In the spring of 2021, the marvelously creative agency iCrossing and their client, the high-end cosmetics company Kiehl’s, brought Calabash in on their holiday campaign to be released at the end of that year. We produced a :30 spot combining 2D and 3D animation, evoking the spirit, energy, and community of a block party. 

Calabash also created several GIFs and looping in-store videos. The in-store videos played in Kiehl’s flagship shop in Manhattan’s fashionable East Village. The :30 was destined for broader viewership on the web.

To create the sense that you’d joined the camaraderie and fun of an actual  wintertime block party, we created an animated Manhattan landscape populated with the figures, buildings and motifs designed for Kiehl’s by French artist Marylou Faure.

Faure’s stylish characters and cityscapes featured prominently on much of Kiehl’s holiday packaging. The highly coveted annual Advent Calendar, as well as gift set boxes and individual little jars of ointments, showcased Faure’s designs. Veteran Calabash animator Jeff Mika, along with Catherine and Sarah Satrun, rigged the characters for 2D animation and created their motions in ToonBoom Harmony. While creating new poses, they kept to the sophisticated simplicity of the original designs.

Nick Oropeza headed up the CG, using Maya to lay out the complex environment, and set the resulting 2D characters into tableaus which incorporated much of Faure’s packaging design work.  Stuart Young handled a lot of the CG lighting and photorealistic product modeling and rendering, making the product both believable and lovely.  Chris Blake artfully composited all the imagery and layered effects, using depth of field to achieve the style of tilt-shift photography.  Diane Grider managed the several simultaneous projects, and producer Sean Henry, wearing many hats as usual, contributed greatly to the art direction while deftly translating client concerns and wishes to the Calabash team.

Our Calabash team spent some time in the development to hone in on the exact look.

We tried giving the figures textures of one sort or another – trying them with fuzz and fur, or as puffy plastic. But in the end, we all agreed that less was more. For the final, the characters were minimally textured, and made an excellent foil and counterbalance to the sculptural CG models of the cosmetics products, which were rendered in photo-real 3D style.

The characters  move as 2D shapes within the 3D panoramic space, rendered with some depth of field to give the playful feeling of a small diorama. In the :30 spot, the CG camera cruises through the space nearly continuously, as if it’s a drone camera traveling down the block discovering each scene in succession.

The Kiehl’s flagship shop in East Village boasts biplanes, motorbikes, and skeletons – a quirky combination sure to intrigue every customer.

Marylou Faure incorporated these famous shop-props into her portfolio of designs. All these things gave us at Calabash great opportunities to bring the characters to life, in that lovely synthesis of acting personalities and designs in motion.

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