London-based VFX and animation studio Framestore is partnering with the McLaren Group, which runs a highly successful Formula 1 racing team through its Vodafone McLaren Mercedes subsidiary, to launch a new media company called McLaren Animation.
The joint venture will focus on creating high-end CGI-led content as part a new content-driven marketing strategy for McLaren. The partnership will benefit from Framestore’s access to leading UK talent, spanning strategists, script-writers, creatives, directors, producers and visual effects artists.
McLaren Animation’s first production, Tooned, made its broadcast debut during the 2012 Santander British Grand Prix on July 8, featuring digital incarnations of McLaren’s star Formula 1 drivers – Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. In total, Framestore is scripting, directing and creating high-end CGI for 12 three-minute episodes.
Each episode of Tooned uses Button and Hamilton’s celebrated camaraderie and urge to race as a platform on which to grow comical adventures that test the patience of Professor M – a reinvention of James Bond’s Q, voiced by TV comedian, Alexander Armstrong.
The partnership is also considering additional ways of maximizing the content’s reach and engagement through multi-platform executions such as racing games and apps.
“‘We share a vision and passion for excellence and a common bond in seeking new ways to appeal to new and wider audiences,” said Sir William Sargent, founder and chief executive officer of Framestore. “Our partnership with McLaren provides a perfect platform in a sport we love and with a brand we admire to find innovative ways for McLaren to reach a wider audience.”
“The films you see today are a start – and their simplicity and quality hide an enormous commitment in time and technology from a world-class team at Framestore – one that has been excited by the McLaren challenge in the same way as they have on a Harry Potter or Superman film,” he added.
Executive producer, Framestore’s Simon Whalley explained that “Combining our comedy directors with our exceptionally talented team of CG artists has really delivered some magnificent results, and we hope people love this show as much as we do.”
The content will give McLaren’s sponsor-partners an additional platform to promote their branding. John Allert, group brand director at McLaren Marketing explained, “McLaren Animation’s new series, Tooned, offers a unique platform for McLaren’s sponsor-partners to achieve exposure to wider audiences, as well as to integrate brand messaging in a format of a high-octane sport not known for an ability to laugh at itself.”
McLaren gave Framestore an open brief to create content based on Button and Hamilton. The only stipulations were that the end result must be comical, must allow for space for additional branding from McLaren’s sponsor-partners, must be adaptable for worldwide territories and must have potential to run on a long-term basis.
Framestore directors Chris Waitt and Henry Trotter (A Complete History of My Sexual Failures, Fur TV and J-Factory) wrote and directed the series, while Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley (Ten O’Clock Live, That Mitchell and Webb Look, The Armstrong and Miller Show) contributed to the scripts.
Once the basic characters had been mapped out, dialogue was laid down through voice recording sessions, with the directors encouraging Armstrong and the drivers to improvise and play off against each other.