We all remember the California Raisins advertising campaign in the eighties where a lovable bunch of clay animated raisins danced their way into the hearts of Americans nationwide. The California raisin industry had been in a slump for some time until they decided to use clay animation with an aggressive advertising campaign that included a series of television commercials featuring a group of raisins dancing to the Marvin Gay hit I Heard it Through the Grapevine. These commercials just had a certain look to them that can only be classified as eye candy. The colorful, three dimensional clay figures and the way they moved on the television screen created a unique look that had people glued to their seats during these spots. They were an instant hit and they brought the California Raisin industry back in the money so to speak.
There have been a lot of technological advances made in the animation industry over the past few decades. Computers have made the process of creating animation much simpler these days. During the 20th Century all animation was done completely by hand, by human beings one frame at a time. Now there are computer programs that you can buy for about a hundred dollars that will literally animate for you. This has created a dramatic increase in people who are creating animation. This animation is showing up more and more these days in television commercials and promos.
While computer generated animation is showing up in television commercials and promos like never before, only a few clay animation spots are being seen. This is due mainly to the fact that clay animation is an extremely labor intensive form of animation. There is a huge amount of pre-production and production work involved with this type of project. There are many miniature sets and sculptures that must be made and every frame of animation must be planned out thoroughly before it is shot. Each figure must be manipulated into different positions and filmed one frame at a time using a hands on technique that involves moving the clay figures and replacing them with different ones. This effort creates the illusion that the sculptures are alive, and this is what gives it the unique attraction. These figures are three dimensional, made of clay and look as though they could almost exist in the real world.
With any advertising project that is undertaken more labor means higher production costs. With that in mind most advertisers opt for the cheaper and faster computer animation. The down side of these other types of animation that are fast and affordable is that repetition leads to a disinterested audience. This is the last thing any advertiser wants when they spend a bunch of time and money on a television commercial.
Clay animation may cost a little more to produce but the effect is well worth the money. Any product that is advertised with a commercial or promo of this type can often see great results from their efforts. In recent years Fox Sports used a clay animation promo campaign to advertise their NFL shows. They had Terry Bradshaw and the gang in clay running around doing crazy stuff and the results were magnificent. Today their NFL shows are some of the top rated sports shows on television.
There are many impressive computer programs available these days that will allow animators to produce top quality animation for television commercials and promos. But there is one inherent drawback to this wonderful technological revolution and that is the fact that animation created using these techniques all begins to blend together after a while. Too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Also, there are a lot of behind the scenes television shows these days that explain exactly how computer animation is produced and this can have a dulling affect when the viewer sees the animation later on. It is like someone is pulling back the curtain and exposing the mystery for all to understand. There is some loss of the suspension of disbelief from the viewers when they realize that computers are the wizards that produce the spectacular effects they see with most of the animation on television today.
When a clay animation promo or commercial comes along it usually captures the attention of television viewers. There is a certain mysterious attraction that keeps people watching whenever one comes on the screen. The California Raisins, Chicken Run, Wallace and Grommet and The Nightmare Before Christmas are all examples of eye candy clay animation that have garnered great critical and financial rewards. While these projects may have cost a little more than the average animation project to produce they proved to be well worth the effort. They are all animated classics that are household names.
The next time you see some clay animation on television record it and then play it back one frame at a time. As you are watching each frame you should realize that an actual human being had their hands on the figures moving them meticulously between each frame. There is a lot of effort involved in this process, and it really shows in the final product. Viewers take notice when they see it, and they remember it long afterwards. In the world of television advertising where most of the animation looks the same, clay animation is a breath of fresh air that stands out from the rest of them.