America to Me

Client

SoulPancake

Client Link

soulpancake.com

Timeline

Summer 2019 – Fall 2019

Services
  • 2D Animation
  • Illustration
  • Storyboarding

CREDITS

Art Direction
  • Jordan Lambrecht
  • Karley Johnson
Illustration
  • Karley Johnson
  • Madeline Christensen
  • Hannah Klemme
Animation
  • Jordan Lambrecht
  • Madeline Christensen
  • Hannah Klemme
Account Manager
  • Elaina Dye

About The Series

The America to Me: Real Talk campaign is an educational series about the racial, economic, and cultural mix that ecompasses US schools, and how we can work to better understand each other. 

Once again, we were honored to joined forces with Soul Pancake and Participant Media as an extension of their team to help with the illustration and animation process. The series is a companion to Participant Media’s ten-part, unscripted documentary series about equality in schools, directed by Academy Award nominated filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) and currently aired on STARZ. 

Throughout the seven episodes of America to Me: Real Talk, we helped to illustrate stories and lessons from educational and racial equity strategist Dr. Darnisa Amante with animated sequences and kinetic type.

Process

We began with a rough idea of where an animation or kinetic type sequence would best serve each animation. From there, we worked with the client to create a palette, illustration style, and textured look to best suit the series as a whole. With seven episodes to tackle and a tight schedule, organization was key in developing the long list of assets and scenes. 

We took visual inspiration from modern highschools to design each setting and inform how each character would be dressed. We needed a wide array of characters, varying in race, cultural and economic background, and even professions among the school staff. After all, the educational series would be used in classrooms as well as to inform teachers, counselors, and administrative roles—everybody needed to be represented. 

Instead of a voiceover, the series centers around footage of Dr. Darnisa Amante talking to the camera. We pinpointed the best stories and talking points to further illustrate with animation, and carefully storyboarded how they would interplay throughout the clips of Dr. Amante—some parts were better animated while some relied on Dr. Amante’s facial expressions and gesticulation. Hitting the right combination of both was crucial to the video shorts coming together. 

Why

In this episode, Dr. Amante stresses the importance of finding a “Why.” She explains that in order to dismantle racism in schools, people need to hear, specifically, why you care so much. 

To help viewers pinpoint their “Why,” she describes a bullseye model, which we helped to visually illustrate. We also created kinetic type sequences and smaller, animated character visual aids to better emphasize Dr. Amante’s own “Why” statement.

Micro + Macro Aggressions

Here, Dr. Amante gives an easy-to-understand overview of micro and macro aggressions—uninformed comments that have the ability to hurt a person of a different race, cultural background, or identity. Statements like, “where are you really from?” can be a microaggression. An absence of representation of a student’s race or cultural background in materials in school can feel like a microaggression.

We animated these scenarios to provide visuals of micro and macro aggressions, along with kinetic type to reinforce important statements and definitions from Dr. Amante.

Data

This episode shows teachers and faculty in schools how to implement data collection in order to make positive changes. We’re not talking test scores—this data collection is based on culture, processes, and changes to culture over time.

We animated visual aids to accompany Dr. Amante’s information, especially in showing how students can communicate their concerns and ideas to teachers and staff. We illustrated common scenarios, such as metal detectors and dress code violations, where students of different cultural backgrounds often feel targeted or racially profiled.

White Privilege

Dr. Amante dives into the subject of white privilege in this episode by defining what it means and answering common questions surrounding the term. 

We helped paint a picture of white privilege by taking the viewer to a teachers’ lounge setting and a conversation among staff of different races and backgrounds. Several definitions and talking points were also emphasized via kinetic type sequences.

Self

This episode tackles the importance of identifying a personal reason of why it matters to talk about race and communicate your own unique experiences to younger generations. Dr. Amante encourages the viewer to think about a specific moment or a series of moments when they realized the importance of talking about race. 

She shares her own important, personal memory from grade school that had an effect on her entire life and identity. To illustrate the memory, we brought the viewer back in time to her grade school classroom in the 1980s and a young Darnisa. We set up detailed mouth rigs so our characters could mouth the conversations Dr. Armante described in real time.

Equity Journey

This episode encourages viewers to map out the different, racially-charged events throughout their lifetimes. The activity invites participants to categorize the experiences, characterizing them as “angry,” “sad,” or “hopeful.” We provided visual aids to help explain the activity.

Dr. Amante tells her own story in the episode, remembering her first experience with racism. This was a particularly intense animation sequence, cinematically illustrating a story of her grandfather being pulled over by a police officer while she was in the backseat, and the unfair treatment she witnessed during the exchange. We were able to recreate the memory with special attention to the scene’s lighting and each characters’ facial rigs.

Norms

Here, Dr. Amante reminds us that in order to have difficult conversations that will change the culture of the community you live in, you need to have an established list of “norms.” This includes being present in your community and leaning in, assuming good intentions, and taking responsibility to enact change by offering a comment or suggestion whenever you can. We listed these norms with kinetic type callouts.

She shares her own story that took place in a women’s bathroom, which we were also able to animate. The story is a good example of taking a moment to collect yourself when faced with a difficult or uncomfortable situation, and offering a comment or suggestion to the person who might be uninformed and needing guidance.