An animated love story inspired by that viral seahorse dancing photograph

Creative agency Selmore and creative production studio Ambassadors have created an animation aiming to promote sustainability and a cleaner world.

The piece, created for Dutch bank ASN Bank, which Ambassadors describes as “socially responsible and sustainable”, was inspired by an image of a seahorse that went viral. The heartbreaking image by wildlife photographer Justin Hofman showed a seahorse dancing in the ocean with a Q-tip.

The star of the piece is the “PVC-Horse,” which swims about aiming to find a mate for life. Her romantic quest, however, is continually thwarted by bits of rubbish drifting about in the ocean. “It’s an image that shows so simply how our habit of using cheap, disposable plastics is affecting our environment, and it was inspiring to dream up the fable behind an existing nature photo,” says Diederick Hillenius, creative partner at Selmore.

Ambassadors creative director and partner, Vincent Lammers, adds: “ASN Bank’s fable storytelling world resonates with people old and young, and we were excited to add more characters. The underwater world did present a challenge though. How could we maintain the plush, inviting fable book animation of ASN Bank when everything is cool, wet and blue?”

To achieve that feeling, the short was shot on a miniature set, later adding 3D animation with a focus on creating tactile scene and characters. The PVC-Horse’s scales subtly appeared as sequins.

“Miniature sets allow us to bring that ‘realness’ to an animation, almost as if you can reach out and interact with a character. By adding small ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ background details like busy fishes, we want to create the feeling that there’s an entire world out there beyond what you can only see on screen,” adds Lammers.

Will Jeffers, head of 3D at Ambassadors says, “Materials and textures are designed to be tangible, sell the scale, and ground the CG characters next to the practical set. Ambassadors Labs created 3D printed versions of the characters so that the DOP Floris van der Lee could light them onset as a reference, to later replace with naturally-lit CG characters. To really bring the frame to life we added a lot of dynamic animation such as the cloth simulation on the shoal of jellyfish and the detritus and bubbles in the water.”

In line with the sustainable message of the campaign, Selmore and Ambassadors “aimed to produce the campaign in the most sustainable way possible,” they say, explaining that the set can be reused for future films and was created using biodegradable materials.


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