Like a Next-Gen Schoolhouse Rock, Cheerios Launches 4 Catchy Animated Shorts

‘Right on Tracks’ spreads messages of inclusion, empathy and kindness

Cheerios released new series of videos on National Make a Friend Day.
General Mills

For those who grew up in the 1970s, Schoolhouse Rock was an institution—with its catchy tunes and fun animation that covered topics like math, grammar, civics, science and more. Ask anyone from that generation, and they’ll likely tell you their favorites and recite the lyrics verbatim.

Today, on National Make a Friend Day, Cheerios is launching a new series of animated films similar in spirit to the venerable Schoolhouse Rock series that aired from 1973 to the mid-1990s but with a slightly different set of topics that are most relevant to today’s young children.

“Right on Tracks” are four empathetic shorts that cover family dynamics, bullying, self-confidence and friendship. Created by the brand and 72andSunny, each uses peppy, upbeat music from songwriter Walter Martin of the New York-based band The Walkmen, and colorful, uniquely shaped puppets to get messages of love, caring and inclusiveness across effectively.

“It’s All Family” shows the wide range of families in American society including those with single and divorced parents, same-sex couples, adopted and foster children, and more.

“Step Up” takes on the topic of bullying and includes four steps that kids should take when they witness bullying. Additionally, the song reminds people that bullies “need love too.”

“Just Be You” is all about kids feeling comfortable about what they think makes them different. There is a subtle, but lovely nod in the second verse of the song for transgender kids.

Finally, “Sit With Someone New” encourages kids to sit with someone new at school and reminds them that the person they sit with today is not only a nice thing to do, but that person could end up being their best friend.

Overall, the campaign is a welcome breath of fresh air and continues Cheerios’ tradition of inclusivity which started in 2013 with the introduction of a multiracial family in an ad that spring and then later for the 2014 Super Bowl.

“Our brand is all about putting positive energy in the world,” said Liz Mascolo, vp of marketing for Cheerios. “Working with 72andSunny, we wanted to determine how we could bring this to life in untraditional or unexpected ways.”

Indeed, the Schoolhouse Rock analogy played into the creative process as Justine Armour, 72andSunny’s executive creative director explained.

“I grew up in Australia and didn’t know about Schoolhouse Rock, but I had a creative team come to me with talking about it,” she said. “And they said ‘what if we could teach beautiful values to kids through really catchy songs?’ And we really wanted the work to have a craft and longevity that would be iconic, so we ended up with this lovely puppet series.”

What’s interesting is that the concept and idea were brought to Armour and her team about a year and a half ago. Martin created demos of the songs based on topics that the agency and brand thought were relevant for kids to understand. From there, the puppets were built, and the campaign began to come to life. Other forms of animation like CGI and cell animation were considered, but the creative team felt that the colorful puppets would have a more lasting impact.

“(Production company) Nexus Studios loved the idea of making the puppets feel really tactile and (character designers) Nous Vous and (puppet and set fabricator) Andy Gent who brought a lovely vision to this. They were passionate production partners … and you want to work with people who are fired up about the work. They had a human, Cheerios spirit running through it all.”

While there were many human forms in the animation, part of the inclusive, universal feel of the work relied on quirkier, non-traditional types of puppets. It also avoided the tricky issue of casting actors, which could have less of an impact.

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