Illustrator Stéphane Levallois takes us on a Hokusai-inspired tour of the Tokyo Olympics

French Illustrator Stéphane Levallois has collaborated with MullenLowe France to create an animated spot for France.TV that pays tribute to Japan, ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. The campaign is inspired by the masters of Japanese art, notably Hokusai, and his famous Wave.

The film shows a bold sumo wrestler roaming the Japanese countryside, using nature and the surrounding woodblock printed landscapes to represent some of the disciplines contested at the international event, including surfing (on The Great Wave, naturally), skateboarding, athletics and basketball, which the character tries throughout the ad.

It's all backed by dramatic Japanese music and drums, taking us at high-speed through rice fields and bamboo forests, over ornamental bridges, past Mount Fuji, and to finish, the hero sumo character is seen standing in the middle of a stadium after training, ready for the big competition.

It's the result of a collaboration between MullenLowe France's creative team, Jordan Lemarchand and Antoine Colin (creative directors), Philippe Lopez (copywriter), illustrator Stéphane Levallois (as mentioned), animation studio Mikros, and director Geoffroy Barbet-Massin.

"The aim was to highlight Japanese culture, the values of the Olympic Games and the new disciplines that would make their debut at the Summer Games, such as skateboarding, climbing, basketball and surfing," explains MullenLowe France. "All of this in an animated film entirely in 2D, using Japanese prints as a reference. For the film to be successful, a specific team was needed to execute the agency's vision based on highly elaborate art."

The making of...

MullenLowe adds: "Throughout the projects, we tried to respect the traditional codes of 18th century Japanese prints, both from a narrative and aesthetic point of view. The environments and characters are full of detail, drawn with thick, bold lines, strong shapes and innovative concepts. We always looked for the right balance between the setting and the sumotori and adapted the drawing to the character's line. All our choices, whether creative or technical, were motivated by our desire to develop a project that combined a highly stylised aesthetic with narrative."

The Summer Olympic Games will be held from 23 July to 8 August 2021 in Tokyo. The campaign launched on all channels and media France.TV earlier last month. Be sure to also watch the "making of" video below.


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