Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ghostbot (update)

GhostbotI don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get weary of the overuse of 3-D CGI in TV commercials.

Yes, some of it is clever and very well done, but there’s just so much of it that the 2-D, spy-themed mini-cartoons for eSurance, produced by WildBrain (who I profiled here) and animated by the Ghostbot studio, are a welcome relief; and, to my mind, much more entertaining than slick CGI spots like the Geico Gecko.

Ghostbot, who I first wrote about back in November of 2005, has now created 9 of the animated commercials. Ghostbot is an animation studio in San Francisco that does TV commercial animation in Flash, a vector animation technology created for web animation that is finding increasing use in television cartoons.

A bit 60’s modern, a bit 90’s retro, Ghostbot’s sharply stylized, colorful and nicely realized cartoon shorts have a bit of the feeling of classic film title animation, though hyped up to a frenetic pace that allows them to suggest the basics of a story in 30 seconds.

Their Projects gallery features the eSurance spots as well as other Ghostbot projects, including a music video for Five Iron Frenzy.

Advertisers are beginning to realize the value of commercials that entertain; and the eSurance site offers a download of a longer (3 minute) WildBrain/Ghostbot animation called “Carbon Copy” (left, bottom), that is even more fully realized than the TV shorts, and uses the same characters, but has only minimal branding at the end of the story.

Ghostbot sometimes wears their influences on their sleeve; several of their commercials feature variations of giant robots (above, second image) that feel like homages to Brad Bird’s terrific feature, The Iron Giant, and their “Quick Draw” commercial looks a lot like Kazu Kibuishi’s Daisy Kutter comics series; but I like aggregations of influences and references to other bits of entertainment, like Ghostbot’s 30’s film noir nod to Casablanca in their recent “Proof” eSurance spot (above, third image).

One of the nice features of Ghostbot’s site is that they not only make the sample shorts available (in Quicktime), but they also have a section of preliminary concept drawings and Storyboards (unfortunately reproduced a little small, but large enough to get some idea of what they look like).

In the Portfolios section, there are individual portfolios for co-conspirators Alan Lau, Roque Ballesteros and Brad Rau, as well as links to friends and associates like Kenn Navarro, Rhode Montjo and Arvin Bsutista.

There is also a login for the “Ghostbot Secret Base“, whose mysteries are beyond the reach of this writer.

The Ghostbot principals also maintain the long-running Punch Pants blog, with news and views on their work and projects by friends and others in the commercial animation community.

 

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