Kong Studio Delivers Noir-Inspired Animation for Formula 1 Docuseries ‘Lucky!’

Kong Studio’s latest TV project is the eight-part documentary series Lucky!, chronicling the life and career of Formula 1’s Bernie Ecclestone. It was produced by Jiva Maya, a production company set up by Manish Pandey (writer of award-winning film Senna).

Pandey, a self-confessed motor racing mega fan, had known for a while that he wanted to produce a film about Ecclestone — an ex-used car salesman who went on to change the international motor racing world of Formula 1. He first met Ecclestone in 2006, when he was pitching Senna.

Lucky! [Jiva Maya; Animation by Kong Studio]
Lucky! [Jiva Maya; Animation by Kong Studio]
Lucky! was ready to hit the starting line in October 2019, and Ecclestone was willing to take it for a spin. After COVID delayed production, filming began in 2020. Most of the interviews with Ecclestone were filmed at his Olden hotel in Gstaadt, Switzerland, with a couple of extra sessions in Ibiza in 2021. Ecclestone’s extraordinarily detailed recollections were complemented by carefully researched archive footage, but the team also realized the best way to create reenactments would be with animation.

“We wanted to find a way to represent the legendary bosses of motor racing visually, and in a way to get the key characters across and how they interacted with Bernie behind the scenes,” says Pandey. “Each episode is around 47 minutes, with seven minutes of interview footage and 38 minutes of archive shots. That left two minutes to fill, and that’s where we thought animation could play a part. Some of our chosen stock footage was low quality or were only available in black and white, so adding animation to the edit gave us an opportunity to add some color.”

Pandey’s brief was for the scenes to be atmospheric, situated within a particular time, and for the main players in Bernie’s life to be recognizable. The style of animation was also important. Jiva Maya wanted the scenes to have a film noir feel, but understated. The movements had to be small while allowing for some humor to shine through. Kong Studio signed Kristian Antonelli to develop Ecclestone’s character design, giving the studio a head start on pitching and winning the Lucky! race.

“We went with Kong Studio to produce our animations as their designs were very bold,” notes Pandey. “We knew from their strong sketches during the tender process that Kong Studio would be a winning partner.”

Executive producer Emma Burch organized the extensive production schedule while Kong Studio Co-founders Bill Elliott and Tom Baker set to work getting the animation team together. “Unfortunately Kristian Antonelli wasn’t available to take the project beyond the pitch stage. That’s where Daniel Prothero came in,” says Elliott. “We pulled together a fantastic crew of designers, animators and compositors to develop a simple yet atmospheric, tense and moody animation style which seemed to hit the brief perfectly.”

Every animated scene was meticulously researched for its era, location, team colors and logos to make sure every detail was there for the Jiva Maya team — and any Formula 1 fan watching the show. Many of Kong Studio’s animators worked remotely delivering their work to series technical director Daniele Baiardini, who pulled it all together into the final animated sequences.

“Throughout production, the Kong team have been organized and highly efficient. They produced animated scenes that are witty and full of character,” says Pandey. “The animation became a part of the story and that’s because the Kong Studio team fully understood our direction and the narrative we were working towards.”

Lucky! is airing and streaming in multiple European countries and in Latin America, coming soon to North America. Find out more at luckytvseries.com.

kong-studio.com

Lucky! [Jiva Maya; Animation by Kong Studio]
Lucky! [Jiva Maya; Animation by Kong Studio]
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