Nov 14, 2016 | By Tess

For the past few years, British supermarket Sainsbury’s has impressed consumers with its original and endearing Christmas ad campaigns. Last year, for instance, the grocery chain's Xmas ad brought back Mog the cat, a character from Judith Kerr’s beloved children’s books, and this year the supermarket has impressed again with a three minute long musical advert featuring comedian James Corden and 3D printed stop motion animation.

The seasonal ad, called “The Greatest Gift”, tells the story of Dave (voiced by James Corden), a British toy factory worker who wants to get his family the greatest gift of all. Becoming overwhelmed with Christmas shopping, he realizes that the greatest gift is to spend time with his family, so he devises a clever plan to make toy replicas of himself that can stand in for him at work while he stays home with his loved ones.

The Christmas-themed short is incredibly charming and is already gaining some attention online, notably for its impressive animation. As mentioned, the ad was animated using a stop-motion technique, and each of the characters featured in the short was made in part using 3D printing technologies. Similar to the method used by animation studio Laika (responsible for Kubo and the Two Strings, ParaNorman, and more), the makers of the Sainsbury’s ad used 3D printing to create a series of detailed and interchangeable faces for each of the puppets.

In fact, The Greatest Gift was actually directed by Sam Fell, who directed ParaNorman (2012) and who has worked for Aardman Animations, the British animation studio known primarily for Wallace and Gromit. The three minute ad, part of Sainsbury’s ongoing “Christmas is for Sharing” campaign, took over 16 weeks to put together in terms of puppets and sets, took roughly 420 hours to film, and took eight more weeks to edit and perfect.

Considering that the short consists of 26 separate animated characters, which needed over 1,000 separate 3D printed facial plates, the reportedly lengthy production process is not entirely surprising. Additionally, even with 180 people working to bring the project to life, only 10-12 frames of the film could be captured within an hour, and with 24 frames per second, that means it took an hour to capture half a second of footage.

Although this is not the first time we’ve seen 3D printing being used in ad campaigns (see McDonalds’ Always Working ad or India’s Madhya Pradesh tourism ad), the Sainsbury’s advert does mark the first time that interchangeable 3D printed faces have been used for animation production within the United Kingdom. The puppets themselves were made by Manchester-based puppet manufacturer Mackinnin and Saunders, which has worked on many of Tim Burton’s animated features, and their faces were 3D printed in partnership with 3D Print Bureau in Stoke-on-Trent.

Like the grocer’s previous Christmas adverts, the new animation short does not feature any direct link to Sainsbury’s, although if you look closely you’ll notice some miniature versions of Sainsbury’s-brand prosecco, Christmas cards, home decor, and more. The song featured in the short animation, written by Flight of the Conchords' Brett Mackenzie and performed by James Corden, will also be available for free through Spotify.

The Greatest Gift, which has already been released through Sainsbury’s social media, will air this evening during I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! In addition to the impressive animation, viewers will notice the inclusiveness of the ad, which includes an interracial family, a single father, and an LGBT family. Considering the current climate of negative press and political disruptions, the positive and progressive ad is remarkably refreshing.

To accompany the animated ad, Sainsbury’s is also releasing a series of themed products such as a Dave gingerbread man and an animation kit. The proceeds of these products will be donated to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, specifically to its family accommodation fund.

Sarah Kilmartin, head of broadcast communications for Sainsbury’s, said of the partnership: “Supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity felt like a very natural extension of this as we know that the families at the hospital face more difficulties than most to spend time together as a family, at Christmas and all year round.”

If your Christmas spirit has been lacking this year, perhaps the Sainsbury's 3D printed animation will get you more in the mood!



Posted in Fun with 3D Printing



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