Over the past six months we’ve featured a couple of Nexus‘ projects on D.A.D. First was ‘Radio Jones and His Robot Dad’, an amazing interactive story app, quickly followed by the hugely successful Gruffalo Spotter AR forest trail app.
A little bit more research into the people behind these great pieces of work led us to a treasure trove of stunning animation and production projects by Nexus, many of which are for kids, and those that aren’t still have a playful, childlike quality to them.
They’ve been nominated for a Grammy award, twice won the Cannes Grand Prix and are the owners of two highly coveted D&AD Black Pencils. Their Grrr ad for Honda was also Adweek’s Ad of the decade.
We spoke to Nexus’ Creative and Development Producer Claire Cook about their process, storytelling and the awesome ‘Invade All Of The Humans’ animation series. If you haven’t seen these already you’re in for a real treat!
D.A.D: Could you tell us a bit about Nexus and its background.
CC: Since 1997, animation and film production studio Nexus have been telling engaging and immersive stories, all the while finding new ways to make technology delightfully human. We have used code to illuminate Christmas trees at the White House, made apps for President Obama’s office, worked collaboratively with companies including Headspace and Facebook, and have produced multi-award-winning and Oscar-nominated original projects. Story remains at the heart of Nexus, and whether using pencils, pixels or a combination of both, this ethos has grown with the studio itself – now a team of over 100 creatives working under one roof and across a broad range of projects. With an intelligent, informed and sensitive application of narrative, craft and technology, this is often work that may not be traditionally considered as moving image, but is every bit as moving.
D.A.D: A quick look at some of your recent projects and especially the Nexus Originals shows you create a lot of content for children and younger audiences. Is that a conscious decision? And if so why?
CC: Yes, we find ourselves naturally drawn to creating family friendly projects, which focus on character and story first – our team comprises animators, coders, producers, all of whom are interested in creating heart-warming stories for a wide audience.
Commercial for Sonnet Insurance by Nexus Studios. Directed by Smith & Foulkes
D.A.D: Your work is at the cutting edge of technology including Interactive Arts, Virtual and Augmented Reality. Do you think kids are a receptive audience to this new technology?
CC: Yes naturally – kids as young as three understand something like the Gruffalo Spotter AR forest trail and our feedback from families who have used it says that it is a great activity for all members for the family to do together, rather than an individual experience. We tend towards a 13 plus audience for headset based VR, but mobile VR and 360 film e.g. Rain or Shine are suitable for any age. If the design is intuitive and not reliant on text but visual, this helps make it accessible.
D.A.D: Is there a different way that you and your directors work on projects for kids?
CC: Our kids projects are always directed by people we know understand this audience. We are all big kids here really, so that helps! I also make sure we run test days and workshops with kids at the beginning and towards the end of each project to make sure we are making something they will want to use and that they understand it.
D.A.D: Does working on these projects for kids help or influence the commercial work that you do?
CC: A lot of our commercial work is character-driven animation too and working with the same directors, so there is a definite crossover but we tend to keep the two areas separate in-house.
D.A.D: If you can pick, what’s your favourite project that you’ve produced for kids so far?
CC: Definitely The Gruffalo Spotter in terms of audience enjoyment and public value; we have had so much positive feedback from the public about the forest trails. You can see some of them via searching #Gruffalospotter
Gruffalo Spotter app commissioned by Magic Light Pictures in Partnership with the Forestry Commission. Produced by Nexus Studios and directed by Sam Southward.
D.A.D: What’s your favourite book or animation you’ve seen for kids that you haven’t produced?
CC: Good question. My personal favourite would be something traditional and timeless like Each Peach Pear Plum. I would love to make that.
D.A.D: The Invade All Of The Humans videos are hilarious. How did they come about and will there be more of them?
CC: Thank you. This is a series we made for Disney XD in the USA based on an original short film made by directors Tom and Mark. We hope the robots will be back at a later date to create more chaos.
Invade All Of The Humans. Directed by Mark Perrett & Tom Perrett
D.A.D: Where do you see the future of storytelling going?
CC: Good storytelling should work across any media, it is not about the technology but the story and its characters. Technology can help you tell that story but is not a story in itself.
I like the idea of creating stories and a set of tools, like the trail, which inspires people to make up their own stories and adventures.
D.A.D: What would be your advice for young people that want to get into interactive media and film-making?
CC: Get into coding e.g. Unity. as it has some good job prospects and it can be very creative. Write your own stories, read a lot, watch a lot of films, look at drama, comedy and work out why some things are good and work and some just don’t. Develop your taste and have a real opinion. Try and make films with real stories and try to engage people. Try to get experience in a production company, on a shoot, in a studio, to get a better taste of which bit of the puzzle you like and would be good at.