For this month’s In Focus interview, we are so excited to profile a company that has pioneered animated storytelling since 1987: Passion Pictures. Founded while producing Steven Spielberg’s, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Passion has created the animated identity of some of the most notable brands, including the animated band the Gorillaz.
As the holidays approach, we sat down with Passion to discuss its legacy, how the animation field has evolved, and their renowned animated Christmas commercials crafted for major brands in the UK and beyond. Above you can watch their latest holiday animation for brand Very.
Passion Pictures has been at the forefront of animation since the 1980s. How has the industry changed over the years and how has that affected the work you create?
Passion began in 1987, with our founder Andrew Ruhemann producing the ﬁlm Who Framed Roger Rabbit for Steven Spielberg. This set the standard for Passion’s values going forward for the next 30 years…to connect and inspire through the moving image.
At the heart of that has always been storytelling. Over the years, we have seen the kinds of ﬁlms and adverts that brands are looking for change, but what we do has always stayed in demand.
Nowadays, the industry is a very different place. When we got started, agencies did what agencies did. They were the bridge between clients and production companies. That’s not always the case any more; we can’t function within those constraints because the market has changed and the lines are blurring.
A number of your award winning pieces are animated commercials – why do you feel that this medium works so well to convey a brand’s message?
Animation occupies a special place in people’s hearts that goes back to childhood. It’s easy to project yourself into an animated character, easier than it might be to relate to a live action ﬁlm.
Character and storytelling have always been the foundation of what we do. With animation you get to fully explore a character’s development, through their physicality all the way to tiny ticks and nuances, until they’re the absolute right vessel for the story. Several of our ﬁlms have emotional or moving storylines; it’s the characters that bring them together and give audiences someone to relate to.
Passion is also well known for its work with the Gorillaz whose animated music videos are synonymous with their brand. How did this collaboration come about?
We were working on a commercial with Jamie Hewlett for Virgin Cola, and he mentioned that he and his “ﬂatmate” were interested in starting an animated band. He then mentioned that his “ﬂatmate” was Damon Albarn, so we said, “Where do we sign?!”
We started working very traditionally on the videos: drawing in pencil, photographing the paper and scanning it in. With each iteration of the band—new videos and new albums—things have progressed, so much so that their latest video was a VR experience for Google Daydream, which went on to be the biggest VR Launch YouTube has ever had!
Passion is not only known for its Animation Studios, but is also highly regarded in the ﬁlm/documentary world through Passion Pictures and Passion Planet. In this age of content ubiquity, how important is it for production companies to diversify across mediums?
As a business, it’s always important to grow, but we have never diversiﬁed for the sake of diversiﬁcation. It has always been about where we can grow and tell our stories in the best way, through the best medium. We have expanded into feature documentaries, television series, live action, gaming and VR, but it has always been about ﬁnding the right home for the right story, with the right people.
What do you see for the future of the Animation industry?
As the industry grows and changes, it’s easy to become scared by the blurring boundaries. However, we’ll continue doing what we do because there will always be a real demand for great stories and characters, whether that be a 30 second commercial or a 90 minute feature. One of the biggest changes is actually that we don’t think in those terms anymore; projects are now all about the story and ﬁnding the right way to tell it.
We’ve stayed independent for 30 years and we’re well prepared for the next 30.