New York animation studio ROOF Studio recently partnered with ad agency AREA 23 on Unbreakable, a poignant CG film for biopharmaceutical company Insmed. The 2.5+ minute piece aims to bring awareness about Nontuberculous Mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease, a condition which can be difficult to identify due to its similar symptoms with other lung conditions. The film was crafted to create a sense of urgency for doctors and specialists to recognize and diagnose NTM.
Unbreakable is a visual metaphor for the real experiences of NTM patients. The film opens on Barbara the Bunny, a plush toy fabricated in a magical factory. When she comes alive, she realizes something is not quite right as she begins to cough, splitting a piece of her fabric in the process. Barbara is expelled from the factory by “Quality Control” and from there, we follow in her journey across the city desperately seeking a specialist for her situation. To her relief, a sweet toy repair shop owner knows just exactly what to do.
“We took a folkloric Pinnochio-like approach to tell not only the story behind the physical symptoms of NTM, but also the social ostracization from the chronic cough that patients endure with the condition,” explains Guto Terni, ROOF Studio Co-Founder/Creative Director. “This approach allowed us to use rich, poetic visuals with a character-driven story around Barbara the Bunny to engage the viewer with the deep concerns of NTM sufferers and their experience. At the same time, it lent us room to be playful and humorous to bring a hopeful tone to the conversation around NTM.”
For ROOF, which has built a reputation for its colorful and richly-detailed animation work, Unbreakable was the perfect opportunity to create a film with the same level of craft seen in stop-motion puppet-fabrication films.
“We wanted to design places that would feel rich and inviting — places that you may even wish to visit,” says Vinicius Costa, ROOF Studio Co-Founder/Creative Director. “We pursued an extremely high level of detail in every asset to create an experience that would encourage people to keep following this story along through the behind-the-scenes materials in social media. It is common to focus on a video and extract parts for its ‘making of’ but we put equal effort into engaging people with the film and with every asset outside of it. We wanted to bring a much broader approach and this film was perfect for that.”
ROOF put an enormous amount of detail in bringing Barbara, the 24-inch-tall bunny, to life – including everything she comes in contact with in her world – with a sense of realism. Terni says the agency wanted her to express an element of sadness as an NTM patient but also cuteness to help create empathy. In the end, the ROOF team landed on a design that captured a charismatic and intelligent bunny protagonist.
ROOF developed the entire previsualization of the film in 3D. In addition to providing the client with an early look at the visual style and direction of the film, this pre-production step enabled the team to calculate critical details, such as camera movements, composition and the volume of texturing the job required.
“Animation is a powerful technique for tackling often-abstract or complicated subjects, and credit goes to the AREA 23 team for being open to exploring its full potential in ‘Unbreakable,’” concludes Terni. “Together, we created a dream project, which will hopefully resonate with health care providers and people in general and help those suffering from NTM in particular.”