Panda Express. Lunar New Year
Finally, we got to make a project with a dragon in it!
Yes, we got free shoes before everyone else. No, you can't have them.
Working at Panda Express really has its benefits. They want to give you what you deserve.
One of our super secret clients wanted to show how seamless a sales cycle should be.
Panda Express, one of the largest Chinese American restaurant chains in the US, asked us to help to celebrate the Lunar New Year with this set of films telling the stories of the Chinese Zodiac and the Lunar New Year.
In our biggest challenge yet, we combined Motion Graphics, Hand Drawn, and 3D animation to create a colorful, enticing world that invoked Panda throughout every frame for children across the world to learn about the Lunar New Year.
Film 02 - The legend of the Zodiac
The second film concentrates on the story of the Chinese Zodiac, alongside some of the traditions surrounding the celebration of the Lunar New Year.
The main goal of these films was to tell the story of a culture, so to us it was very important to get that right. We spent most of the beginning of the project writing and re-writing the story and storyboards until we were happy with it.
This ensured that, whatever style we decided to make them in, the films would be solid no matter what.
The style we chose in the end was pretty complex, and a challenge to combine the 2D and 3D elements, but it added much more depth to the story than we could have had otherwise.
Finding a correct feel for the Asian-American family was important. Panda Express is not only Chinese, but Chinese American food, and we wanted that to come across in our characters as well. The clothes also had to reflect this.
That meant no shoes inside, no pajamas at the dinner table, and of course, as much red as possible, not only because of Lunar New Year, but to tie in Panda Express branding as well. The color red is in almost every shot, except for where Nian is present.
Style and Appeal
We had a few different styles throughout the films, the main ones being the world that the family lived in, and then the world that the kids were drawing and creating. Finding that sweet spot where they meshed was more difficult than we first expected, as well as consistently transition between the two worlds.
We also wanted to find a way to make the craveability of the food come across in both styles, which is the selling point for Panda Express. It had to feel like you wanted to pick it up off the plate and eat it, but also like a cartoon kid would do the same thing.
Think Like a Kid
The kids drawings were pivotal in the way the story was told. The film was made to teach kids, so it had to be appealing and interesting to them most of all.
Wherever we could we made sure to include elements of Chinese culture, like showing the types of food that would be eaten at a Lunar New Year dinner. Lanterns and decorations were designed with specific feedback from the team at Panda Express, many of whom celebrate Lunar New Year with their families every year. We wanted to be as accurate as possible in every element we included.
Throughout the films, we sprinkled as many Panda Express easter eggs as we could into the shots. This included the colors that were used and little things like hidden fortune cookies.
During production, we used a test group (the animators’ kids) to make sure the film was interesting and entertaining for the intended audience. We knew we were on the right track when they watched it on repeat.