I was recently asked to share thoughts on what could be some of my favourite projects from recent times. To be honest, it’s been a tricky exercise – I’ve been lucky to have worked on many diverse projects and campaigns over the years, from global cinema ads to fully immersive VR projects to impressionistic game cinematics and everything in between.
Each came with their own set of highlights and memories, but I’ve picked four projects that ring out for having a similar outcome. They were each ambitiously and creatively satisfying projects with a goal to inspire and educate the viewer to make change for good. They were all incredibly different in style and content but that didn’t matter – they all hopefully illustrate that animation gives a strong, defining voice to whatever message you’re trying to convey.
Flight of the Stories
I was asked to create a film for the Imperial War Museum in London, who were opening their doors after a huge refurbishment. This also coincided with the marking of the First World War Centenary. We married beautiful animated images of landscapes with actual soldier’s voices from the era, to create a delicate film reminding us that the stories of the war will always remain. The story resonated virally across social media and the advertising and film industries.
I loved this project for many reasons, one of which was working with the super-talented production designer, Aurelien Predal, but primarily because it was such a simple idea to convey a huge piece of history.
This was a massively exciting project to celebrate Pink Floyd’s legendary album The Dark Side of the Moon reaching its 40th anniversary.
Inspired by the surreal imagery and music that fills the original album, we created films using a collage of digital imaging, CGI, studio-based effects and hand-crafted elements. I wanted to produce a depth and richness in the films that reflected the classic tone of Pink Floyd’s art from Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis.
The main film served as a trailer to an original radio drama based on the album, written by playwright Sir Tom Stoppard. We also created an extended film loop that will complement the audio experience online on BBC Radio 2.
My lasting memory from this project was the energy and passion that the crew had throughout. There was a boundless sense of excitement as we pieced everything together, and joy seeing it virally spread across the globe. It was a truly playful experience.
This was something very special. In 2015, I got to work alongside filmmaker, Richard Curtis, and advertising legend, Sir John Hegarty.
Richard conceived ‘Project Everyone’, the initiative to promote the United Nations’ global goals for sustainable development to end extreme poverty and tackle climate change by 2030. And part of the aim was to communicate these goals to the world’s 7 billion people… in 7 days!
Our job was to create a film to promote the goals, and in turn, this film was screened in tens of thousands of cinemas, across 30 countries simultaneously. The film, #WEHAVEAPLAN became the world’s first ever global cinema ad campaign… and was estimated to have reach 3 billion people!
It was a dream job – working with Richard, John and an amazing crew, and flying to New York to recreate the United Nations Assembly Hall, but mainly being entrusted to create something so unique and ambitious in scale and also to know that the project had inspired a mass of people to make major change for good.
PayPal Turkey Dash
This was utterly bonkers and a lot of fun. What started out as an idea based on a vintage amusement park racing game, became a monster-sized donation campaign for eight major UK charities.
It saw an elite field of CGI turkeys – one representing each charity – take part in an animated race powered by online donations. Each turkey was named by charity fans and also transformed into an Aardman character, who encouraged viewers to make a donation. The more donations a charity received, the faster its turkey ran… until there was a winner. Overall, every charity won out which was hugely satisfying.
Creating the race and supporting films was a lot of fun, as we worked with a super talented crew and highly imaginative agency team who bought the idea in. It was good times fleshing out the scripts and comedy, and a great exercise in seeing how many heads can expand a simple idea to its limits.
Watch Darren’s sketchbook reel here:
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