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Platige Image Creates Work-Weary Mandrill for the Tajawal Travel Agency

The music-video inspired commercial features an emotionally nuanced CG primate portraying an everyday, burned out businessperson needing a break from life’s mundane routines.

Production and post house Platige Image, in collaboration with director Omar Hilal and the Dejavu production house, has created a spot promoting Dubai’s Tajawal travel agency. The main character in the 2-minute commercial is a rather weary, tired looking digital mandrill.

The aim of the commercial was to present in a creative way the booking app from the Tajawal travel agency, a company whose services are aimed at people living and working in the Middle East. The creators wanted the viewer to identify with the emotions of the main character; the spot should look like a music video showing the life of an average person, seen at work, at home, and with friends, but who is burned out and feeling suffocated. The protagonist desperately needs a break to become himself again, and Tajawal can give him the chance to break out of his mundane routine and introduce a ray of light into his monotonous reality.

According to Hilal, “The film uses a music track that is all about routine and boredom. The song’s chorus says, ‘Nothing ever happens; Nothing happens at all!’ and that was the basis for our idea. It’s a story about a man who has become like a caged animal and only returns to his human form at the end of the film, once he has booked a vacation to a beach escape. The execution was inspired by artist Walton Ford's animal portraits.”

The central character in the spot is a mandrill – an unusual and nice, intelligent-looking mammal, who behaves like a human but seems completely out of place in the corporate environment. In the first part of the spot, the mandrill's fur looks ruffled and unkempt, reflecting his initial dissatisfaction. Only later in the clip does it become fluffy and well-groomed, with the two different fur systems reflecting the change in his emotions.

“We obtained over 1,000 reference photos of a representative of this species, taken previously in a zoo, so we could accurately reproduce the mandrill’s appearance and behavior,” VFX producer Mateusz Wiśniewski shares. “The figure of the mandrill was ultimately developed by three animators. The fur itself was also a huge challenge – to make it look realistic, we not only had a life-size mock-up of the animal on the set, but also a fur reference, which was necessary to capture how the light on the set reflected off the hair. We then used the information obtained in this way in our further animation work. This was a unique project, and its successful execution was made possible by our excellent cooperation with the client, the production house and the director.”

Dejavu executive producer Manasavi Gosalia adds, “CGI Animals are a great challenge. Crafting a delicate performance from a CG mandrill, and bringing subtle emotions out of him, was a challenge which we feel we overcame with precise direction from director and creative Omar Hilal, and the excellent team at Platige, giving him a realistic human feel of a depressed man.”

Source: Platige Image

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.