Behind The Craft: Malaria No More

Malaria Must Die So Millions Can Live

We teamed up with the global campaign, “Malaria Must Die So Millions Can Live,” in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to raise awareness of the deadly history of malaria and call upon leaders to “unite and fight” the disease that takes the life of a child every two minutes.

As it was a sensitive informative film, our challenge was to strike the right balance of humour and message. The film needed to be engaging, educational but visually entertaining which is why the marriage of Malaria No More and Aardman was a good fit. As the script needed to deliver a vast amount of important facts, the film needed to be fast moving. We decided a continuous camera move throughout was the best way to execute the speedy narrative. The camera follows our anti-hero ‘Mozzie’ the mosquito through an infectious history momentarily pausing through different eras to bite her victims.

We were very fortunate to be given free reign with the design style. Aesthetically, I felt that due to the speedy pace, the visuals needed to be simple and graphic, bold and colourful. I looked at old 2D animated science demos and infomercials of the 50’s and 60’s for inspiration. The vintage, nostalgic film feel would give the audience a nice sense of moving through history and time.

For the initial pitch, I worked up a few key images and put forward some Mozzie sketches, who was essentially made up of very simple vector shapes.

I liked the idea of Mozzie being totally jet black almost silhouette-like, but with a firey pointy probosis and sickly yellow eyes. This really made Mozzie stand out from the backgrounds and really helped when she flew far away from the camera for the wide shots.

At one point we were asked to add eyelashes to the character to make her look more feminine because it is only the female mosquito that carries the Malaria virus. I tried adding lashes but felt it made her too cute. I didn’t want the viewer to like Mozzie or have any sympathy for her. The film’s message is about destroying the Malaria virus and its nasty carrier.

KEY VISUALS

The Key visuals pretty much remained as they were in the pitch and this set the design style for the rest of the film. I used a subdued vintage colour palette with pops of more vivid colours, over-playing scratchy, painterly textures which added a distressed effect. Some of the overlays created some really interesting, unexpected colour shifts. I do love happy design accidents which create a richness that you would never have thought of.

Below you can see the construction of the Dinosaur scene. A building up of layers for each asset spaced apart helps to create depth to the scene.

Above is fully rendered clip from the finished film – Mozzie gets sneezed into an ice block by a cheeky penguin.

 technique

The characters and backgrounds were created in Illustrator, the textures in Photoshop and the vintage film grain in AfterEffects and Nuke. Some of the statistical facts lent themselves well to have a more graphic background. Here we see Mozzie infecting every continent of the globe. Antartica, however, was the only impenetrable continent due to its freezing climate. A penguin demonstrates this by sneezing and freezing Mozzie into an ice block.

Above is fully rendered clip from the finished film – Mozzie gets sneezed into an ice block by a cheeky penguin.

Sound design and Voice cast

When delivering a strong clear message of this nature you need to let the voice be at the forefront of the film and lead the audio. We were very fortunate to get actor Hugh Laurie on board, who struck the perfect balance of wit and sincerity.

Actor Hugh Laurie adding the cherry on the cake with his unmistakable voice. A perfect match, striking the perfect balance of message and humour.

The music needed to support and compliment the narrators’ tone and pace so we devised a very simple tune that had a playful flighty feel and flowed with the continuous camera move. As the Mozzie landed in certain eras, we enhanced the score with a subtle burst of traditional instruments of that country.

To work on a project like this is incredibly rewarding, especially when you know that all the hard work can make a real difference, raising awareness and urging politicians to fight the battle against this devastating disease. We were invited to the house of commons where they presented our film and had speeches from The Rt Hon. Baroness Hayman GBE and Rt Hon. Penny Mordaunt.

The film is now touring schools around the world in order to raise awareness to pupils of all ages. To find out more visit Malaria Must Die www.malariamustdie.com

Watch the film in full here.

Add clips to the playlist by clicking the stars