“The Handmade Gift,” an exquisitely crafted stop-motion holiday film from Greenpeace France, is stylistically pretty chill. Even so, cold weather isn’t the real scourge in this story of a little French girl who makes a very special gift to protect her beloved teddy bear.
Created by 84.Paris and director Anna Mantzaris, the 90-second spot misleads viewers with all manner of icy imagery before revealing the true cause of the tyke’s distress:
That’s right, air pollution—responsible for 48,000 deaths in France annually, according to a recent study is the culprit. The girl isn’t making a scarf to warm her bear, but a (rather pitiful) mask to keep the little beast from choking on exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, industrial smog and such. (Maybe she should send him off to Florida or Walmart for safekeeping?)
Now, grinches might dismiss this as manipulative messaging from a bunch of snowflakes. And in some respects, they’d be right.
Still, it’s a memorable manipulation from Mantazaris, a Swedish animator who worked on The Island of Dogs with Wes Anderson. Here, her signature style—speciously simple yet diligently detailed, playfully teetering on the edge of despair—seems tailor-made for the subject matter.
In the making-of clip below, she describes the “magic” inherent in stop-motion techniques and explains why audiences find the approach so compelling:
Shot over 80 hours on three intricate sets using handmade puppets and props, this animated world, while charming in its way, also looks a bit empty and sad — much like the unnerving urban environment Mantazaris captured in her lauded, darkly humorous short subject “Enough.”
“What we love about her style is the softness and fragility of her character design,” Hervé Bienaimé, co-president and creative director at 84.Paris, tells Adweek. “The styling is minimal but still conveys a great deal of depth and innocence. It fit perfectly with our goal of touching people without overdoing it, to be sincere but not naive.”
With “A Handmade Gift,” the team “wanted to use a new aesthetic and narrative for the NGO, the Christmas story, to reach a new audience, more familial and younger,” says Olivier Bienaimé, Hervé’s brother, who also serves as agency co-president/cd.
As for cynics, he wants them to know that “urban pollution, and air pollution in general concerns everyone. The diseases linked to this plague don’t care about skin color or political color, they affect absolutely everyone. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to act alone. That’s why Greenpeace is there to support and make citizens’ voices heard and put pressure on the politicians who have the means to change things.”
Brand: Greenpeace France
Brand Management: Clément Schmitt, Cécile Génot, Ghislain Gardarin
Creative Directors: Olivier Bienaimé, Hervé Bienaimé
Strategic Planners: Nicolas Camillini, Lucie Dominique
Art Director: Léo Sattin
Copywriter: Julien Sipra
Studio de production 84.Paris: Martin Dhote, Jérémy Godineau
Agency Management: Arnaud Depaul, Gwenaëlle Argat , Shirley Halimi
Agency Producers: Mickael Ligier, Pierre Otmanine, Milena Tarriere
Director: Anna Mantzaris
Music: Attention O Chiens
Production Studios: Passions Animation Studios, Yamination
Digital Support: Large screen at Parisian Christmas market
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