Drop the Pop

Drop the Pop began with a tantalising brief from Yellowknife-based Artless Collective:

In communities in northern Canada, consumption of sugary drinks is causing a public health crisis. How do we communicate that? With hordes of savage soda cans roaming the Northwest Territories, Mad-Max style, laying waste to everything in their path… that’s how! The gang of pop cans go from town to town, threatening communities with cavities, diabetes and heart disease.
The Drop the Pop NWT campaign is aimed at cutting this problem off at the source: by getting schools and communities in the Northwest Territories to replace vending machines with healthier options like drinking fountains. And so, as the gang of pop cans roam from town to town, they are constantly driven back by citizens who have replaced vending machines with drinking fountains and other healthier options.
Jay and Pablo, the masterminds behind Artless, have an infectious energy that they apply to everything they work on. Our first meeting resulted in some quick character concepts:
And a colour palette. This would be my first major foray into vector illustration, so I wanted to nail down the visual style right away:
Artless fleshed out a script, and I drew up a complete storyboard for the animation. The storyboard became invaluable later as a planning document, as I coordinated asset creation and shot distribution among a team of 6 other animators.
The large cast of characters were created by mixing and matching elements. This was an early pass at some general ‘horde’ characters:
Similarly, vehicles were designed by cannibalising pop cans for parts. Artless wanted this gang to be dirty and mean, spewing pollution and ooze behind them, so we ended up zeroing in on big gas-guzzler vehicles, decorated with rotten teeth and pop can tabs.
After the designs for the main characters were approved, each one was matched up with a ride:
The animation focuses on a handful of communities in the North that have seen great successes with Drop the Pop, and so it was important to have a strong sense of place. Scenery was modelled after local geography, but community welcome signs became an essential anchor for each location:
I directed a half-dozen other animators in this project, located all around the world. Because sketching is the form of communication that comes most naturally to me, I ended up doing a lot of drawings to convey comments and revisions – like these notes on a character model sheet:
There is a lot of smoke and dust in the animation, so developing a clean, economic look for these elements was particularly important. Particular attention was paid to replicating assets across multiple shots in order to streamline the workflow:
You can see the finished animation in all its glory here. This was my first time managing a large(ish) team for a project, and I’m both immensely proud of what we pulled off, and amazed by the mad skills of my fellow animators.

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