We had the pleasure of working with The Woodland Trust recently, creating an exciting new animation to promote tree planting in the UK.
The UK has one of the lowest tree cover rates in Europe, just 13% compared to a European average of 37%.
The Woodland Trust are on a bold ambitious journey to plant 64 million trees by 2025
To help the WT we created an animated film, bringing to life the joy and jubilation of tree seed planting – from prepping the ground and planting the seed to the anticipation of waiting for germination and the welcomed arrival of the sapling. The animation has a crafted, natural, and textured appearance with a dramatic boldness.
We wanted to tell the story from the viewpoint of a child so that we could capture her excitement and anticipation of seed planting and growing a tree. The stages of growth mirror events in the little girl’s life and the tree grows along with her. Below are some of our initial character designs and illustration concepts as we developed the style of the animation.
After reviewing the initial character design we decided that the girl should be younger so that we could show a longer passing of time. We also simplified the character for a more minimalist representation and introduced a grandfather character, which allowed us to add emotional weight to the story. We wanted to trigger nostalgia for childhood, helping viewers to relate to the characters, resulting in a more heartfelt finale as they grow older and share the joy of growing a tree. Below are the final character design sketches and refined animation style concept.
The next stage was to develop a storyboard for our client to help visualise our ambitions for the animation and bring our script to life. This gave The Woodland Trust a chance to offer feedback and additions before we began the labour intensive animation process. The final animation is a mix of traditional frame by frame techniques and keyframe interpolation in After Effects, we also utilised the DUIK character rig plugin for full body animations. Character rigs helped us to create smoother animations and speed up the production while the frame by frame sequences added a more natural hand made feel to the video. Below is a comparison of both techniques in action (Character rigging on the left and frame by frame on the right).
Originally we wanted to represent the passage of time via the transformation of a child’s trike/bike (as shown above). We intended to show a trike transforming into a bike with stabilisers, which would then come off and eventually be replaced by an adults road bike. This would take place over a number of years and be shown alongside the sapling growing into a tree. Unfortunately this sequence made the video a little bit too long so we ending up removing it from the final cut and replacing it with a faster transition. The longer version of the animation can be seen below:
Full length version: