To celebrate the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan, France Télévisions and its agency, MullenLowe France partnered with Mikros MPC to direct a film inspired by one of the masters of Japanese art: Katsushika Hokusai and his iconic painting 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa'. Mikros MPC was commissioned to take viewers on a journey to Japan in a brand-new Olympic ident.
As the pandemic health crisis began hitting all over the world last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the rescheduling of the Games of the XXII Olympiad in Tokyo, just four months ahead of the opening ceremony. At that time, the teams at The Mill/Mikros MPC were already far in the creation of a new TV ident for France Television to announce programming on the channels that would be dedicated to the Olympics that summer. The objective was to honor the Japanese culture, the values of the Olympics, and the new events that would debut at the Summer Games, such as skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing. All of this in a full 2D animated film, using Japanese prints as a reference.
From art/direction to final delivery of the film, our team was a one-stop-shop creative house for ‘Sumo,’ the multi award-winning spot that picked up four Gold Awards at Promax Europe 2021, which recognizes “the most original, refreshing, and inspirational work across the region.” The campaign also won a Gold and Silver Clio Sports Award for Best Animation, has been nominated for a Eurobest Award and reached over 20 million people worldwide.
For the film to be successful, it needed a specific team to execute the agency’s vision of a highly crafted piece of art within the required budget and timeframe. [Because we] nurture a large pool of amazing talent that is unique in the market today, the team brought together a dream team of artists to pull this ‘miracle’ off.
“Throughout the project, our teams respected the traditional codes of 18th-century Japanese prints, both from a narrative and an aesthetic standpoint. The environments and the characters are full of details, drawn with thick and bold lines, strong shapes, audacious concept designs. It was important to create the right balance between the scenery and the sumotori and adapted the character’s line drawing according to its size in the frame, and in constant relation with the treatment of the backgrounds. All our choices, whether creative or technical, were driven by our care to develop a project that would mix a highly stylized aesthetic and storytelling.”
The Mill/Mikros MPC and illustrator Stéphane Levallois created a film with plenty of Japanese style, showing off both classic Olympic sports and newer additions. Directed by Geoffroy Barbet-Massin of The Mill/Mikros MPC, the teams created imagery reminiscent of block prints or ink drawings, the artist sends the sumo wrestler on a dynamic trip surfing waves, skateboarding across tiled roofs, rock climbing, running, shooting hoops with melons, long jumping using wild bamboo, and finally making a dramatic entrance into the Olympic stadium.
Working in close collaboration with character designer, Stéphane Levallois, Mikros MPC were involved in the direction, art direction, and final delivery of the film, serving as the main creative partner to bring to life this 2D animation film featuring a Sumotori (someone who wrestles in the national style of wrestling in Japan) as the central character.
“The previz work was crucial to allow the greatest optimization at all levels. With both the production and the steps from staging to final delivery being handled in-house, we mastered the fine-tuned technical and creative decisions as a team to allow a smooth production. Our Lead Animator, Antoine Antin, worked closely with Geoffroy Barbet-Massin to adapt the initial character design of the sumotori, made by Stephane Levallois. We had to find a “dry” style of animation to respect the static approach of the Japanese prints. The result is a stepped animation in 3’s and 4’s that contributed to the “hand-drawn” aesthetic that allowed us to focus on the richness of FX and details in the characters and environment for each image.”