Taking inspiration from his four-year-old’s art habit, Creative Mammals Creative Director Robert Burroughs and his team created a whole cast of not-so-scary characters for Universal Kids’ Halloween campaign.
“He’s super prolific,” Burroughs said, speaking about his artistic son, over a Zoom interview, ”and I was looking at his drawings all over the floor and they inspired me. The initial art direction came from me looking at his stuff. The idea came about of what if they were characters, not just rando Halloween objects like skeletons and witch hats and what not. So we created these characters and brought the whole month to life through these monsters.”
When Universal Kids first approached Creative Mammals for their first project working together, the initial brief was fairly open.
“Play is really important to us at Universal Kids,” said Veronica Cepero, Universal Kids’ vice president of creative marketing, in an email interview. “We don’t want watching TV to be a passive experience—we want it to be interactive and playful. When we briefed Creative Mammals, we asked them to pitch ideas that were playful, interactive and really captured the magical essence of Halloween. And what’s more playful than a handful of animated monsters co-existing in live-action situations?”
After receiving the initial ask, the Atlanta-based agency ended up pitching three different campaigns. “[That] made it really hard to choose because they were all so great,” said Cepero. “We went with the most ambitious one, which was challenging but it turned out to be great!”
While the character-based concept added complexity, Creative Mammals kept the animation largely to 2D in order to keep it feeling like a kid could have drawn it.
“We wanted the animation to be somewhat simple,” said Burroughs. “We wanted it to be smooth and impressive but also seem achievable.”
As Creative Mammals, which is primarily known for animation and motion graphics, got deeper into the process, the characters began to have lives of their own. And they started to interact with Universal Kids’ characters, such as Remy and Boo, Masha, Polly Pocket, and Mighty Mike the Pug. Creative Mammals also created a range of backgrounds against which the characters could interact; some of these were animated while others were live action. The agency also tweaked the Universal Kids logo so it also looked like one of the monsters.
“Universal Kids is 80% animation so we tend to lean on it more than live action. But, this campaign really combined the two styles in a subtle and clever way,” said Cepero. “We were inspired to develop their characters, which included giving them the right voices, giving them personality traits, and we decided that they were actually related to each other. Families come in all shapes and sizes and we thought it was a great nod to representing that.”
Once the characters’ looks, voices, personalities and relationships were established, Universal Kids started putting them into different situations.
“Relatability is very important to us and although kids can’t relate to being monsters, we put the monsters in very relatable situations—like trick-or-treating and taking selfies in their bedrooms,” said Cepero. “Once we saw the designs for these characters, we knew it would make our audience laugh because they brought huge smiles to our faces. And of course the IDs are interactive. We get the kids in on the action with fun games and play-alongs so that viewing isn’t just passive—they get a chance to participate.”
Overall, the package is living across Universal Kids’ on-air, online and social platforms.
“We’re using this campaign across our air throughout October as well as on UniversalKids.com and we are also using the toolkit to make social posts for the month. Creative Mammals delivered an image spot, IDs, bumpers, and a toolkit so we could also continue to make more spots throughout the month,” said Cepero.
“It was surprising that this is where this ended up,” said Burroughs. “We thought we were doing a straightforward Halloween motion-graphics package and then it turned into this whole other world of adorable cuteness.”
READ MORE: Creative Mammals
Client: NBC Universal’s Universal Kids
EVP: Ellen Stone
SVP, Brand: Nancy Mazzei
VP, Creative Marketing: Veronica Cepero
Creative Director, Brand Design & Animation: Kaori Sohma
Producer: Ed Pokropski
Producer: Jared Cohen
VP, Production: Thomas Bayer
Director of Production: Heather Bacci
Sr. Project Manager: Christine Elliker
Production Coordinator: Monica Horn
Agency: Creative Mammals
Executive Creative Director: Robert Burroughs
Sr Producer: Brandy Drew
Illustrator: Sam Tato, Jeff Gess, Josh Watkins
Animators: Jonathan Hunt, Michael Morphet, Grant Harwell
Storyboard Artist: Ekaterina Soyuznova