The Boxing Day football fixtures have been a UK staple for decades now, and to a lot of households they’re a central part of the Christmas season. Premier League, in collaboration with creative agency Two Circles, wanted to create a short piece to go out on Boxing Day that really celebrated how much of a festive tradition these matches have become, while emphasising the warm, cosy vibe of the season. The idea would be to follow one household over a period of around 30 years as they get together every Boxing Day to watch the footie, with new faces joining over time as the family grows.
We all agreed that the best way to go about this was with some lovely 2D animation, really pushing the illustration side of things. This meant a starting out with a lot of design work to get the look and feel right. We would only have a few seconds in each scene, so it was important we could capture the different eras as clearly as possible. We filled up the background with all sorts of hints and easter eggs about the current year (some more subtle than others…). See how many you can spot in the backgrounds!
Beyond the background, we also had to design our characters. Unusually though, we weren’t just designing them once, as we’d need to watch them age and grow over the course of the video. Luckily, Two Circles gave us a really clear script and moodboard which helped us quickly hone this in, and we concepted the whole cast of characters over the first few days of work. It was a fun challenge designing all the family members, making sure you could consistently tell who was who across the years, as well as combining different aspects of the parents to make the kids!
Given the detail of the characters and scenes, we figured the best way to achieve the look we wanted given the timeframe was to illustrate a few key frames in Photoshop, then add in some more subtle secondary motion in After Effects. This let us get create really nice looking characters and environments without having to worry about how long it would take to draw them all 12 times per second of video! For the secondary animation, we mostly used After Effect’s puppet tools to bend limbs and add the odd bit of squash and stretch to emphasise the motion described by the main keyframes.
The final step was compositing. Our artist Hannah did a great job adding procedural rim lights to all the characters which saved us another step in the painting process, as well as some lovely lighting effects to vary the time of day in each scene. Then we added a slow zoom across the whole sequence, as its amazing what a very slow camera move like that will do to the overall interest level in a video. Finally, everyones favourite effect, the slightest bit of grain on top. Really ties a room together.