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Powerful Caster Semenya Short Explores Biology, Beauty, and Bans

Dynamic animated film for Lux’s ‘Born This Way’ campaign supports banned South African athlete’s bid to compete at the world’s leading track events.

Animation studio Le Cube, production company Final Frontier, and agency Wunderman Thompson Singapore have joined forces to create a visually stunning animated short for Lux’s ‘Born This Way’ campaign in support of South African athlete Caster Semenya, who since 2018, has been banned from all track events between 400m and one mile due to having testosterone levels exceeding the maximum set by World Athletics.  Ahead of this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games, the brand is throwing its weight behind the campaign to have the ban overturned.

As Wunderman Thompson creative director Ricardo Tronquini explains, “As a brand, Lux has always believed that women should not be judged for how they look. While working on a project about judgements that women often face, my partner Ai-lin and I wanted to approach it from a different angle. We had always been passionate about Caster Semenya’s case and how, despite having her gender questioned and being banned by World Athletics, she has always risen above judgements and cruel insults to fight her cause with dignity. So, we came up with this idea of ‘Born This Way.’”

“Caster was born with hyperandrogenism and as she herself often says, ‘I am a woman… I was born this way,’” Wunderman Thompson creative director Ai-lin Tan adds. “Our idea came from the insight that most champion athletes are born with extraordinary biology – it is what makes them perform like superheroes. But unlike Caster, they are celebrated, not reviled, or banned. So, we decided to create an animated film that highlighted this in support of Caster’s fight.”

Packed with dynamic angles and fast, fluid transitions, the animation features sprinters, gymnasts, and swimmers inspired by real, iconic modern athletes, performing incredible physical feats. The tightly scheduled three-month production was made possible through collaboration by artists from around the globe: direction coming from Madrid; execution by artists in Europe, South America, and Asia, including Final Frontier’s offices in Singapore and Buenos Aires; sound design from Dahouse in Berlin and Sao Paulo; and Wunderman Thompson’s in-house production team, Chameleon. 

Take a moment to enjoy:

According to Wunderman Thompson chief creative officer Marco Versolato, “We felt that an animated film would be the best medium to dramatize the extraordinary biology of these athletes and create the impact that would get Caster’s story noticed. So, we sought out the best in this field and started a collaborative partnership with Final Frontier to bring our idea to life.”

Director Ralph Karam of Final Frontier explains that the decision to work in frame-by-frame cel animation was a deliberate approach to aid and enhance the storytelling.  “We wanted to create a warmer, more organic feel to the overall result, aiming to connect audiences with Caster's emotional journey,” he says. “My intention was to not only tell Caster’s story but also to immerse the audience in her world. It's designed to delight the eyes while touching the soul.”

Final Frontier co-founder and executive producer Gus Karam adds, “Such an amazing campaign is the result of a global effort from teams spread all across the globe. From Singapore to Buenos Aires to Madrid, the outcome demonstrates just what remote working can achieve.  It’s a well-oiled, streamlined system that Final Frontier and Le Cube have been honing for the past decade."

The sound design and title are composed by audio production company, DaHouse Audio, winners of a Cannes Lions Titanium Lion in 2019 for the “Uncensored Playlist” campaign.  DaHouse partner and music director, Lucas Mayer, says, “The challenge was to produce something inspiring that would linger in people’s minds –it had to work as a dramatic and emotional soundtrack. It's a pop song, but also a soundscape with lots of textures and sound design. We worked with binaural sound effects in a spatial audio mixing engine, where you can notice the distance of the sounds and the stereo is not only about left and right, but all around your head. Listen to it with headphones; it's an extraordinary experience.”

Global Lux business director Hinoti Joshi notes, “I am thrilled with the outcome! Such a poignant story so beautifully told through animation. The film brings out Caster’s struggle against bias, discrimination, and her rights as a woman. In this day and age, women are still constantly judged for how they look and choose to express themselves. We stand with Caster, who is proudly and unapologetically a woman. And we join in her fight to overturn the World Athletics’ ruling that bans her from running free unless she takes hormone-suppressing drugs. Let’s all stand together to change this. Watch the film here and sign the petition at https://bit.ly/istandwithcaster.”

CREDITS

Production Company: Final Frontier
Animation Studio: Le Cube
Director: Ralph Karam
Executive Producers: Chris Colman (FF), Fernanda Soma (LC), Gus Karam (FF/LC), JuanMa Freire (LC), Julieta Zajaczkowski (FF), Ryan Shanholtzer (FF)
Project Manager: Agustina Kröl
Producers: Veronica Miramontes, Gabriel Murgue
Art Development: Evelin Unfer, Constanza Oroza, Juan Barabani, Lucas Andreu, Matías Basla, Mariano Albano, Patricio Delpeche, Rodrigo Miguel "Numecaniq"
Animation Director: Federico Radero
Animators: Cintia Czeszczewik, Bruno Brasil, Daniel Cuervo, Diego Cristófano, Emanuel Zampalo, Guadalupe Vyleta, Leandro Vargas, Leo Campasso, Jose Luis Rosado, Tamás Pázmány, Carlos Caraya (Catarata), Sixtine James, Louis Holmes, Victoria Pellet, Agathe Simoulin, Vincent Coudroy de Lille.
Clean up & Color Supervisor: Laura Desmery
Tie Down, Clean-Up & Color: Antonella Cuozzo

Agency: Wunderman Thompson
CCO WPP@Unilever/Wunderman Thompson: Marco Versolato,
Creative Director: Ricardo Tronquini, Ai-lin Tan
Art Director: SIxin Wu
Business Lead - Global Lux: Hinoti Joshi
Sr. Account Director: Len DeRosales, Fanny LeMasson
Sr. Account Executive: Deeksha Siwach
Global Planning Director: Lucile Belleville
Planner: Josslyn Li
Head of Integrated Production: Gerri Hamill
Production Coordinator: Sharmaine Ng
Business Affairs Manager: Rachel Chen
Post-Production Coordinator: Hafiza Yussaini
Producer: Hidayah Asari
Online Editor: Luis Calvo, Benjamin Low
Production Coordinator: Zakee Talib
Audio Production: DaHouse Audio GmbH
Composer: Lucas Mayer & Lucas Campello
Singer: Giovanna Moraes
Music Producers: Lucas Mayer, Wonder Bettin & Silvio Erne
Mix and Sound Design: Lucas Mayer, Rodrigo Deltoro & Niper Boaventura
Audio Executive Producers: Cassiano Derenji & Lari Miranda

Clients: Unilever, Lux
Global Brand Director: Severine Vauleon, Ankush Wadehra
Global Assistant Brand Manager: Vivien Ng
Global Assistant Brand Manager: Angad Saxena

Source: Final Frontier

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

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