If you were watching TV last night, you may have caught a glimpse of the first of a series of brilliantly animated adverts for leading sofa manufacturers and retailers, DFS.
Created by multi-award winning animation studio, Aardman (famous for the iconic Wallace & Gromit, Shawn The Sheep, Creature Comforts to name a few), the newly launched campaign features a group of real life DFS workers transformed into animated puppets, in a series of endearing ads in the run up to Christmas.
I was privileged to accompany DFS for a rare glimpse behind the scenes at the Aardman studios in Bristol recently and it was incredible to take a look around this great hub of creativity!
As the UK’s biggest furniture manufacturer and retailer, DFS prides itself on its commitment to handcrafted quality furniture. Whilst widely recognised for great pricing and a huge choice of furniture, not everyone appreciates that all the sofas they produce are handmade to order in the UK by expert craftspeople. Therefore, it seemed a logical choice to team up with Aardman – also highly skilled specialists and leaders in their field – equally passionate about handcrafting (just a different sort!).
That shared ethos is all about giving the time, love and dedication required to craft something special. Both companies come up with their ideas, designs and finished products in-house, using a skilled workforce. And while both embrace technology to help make a better product, they never lose sight of the importance of those traditional elements at the heart of their business.
At the studio, I learned that the production process for the campaign was pretty painstaking from start to finish. Ardman Animation Director, Steve Harding-Hill explained how the idea to feature real employees of DFS as puppets began with a series of visits to the DFS factories, interviewing workers and recording their voices which would be put together later with their animated characters, brought to life through the stop motion technique that Aardman is so famous for.
Once they had the voices and photos of the staff, the design team could start drawing storyboards and creating the puppets from scratch. As ‘sofa people’ it seemed only right to create hand-stitched fabric puppets. But floppy rag dolls wouldn’t do; they needed to be pose-able and so under the fabric layers the 30cm tall figures have a jointed skeleton metal and plastic skeleton (or armature) as you can see below:
Being able to take a good up-close look, the attention to detail was astonishing. There are fourteen puppets in all and they took about five weeks to make.
Sets had to be built too and even a scaled down DFS delivery truck. There are several miniature replica sofas appearing in the ads, too, which were equally fantastic to see up close.
Actual DFS fabric was used where possible, but of course the scale of some of the patterned fabrics would have been wrong, so had to be reduced and recreated. Such incredible attention to detail!
The scenes feature realistic handpainted backgrounds, which helps to reinforce the charm of the handstitched puppet characters, and there are lots of lovely little human details and amusing moments when you watch closely.
We talked to one of the animators busy at work, spending hours moving the figures individually, a fraction at a time to capture each micro-movement, every blink of an eye and making sure that the puppet mouth shapes were in sync with the spoken words, using an array of different embroidered mouth sets.
It’s not surprising that the whole campaign took over 6 months to produce.
Personally, I love that the focus of the ads is on thetalented team of craftsmen and women employed by DFS, because without them the business couldn’t operate and be successful. I imagine when the DFS workers saw their puppets it must have been quite heart-warming and a thrill to see the first ad live on air last night. So if you didn’t catch it, here it is:
If you enjoyed that and would like to see even more of a behind the scenes glimpse, do check out the video below and of course, this campaign is also about the thrill of getting a new sofa in time for Christmas, so if you’re tempted you can hop over to DFS now for a browse – there’s also a lovely Christmas inspiration section on the site if you need some seasonal styling ideas.