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October 3rd, 2017

The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, with the support of RPA,  is working to combat childhood cancer with their newly established  Imaginary Friend Society. This heartwarming project features a collection of 20 animated short films that provide comforting, empowering narratives for children undergoing cancer treatment. Mill+ was honored to create one of the films – ‘Losing Your Hair’, directed by Lisha Tan – which brings to life a colorful, 3D-animated imaginary friend named Jerry.

In order to emulate the look and feel of claymation, the design and animation team created the film entirely in Cinema 4D. The artists maintained the medium’s traditional stop motion appearance by animating the hero character on 2s (every other frame), while keeping the camera and light animation on 1s to ensure smooth transitions.

RoomconceptRoom Concept

Expression ExplorationExpression Exploration

Lead Character Designer Ren Chen worked with Lisha to begin developing the playful protagonist. He says, “Finding Jerry’s personality was an interesting challenge; my focus was to make it as relatable as possible to the intended audience.”

Hat And Wig ExplorationWig Exploration

Hair Hats DevelopmentHat and Hair Development

In close collaboration with Lisha, Creative Director Justin Demetrician worked to execute the concept, conducting multiple tests and builds to reach the final product. “We spent time researching and developing Jerry’s characteristics to get him to a place we were happy with,” says Justin. “He’s a unique character with an important message, so we needed to work through some technically challenging features: how to properly rig his arms; how to measure out just the right amount of ‘thumbprints’; how to smooth out the animation of his lips using a morph shape rig. We wanted to push the animation to a new level to deliver the best possible result.”

Salon Concept SketchSalon Concept Sketch

3D SalonProcess Imagery of 3D Salon Model

During the look development process, Ren designed and painted additional characters who were creatively incorporated into the story line. Lisha says, “Because there was so much animation to be done, we were thinking of the best ways to be efficient. An example of this was the utilization of the character Sam to tell a story of hair loss through polaroid images.” Many of the other character designs were included to embellish Jerry’s backstory, as well as enhance his environment.

BackstoryBackstory Sketches for Jerry's Room

Lisha adds, “We’re honored to have had the opportunity to be part of this project. Not only was it a pleasure to work on a portion of it, but it was inspiring to see so many companies come together to create something bigger.”

As a fun side project, our creatives put together an audition tape for Jerry. Watch his first take…

Jerry’s audition tape animated by The Mill’s Greg Rubner


See all 20 films at www.imaginaryfriendsociety.com