September 19th, 2014

When tasked with the challenge of creating an animated short film for eco-fashion brand The Fableists in collaboration with Brothers & Sisters, the Mill+ team in London jumped at the chance to create something bold, colourful and memorable to tell the story of a little girl taken on a whimsical journey by the thread on her t-shirt.

We caught up with Mill+ animation directors Ivo Sousa and Kwok Fung Lam to find out more about creating this charming short film.

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What was the brief & how did you interpret this?

The brief was to create an engaging short film to tell the story of a little girl that follows a loose bit of thread on her t-shirt, taking her on a journey to discover its origins. Brothers & Sisters (creative agency) were really open to us interpreting their script as we saw fit. The first thing we considered was, "How would a child view this world?"

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We wanted as few cuts as possible to tie in with the idea of our protagonist following this piece of thread and going on an adventure with something unexpected happening at every turn. We decided early on that transitions for many of the scenes would make the journey feel constant and reflect the character's sense of discovery.

The use of tight cameras, exaggerated angles, bold colours, distorted reality and a constant sense of surprise aided in capturing an epic, fantastic and energetic journey.

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Did you draw on anything for reference or inspiration?

We used the graphic illustrative style of The Fableists’ t-shirts as a starting point, as well as screen prints and posters that had bold use of colours and composition. We gathered as much inspirational material as possible as we were creating everything from story boards to character looks from scratch.

Following this, we took a hands on approach, creating character designs, mood boards, style frames, storyboards and animatics, all contributing to the final look, feel and rhythm of the story.

The Fableists ‘Epic Thread’ Storyboards from The Mill

The Fableists 'Epic Thread' Characters & Elements from The Mill
What techniques were used in bringing the story to life?

We drew up style frames in Photoshop and completed the character animation frame by frame in Flash. The shots with big camera moves were done in Cinema 4D and then the characters were animated on top. This was all composited together in After Effects and edited in Premiere.

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We wanted to achieve a bold and colourful style of illustration with a loose feel and minimal amount of elements, using negative space in order to focus on the action and unfolding adventure in-hand.

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How did you work with Brothers & Sisters and The Fableists founder Matt to achieve the final look?

They gave us a lot of creative control, which was great. The main objective for Matt was for us to create something memorable but fun, and that’s a pretty tall order! It was a fantastic project to collaborate on because there was so much creative scope and a lot of mutual agreement. It was very rare someone would say "not sure about…"

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How do you feel about the final film?

We’re so pleased with the outcome, the team have done a smashing job! This was a real one-of-a-kind project. From start to finish, we were really keen to give as much attention to each shot as possible and it has massively paid off. A brilliant story, fantastic film and a real pleasure to work on.

Watch the film below and read more about The Fableists in an exclusive interview with founder Matt Cooper.