Wednesday, May 6, 2009


The Zoozoo's have won several hearts and are on their way to stardom. As someone who helped create these characters, it’s heartening to see the response. I got a message on my phone that read something like - ' In a world where we seem focused on a recession, an election, and most things dull and boring, the Zoozoo's are a breath of fresh air'. That captured a bit of the sentiment for me.

When Rajiv Rao, of Ogilvy called me and discussed these ideas, I immediately realized that there was a huge novelty and freshness about these concepts. The idea was developed and planned for the IPL to promote Vodafone's Value Added Services. Vodafone was quick to see the potential and backed the team in order to create something totally new.

We had limited time to pull off so many films and catch the IPL. Two options were designed for the look of the characters and we finalized on the one that we could design flexible costumes for, to facilitate movements like sitting, bending, falling etc and yet look as animated in shape as possible.

I was happy to take these films to the next level and craft them carefully, adding nuances and touches that could make these films memorable. When I worked on my storyboards, I could see and sense how each of these characters must emote, their body language, their gestures and even down to their wicked laughter. There were 30 scripts and each film needed detailing that would help the idea work harder. I structured the films to keep the intrigue in each.
Click here to see the making of Zoozoos.

It was quite exciting to plan and develop the final look and feel of these films. My team at 'Nirvana' researched and co-ordinated all the little details for this mammoth production. Then there were the larger production aspects of getting the films done with the best teams, experimenting with materials for the costumes, the art direction , cinematography and so on.
I chose to do these films in South Africa, in Cape Town. We worked with a local production company there called 'Platypus' . Ian the Producer was very co-operative and helped us in a big way to work tight , stay focused on the limited time we had and to work economically. I teamed up with one of my favorite cinematographers called Vicci Turpin. She made this production very exciting with her energy and hard work. Her Contribution to the lighting, the framing and the overall look and feel have added huge value to the films.

We experimented with the frame rate at which these films should be shot, to add to the animated feel and finally decided on 20 frames per second to shoot on. I have varied some speeds during online to enhance certain reactions.
My Art Director, Sally is also someone I have worked with before and her sense of design is commendable. She painstakingly designed each set, each prop and planned the color palette and tones using her vivid imagination.
We had numerous references and research done, to be able to decide which way we needed to progress. I was clear about what I didn't want to do and was constantly pushing myself to create something completely new. That was my challenge and i had to achieve this.

The costumes were a tough one. They had to be hard and moulded to camouflage the human form, yet flexible enough to be able to make the characters move easily and comfortably. I was particular that we needed very minimal creases and folds to be able to make it look like animated characters. We worked with a team called the ' Closet' and they worked very hard and did the best they could in such a short span of time to create multiple costumes for all the characters in record time. We had to experiment with different material to get the desired effect. I had some clean ups to do on the creases at the online stage to smoothen the rough edges and joints of the costumes.

The head was made of perspex with 3 holes on the top of the head for breathing, no eyes or mouth, and the body was a separate outfit created with foam and fiber with tights to create thin legs and arms. The expressions were stuck on the characters separately and changed prior to every shot that required a reaction change. We had different smiles, eyebrows arched at different angles, teeth, shocked expressions, laughter, anger and different emotions created to be able to vary the emotions for the Zoozoo's. These were stuck on and removed each time. We just followed my storyboard on each film to keep track of the continuity for each reaction change.

The sets and props were made larger than normal, because we had to keep the perspective of the characters and their worlds matched. The proportions were crucial as we were using adult humans in these costumes, it was important to have the backgrounds and props as large. For eg: in the Google Maps films, the characters were to fit into a car. The car had to be big enough to seat them. Street lamps, xerox machine, park benches, trees, walls, shop facades, the Eiffel Tower, doors, tables and chairs, shower cubicles, and so on had to be proportionate to the characters. In the film for - 'Busy Callertunes' - we had to create a crocodile. That was a challenge. In another film the crocodile had to swallow a Zoozoo. We had one person lie inside the croc and open his arms out wide to open the mouth of the croc.
In the Beauty Alerts Film, the little fellow at the end waiting at the door for his mom and sibling to run out, is a moment I personally enjoy.

In the film for International Roaming, i had a complete go with the mallu food that i missed ,being away from home for a month. I added the puttu kadala, kappa meen and parotta words that sounded like general gibberish and it gave me my thrills.

The cast were tremendous. Not fussy, extremely co-operative despite the fact that they could only emote through their body language. It was obviously very difficult in those cumbersome costumes, and they deserve a big round of applause.

I could go on talking endlessly about each film, but in total, the experience has been a wild one. I set out to create something totally new. Something that would make the animators feel uneasy and the film makers feel that its too unreal to be 'live' action. Looks like i achieved something, because a lot of people out there do not believe its all 'live'. The reaction on facebook and other blogs and sites has humbled me. Its amazing to see such a great reaction. We tend to take our jobs for granted sometimes, but its the feedback and the interactive possibilities of the internet that have made these films so rewarding to direct.

I am also the director who made all the pug films for Hutch and Vodafone, so for those who think that the human touch is missing from these zoozoo's , let me tell you that the pug and the zoozoo can co-exist. There's something for everyone.

The team that made these films happen have been excited from the start to the finish, totally motivated and extremely hard working. Each of us owned these films and made them happen.
Its pure team work. A lot of trust , freedom and creative inputs.
Please shoot me specific questions and I'll be happy to answer them anytime.


Making of Zoozoo (Story Boards)

Making Of Zoozoo (Part 1)