Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

Conjuring a Traditional Chinese Tiger out of Pixels for Shiseido

Post Production
Wrocław, Poland
The Juice team speaks to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about capturing the slight smirks, ear twitches and realism that brings an animated tiger to life

As 2022 welcomes in the Lunar New Year, animation studio Juice partners with Japanese cosmetics brands Shiseido to bring to life the magic of the forest and sparkle of the Year of the Tiger.

On a journey through a densely green forest, our red-dressed protagonist pauses as her walk in the woods leads her to a beautiful pond. But that’s not all, out from behind the foliage, a white tiger appears, line drawn and bringing with it all the sparkle and magic of a new year celebration. As the tiger and woman share a moment together, the forest comes alive with magic and Shiseido transports us into a field of flowers.

To bring this world to life, Juice’s team spent time building an entire forest from the ground up, researching the movement of lions, panthers and intricacies of tigers, as well as ensuring they brought a magical sparkle to the celebratory piece. The spot captures the contrast of the dark green forest with the protagonist’s red dress and the bright, unmistakable tiger that comes to life before our eyes.

Juice’s CG supervisor Krystian Dulnik, animation lead Tomek Woroniak and producer Olga Rabiecka, speak to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about the Lunar New Year campaign.

LBB> We’d love to hear the initial idea for the piece, can you talk us through it?

Krystian> The client approached us with an initial vision of the film. They showed us a characteristic concept – a flat tiger, sketched with dynamic lines, resembling a bit of painting from Chinese mythology. We started to think about what we could do to bring it to life, the main challenge at the beginning was to animate it without losing that distinctive look. The compositing team had to build the whole forest from scratch, it was crucial to combine the camera movement of the real shot with the movement of the creature and then put it together to keep a consistent image. 

LBB> The campaign is a celebration of Lunar New Year and so it had to include a tiger, but how did you decide on this uniquely animated style?

Tomek> We've studied the movements of the Felidae family, compared how different domestic cats' way of moving is from the various species of tiger, panther, or the lion. In this comparison, we tried to find out what is characteristic for tigers. We've captured details such as slight smirks, an ear twitch, basically everything that would give more realism to our creature.

LBB> You worked on the post production of the piece, how long did this process take to complete?

Olga> The whole process, including testing, creating concepts, agreeing on details, and of course, perfecting the final product – took us a couple of months. 

LBB> The animation of the tiger is very realistic in its movements, can you talk us through the process of bringing it to life?

Tomasz> Once the tiger was modelled, we spent a lot of time creating a rig that fits our needs. We wanted to have enough control in the animation to be able to introduce the many nuances that happen with a tiger's body as it moves. 

Each species of quadruped has a different type of gait, e.g. a lion and a panther crawl a little differently than a tiger and so the challenge was to capture those nuances. Then, based on the references, the animator artist created a refined gait cycle, which we modified later depending on the needs of a particular shot. We also created a much more complex version of the animation, including simulated muscles that worked under the skin to give our tiger even more realism. However, during the production, we gave up on it, because it didn't fit the concept of a painted tiger, which was not that realistic anymore.

LBB> Were there any challenges in the CG and animation process and how did you overcome them?

Tomasz> One of the most difficult elements in the animation was the shot where the tiger took an unusual, painterly pose. A 3D object always keeps its proportions, which is often a plus to avoid missteps. In this case, it was a downside and we had to work around it to pose similar to the concept and at the same time to not lose the correctness of the tiger's movement.

LBB> When you saw the final campaign, what was the most rewarding part to watch?

Olga> How nicely everything worked together. The CG forest connected with footage props, lit-up with the light emitted from the animated tiger – it was great to see how every single element in the scene created the magic and mysterious feeling.

LBB> What has the reaction to the campaign been like so far?

Krystian> This is a campaign using a very original visual language based on Chinese tradition. The reception we are getting so far is truly positive. Personally, everyone I’ve shown the film to was delighted. I'm very pleased with the results, and I’m looking forward to more such challenging projects where we can also prove ourselves by working on R&D processes.