Award winning animation director and designer Cris Wiegandt on singing rats, sticky ice-cream and how one shoot made an entire crew cry
Growing up in Brazil, animation director and designer Cris Wiegandt first discovered animatronics with a singing rock-and-roll metallic mouse. The main character of her favourite programme, the rat would start a journey that would take Cris into the offices of some of the world’s largest brands, picking up a slew of awards along the way.
Knowing she wanted to work with art, Cris dabbled in production before realising that her true calling was in visual communication with a focus on animation. Now, ten years into her career, Cris has worked with heavyweight brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, McDonald’s and Adobe. In this interview Cris reveals her signature style, how she brings burgers to life and why three weeks is sometimes all you get.
Q> What’s your creative process - is there a step-by-step you work through or is it more unstructured?
Cris Wiegandt> I find it incredibly important to have direct contact with the creatives or the clients - it’s so good to listen and truly understand what they want and what they want to achieve with the project. After this conversation, I’ll input the ideas into a treatment and if there’s time I’ll do sketches, drawings and test animations. Investing time in the pre-production stage is important as it will help the entire production process. At the end of the day it really all comes down to trust and that the client really understands your vision for the project.
Q> The Ben and Jerry’s project was incredible! How did you plan the shoot?
Cris> Thank you, I loved it too! Ice cream is definitely my favourite dessert in the world. I worked on this project with production company HUSH who produced the shoot with me. From pitching my vision to delivery, we worked together from day one. The most interesting part was combining all the different textures: real food, fake food and paper craft with the hand-model. We had an animatic that helped a lot in figuring out how many replacements we would need for every animation which was a great help.
Projects like this one take around three months from first email to delivery - but this was a project with a good timeline. Other projects will need to go from conception to completion in under three weeks, so it always dependent on what we’re doing.
Q> What have been some of your favourite projects to work on?
Cris> Besides Ben & Jerry’s, working on Adobe Summer project
was fantastic too. It was important for them to use the Creative Cloud logo and some specific colours - outside of that I could do whatever I wanted. I love chain reaction machines and have always wanted to build one myself but we only had three weeks to complete the project. Fortunately, my first sketch was approved straight away and I had an arsenal of materials already in my studio. So I ransacked all my boxes and got straight to work creating the machine!
Q> For McDonald’s 60th anniversary campaign you worked with real food - how was it to animate such an unusual material?
Cris> I actually love animating real food, but yes, every single element has its own difficulties. Salad will wilt very quickly under the lights and lose its freshness; tomatoes are incredible slippery and wet. Once, I had to animate so many onions that the entire crew cried. So, yes they have their challenges but it’s a lot of fun to work with.
With traditional materials such as paper, there is a very different planning process. Paper is easy to animate, it’s not heavy, but it needs a soft light so as to not lose the texture. However, soft light is then more difficult to retouch. Other materials can be heavier and they do need proper rigs and weights - so it’s very important to plan what each element has to do and what the desired result is. I really love to combine different materials, such as paper, cardboard, miniature, clay, fabric and plexi - really anything you can find in a craft and hobby store!
Q> Looking now to the future, is there a type of project or a particular medium you would like to explore more?
Cris> In recent years my main focus has been stop motion, so I’m now expanding on my digital animation skills and learning a lot about 2D animation in the process. I would also love to work on an AR or VR project. In my spare moments I’m writing on a short film and a series.
For more of Cris, please click here. For more of HUSH, please click here.