving. Directed by Sean Broughton, the campaign was inspired by a true story in which a six-year-old helped Police in the German city of Hamm track down a rogue driver by sketching the assailant he witnessed.

Narrated by children, each spot tells a different story with animations of childlike crayon drawings that show the graphic consequences of bad driving decisions and how they affect others.

ENDWI involves a girl’s family who fell victim to a hit-and-run by a drunk driver who will spend a long time in jail because of his actions.

Just Drive recounts a little girl’s story as she witnesses her mother striking a family at a crosswalk. She thought her mom saw them, but she didn’t because she was looking at her phone while driving.

Slodwn / Bklup is a cautionary tale for parents who make sure their children fasten their seatbelts, but sometimes don’t lead by example.

“When I learned of the news report about this boy, I could instantly visualize a PSA around the narrative point-of-view of a child,” reflected Broughton. “Not only would it drive home our message with honesty and authenticity, but it also felt similar in tone to the campaigns we’ve done for the NMDOT in the past.” 

Working closely with RK Venture, Broughton started work on the campaign during the scripting phase, focusing on three main hazardous driving issues New Mexico is currently facing. Next, they moved on to articulating the visual language of the campaign with a style bible. The illustrations had to not only convey the emotion of each story — from a child’s point of view — but also translate well to animation.

Brigade, led by creative managing director David Dimeola, first created storyboards for each spot by sitting down with Broughton to interpret the scripts.

“Sean is an ideal director with his exceptional ability to describe in great detail how every aspect of a scene should perform and look,” noted Dimeola. “It just gets the entire team to the heart of the story by providing our motivation, which is what you need in a fast-paced production line.”

After the storyboards, Brigade’s art director illustrated the entire cast and supporting artwork, which included iconography such as flowers, trees, clouds, insects, vehicles, people, and buildings with a child-like aesthetic.

“We arrived at a very specific look for all three films,” explained Broughton. “The illustration elements had to be drawn in a style that remained childlike, yet legible, relatable, and animated.”

To bind each unique story with a cohesive motion language, Brigade employed a combination of CGI and 2D cel animation, which enabled them to light the scenes in a 3D space, complete with depth of field, shadows, and parallax. 

To bring the characters to life and impart a sense of spirit, Brigade tapped lead 2D animator Masa Nakamura for his expertise in traditional animation techniques. Leading the CG team was Leomar Esteves, who developed a flexible workflow to combine 2D cel animation and light for the final look all within Maxon C4D.

“We had to produce three fully animated films in a little over a month, and Brigade brought an engine of top talent to pull it off,” added Broughton. “We worked with Brigade remotely by leveraging a variety of collaboration tools like Frame IO to review and refine daily animation work to finally achieve the look we envisioned.”

Finishing the spots in post, HalfLife digital handled the edit, foley bed, sound design, VO, music, and mastering.

According to Broughton, there wasn’t much hope for a big live-action production as with past NMDOT PSA work due to Covid-19, so his team pivoted the campaign to animation. “I knew this campaign would be in the right hands with Brigade,” he noted. “Dave and I have been friends, collaborators, and business partners going on 10 years, so I knew what he and his team could bring to the party. It was truly a dream job — and I don’t say that lightly. I never thought I’d be able to say that of a project executed during these trying times, but we pulled it off without any hiccups. Here’s to the next one – and please, don’t drink and drive.”

“This pandemic has certainly tested our ability to collaborate on all aspects of making commercials,” concluded Dimeola. “While it’s essential to equip a studio with proper pipeline tools to organize data and render imagery seamlessly, it’s pivotal to have team chemistry. Brigade has developed relationships that bring artists together in a unique way that keeps the creative process exciting, productive, and fair to all who participate.”


Client: NMDOT
Spot Titles: ENDWIJust Drive, and Slodwn / Bklup

Advertising Agency: RK Venture
Principal / ECD: Richard Kuhn
Broadcast Creative Director: Nick Tauro Jr.

Production Company: Halflife Digital/Albuquerque, NM
Director: Sean Broughton
Producer: David Garcia and Nikelle Garcia
Editorial Company: Halflife Digital/Albuquerque, NM

Animation Studio: Brigade/New York, NY
Managing Director: David Dimeola
Lead 3D: Leomar Esteves
Lead Cel Animator: Masa Nakamura
2D Animation: Mark Pecoraro
Design & Illustration: Dennis Moore

Source: Brigade