Illustrator Luke McConkey's baller collaboration with Yatta is an animation slam dunk

Animation studio Yatta has brought Liverpool illustrator Luke McConkey's work to life in Slam Dunk, a new animated short that blends 2D and 3D techniques.

Based on an illustration experiment Luke McConkey shared on social media in 2023, Slam Dunk is a new animated collaboration made with Yatta that sees a basketball player endlessly shooting hoops with the help of some extreme perspectives.

"I proper love to bring joy and tell stories with my work," Luke tells Creative Boom, and this approach is evident in Slam Dunk. Everything from the fluid character design to the glorious colours and exquisite sound design courtesy of Adam Legg screams fun and positivity.

"Luke was experimenting with perspective when we caught sight of his early sketches and decided it would be a crime not to see this character in motion," adds Yatta. "We bounced the project back and forth, jumping from 3D animation to 2D cel, eventually landing on an endless loop of slam dunkin' fun."

To transform Luke's illustrations into an animated short, Yatta began by choreographing the sequence in 3D. This allowed them to quickly test the camera movement and create their own reference material for the main character animation.

"We output key poses from this initial 3D animated sequence and handed them over to Luke, who quickly added his signature playful style," the Bristol-based studio adds.

After taking Luke's key poses and the 3D references, it was a matter of recreating his style into a full sequence via traditional frame-by-frame animation. "The last step was adding a little atmosphere," Yatta adds. "The baller was looking fly, but something was missing… the court.

"We asked Luke to produce a series of illustrated backdrops and asked sound designer Adam Legg to create an ambient sound bed that would capture the inner city, throw-down basketball vibes."

For Luke, Slam Dunk is the latest step in his journey, and it has seen him veer from graphic design to illustration. "I'd always loved drawing as a kid, replicating comic books and cartoons, but it sort of faded as I became older and got introduced to creative tools like Photoshop and the like."

Thanks in part to the deluge of great work on Behance, Pinterest and Instagram, Luke found himself developing a style inspired by 90s cartoons and games, plus the bold colours and dynamic shapes of Keith Haring. "Something clicked as I was able to get a process I was happy with down super quickly and was able to just make things...that was the best part, being able to create without thinking about the process."

Now signed by Handsome Frank, Luke has gone on to work with Apple, The LA Times, ESPN, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and loads more. "Over the past year, I've been developing my style and really honing in on what I want it to be while retaining my original ethos of positivity, bright and fun, with a link to those '90s cartoons," he adds.

While Slam Dunk is a personal project made with Yatta, Luke holds out hope that Nike, which appears on the sneakers in the animation, will commission him after seeing the short. "That would be awesome."


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