June 09, 2021

Journey to Japan for the Summer Olympics With Mikros MPC and ‘Sumo’

From art/direction to final delivery of the film, the team at Mikros MPC was a one-stop-shop creative house for ‘Sumo,’ an award-winning spot for France Television.

  • ‘Sumo’ won four Gold Awards at Promax Europe 2021, which recognizes “the most original, refreshing, and inspirational work across the region.”

As the pandemic health crisis began hitting all over the world last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the rescheduling of the Games of the XXII Olympiad in Tokyo, just four months ahead of the opening ceremony.

At that time, the teams at Mikros MPC were already far in the creation of a new TV ident for France Television to announce programming on the channels that would be dedicated to the Olympics that summer. Hugues Allart, Mikros MPC producer, was first onboard for the project, and he instantly saw great creative potential for the film:
“As soon as I saw the ‘Sumo’ brief by MullenLowe France, I fell in love. The objective was to honor the Japanese culture, the values of the Olympics, and the new events that would debut at the Summer Games, such as skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing. All of this in a full 2D animated film, using Japanese prints as a reference.”

But like all great labors of love, he knew it was going to be a complex production.
“For the film to be successful, it needed a specific team to execute the agency’s vision of a highly crafted piece of art within the required budget and timeframe. [Because we] nurture a large pool of amazing talent that is unique in the market today, I was able to bring together a dream team of artists that I had already had the experience of working with. So I knew that together we would be able to pull this ‘miracle’ off.”

Working in close collaboration with the agency, the team at Mikros MPC were involved from the art direction to direction and final delivery of the film, serving as a one-stop-shop creative house. Featuring a sumotori as the central character, the film was a first for MullenLowe France, which is used to cinematographic projects, and for Mikros MPC – they had to animate the film in the design of Japanese prints, a unique creative challenge that required the team to reinterpret static images.

As Geoffroy Barbet-Massin, director and storyboarder on the film, explains:
“All along the project, we tried to respect all the traditional codes of 18th-century Japanese prints, both from a narrative and an aesthetic standpoint. The environments and the characters are full of details, drawn with thick and bold lines, strong shapes, and audacious concept designs. All our choices, whether creative or technical, were driven by our care to develop a project that would mix a highly stylized aesthetic and storytelling.”

To respond to the various challenges on the project, Barbet-Massin developed a previz close to the final layout that allowed the agency to provide their approval on the storyboard and direction as well as anticipate the work to be achieved frame-by-frame and determine production planning.

As Vincent Venchiarutti, VFX Supervisor, comments: “The previz work had been crucial to allow the greatest optimization at all levels. With both the production and all the steps from staging to final delivery being handled in-house, we could take the most fine-tuned technical and creative decisions as a team to allow a smooth production. That contributed to the “hand-drawn” feeling on the animation and allowed us to focus on the richness of FX, of details in the characters and environment for each image.”

A small but agile team, with highly complementary skills, was a key strength when the pandemic hit in the midst of the project in 2020, and then when the decision was taken to postpone the Olympic Games to July 2021.
Concludes Allart: “Thanks to the close collaboration with the agency creatives, Stéphane Levallois and Geoffroy Barbet-Massin, the team has been able to steer the project to the high level of excellence expected by our clients, all along the three-month duration of the production. I am extremely proud of the final result. This is a beautiful film that is a true testament to the highly crafted work that we, at Mikros MPC, enjoy turning out day to day. It was very exciting to work on it.”

Read the full story – including behind-the-scenes team testimonials – behind the campaign, which can now be seen on France Television channels.