[In-Focus] Dutch studio …,staat & Playground Paris for Tony’s Chocolonely
Sticking to bold colours and playing with movement, particularly motion design helped me find my niche as a designer.
A confectionery company focused on producing and selling chocolate closely following fair trade practices, Tony’s Chocolonely strongly oppose slavery and child labour by partnering with trading companies in Ghana and Ivory Coast to buy cocoa beans directly from the farmers, providing them with a fair price for their product and combating exploitation.
In conversation with Playground Paris and …,staat Art Director Merjin Verhagen we explore the creative process behind the animated film, from brief to delivery, and share insight on the design challenges involved.
We absolutely love the project! Can you tell us about the client, their initial design brief and the message they needed to communicate?
[Merijn Verhagen]Tony’s Chocolonely is quickly becoming Holland’s favourite chocolate brand,because of their amazing flavours and because of their mission: 100 percent slavery-free chocolate. Not only their chocolate but all chocolate.
Animation is the perfect medium to create unique and colourful worlds and a wonderful match to Tony’s packaging.
Tony’s want to achieve this goal by proving it can be hugely successful and at the same time treat their cocoa farmers fairly. So their plan is to develop Tony’s Factory – a public facing chocolate factory smack in the middle of Amsterdam, where they will have full control over the entire production process, from bean to bar.
The initial brief asked for a film that would both inform and excite Tony’s fans about their future plans and function as a fun conversation starter at meetings with stakeholders in the factory project. We suggested using animation to tell this story, because we felt it was the perfect medium to create unique and colourful worlds – and a wonderful match to Tony’s packaging!
The factory will be open to visitors who can not only see how chocolate is made (and eat lots of it) but also learn about the shady goings on in the chocolate industry and how Tony’s are working hard to change that. But most fun of all it will feature a rollercoaster, or some other insane chocolate themed ride!
The initial brief asked for a film that would both inform and excite Tony’s fans about the plans and function as a fun conversation starter at meetings with stakeholders in the factory project. We suggested using animation to tell this story.
Can you tell us a bit about Playground Paris – the vibe, philosophy, your visual approach – what makes you different?
[Playground Paris] I launched Playground when I was quite bored of my everyday work on web or swiss-like identities. I wanted to find a way of working where I can have fun everyday, and where people want me to. Sticking to bold colours and playing with movement, particularly motion design helped me find my way. The aim is to find for each project the way to make it playful but coherent with the message. Every project needs an injection of fun!
It sounds like Playground Paris was a good match for the project – what was it about his work that appealed to you Merijn?
[MV] Tony’s packaging is heavily inspired by 1950s-60s Blue Note records artwork. At the same time the company has a strong Africa connection; all of their beans are produced in Ghana and Ivory Coast. We wanted to combine these elements in the film and make something bold, colourful, handmade and full of energy. Playground Paris style of illustrating and animating perfectly matched the ideas we had about the visuals: Vibrant colours, a certain hand crafted feel and alive.
We wanted to combine various design elements in the film and make something bold, colourful, handmade and full of energy.
Animation involves a lot of components, can you tell us a little about your creative process and the early stages of storyboarding?
[PP] I have a bad habit of going straight into Illustrator, using 2-3 coluors max which I find coherent with the project (even if they will change like 241 times during the research). When I have something quite complete on Illustrator, I’m going back to my sketchbook for some parts where I need to try a lot of positions. I have a huge trust in intuition…
Did you enjoy this inventive and fun approach?
[MV] Valentin is a great guy to work with. Creative and super flexible. It was amazing to see our ideas come to life in unexpected and fun ways. His sense of composition and timing is amazing, and I seriously love his choice of colours.
Can you tell us about the design brief and what Tony’s were looking to communicate with the animation?
[PP] Tony’s wanted something fun and visual, and had a quite complete script, crazy and visually oriented: they did not write a press release but a script, made for animation, and that was such a pleasure!
The 60’s style of the brand needed a 60’s style on the illustrations. In fact it was surprising how this was super close to Playground spirit: straight to the fact, but in a fun way.
Tony Chocolonely chocolate bar packaging is typically very colourful, bold and crazy – how did you translate this into the animation?
[PP] The brand has a bold identity yes, so in my mind it was important to make it coherent: the 60’s style on the font needed a 60’s style on the illustrations. In fact it was surprising how this was super close to Playground spirit: straight to the fact, but in a fun way. The brand history is quite sad, and built on something not fun, but they decided to make it positive! It’s always possible!
What did you enjoy most about collaborating with …,staat on the creative process – was it challenging to decide which ’scenes’ (in this case a voice over) to illustrate?
[PP] The team at …,staat were amazingly nice. They trusted some choices I made and gave me the opportunity to push it beyond what I thought with crazy ideas.
The team at …,staat were amazingly nice. They trusted some choices I made and gave me the opportunity to push it beyond what I thought with crazy ideas.
Do you have any fun / favourite bits in the animation?
[PP] Well of course the crazy end was fun to think & do, but I enjoyed doing a lot of scenes: the big smiles, the vision of Africa, the crazy factory and the characters.
The final animation features a track by Jungle by Night – how did you approach this element of the project? Why did you choose this band?
[MV] We were looking for a certain African vibe in terms of sound. We love Dutch band Jungle by Night and suggested asking them for the film. Unbeknownst to us the band had played at a Tony’s event some years ago, so everybody was quickly on board! It was Jungle by Night’s first track ever specifically produced for film. They wrote it on the road. Perfect.
What do you think is the main challenge of telling a brand story through animation?
[PP] The most important thing in my mind is to write a script saying everything you want but in a fun & visual way. It’s always a challenge (especially in France) to make the client understand that you can say the same as they want to say but differently, maybe making thing understandable without showing precisely something… I believe that when you receive a script where things are imagined it will only be great to make & watch.
I believe that when you receive a script where things are imagined it will only be great to make & watch.
Can you describe the final animation in 5 words?
[PP] Crazy coloured responsible amazing chocolate!
Where will the animation be seen / used over the coming months?
[PP] On the internet near you. On all Tony’s social channels. In many Tony’s Factory stakeholder meetings and presentations. And eventually in the Factory, of course.
What are you currently working on / hoping to do next?
[PP] We are working on a lot of motions right now for diverse clients, and that’s super fun. But what could be amazing would be to write some short movie and animate it. It’s super different when it’s more about a narration than a brand, you can add some pauses, some ellipses, contemplative moments… Maybe we will have the time soon to think more about it!