Santa’s Twerk Shop has broken new ground for JibJab in many ways. Not only does it feature the hottest dance moves, but it also featured a brand new animation style, and is also its own app in the App Store!
The idea started with JibJab Co-Founders Gregg and Evan, who were pretty inspired by all the attention Miley Cyrus has been getting for her twerking antics. They realized it would be a fun idea to play off of it for a Christmas video. Jeff built an animatic based on the idea, and Evan realized he wanted it to take place in an actual Santa workshop.
It all started off with a simple animatic:
From there, Evan and Jeff flew to Arizona to shoot live action backgrounds for Santa’s workshop at North Pole Experience which ended up looking awesome.
Santa’s Twerk Shop was the first time we’ve done 3D animated characters on a live action background. To achieve this, we discovered and developed new techniques for placing the characters into each scene. Our 3D animator Taylor used Audodesk Maya to model and animate all the 3D characters, which he then rendered in Mental Ray. Once all of this was done, the production team placed the characters into the live action backgrounds using Adobe After Effects. We also developed a way to animate head animation in Maya and export it out to After Effects so that it could work with Flash.
According to Taylor, “Another exciting development during this project was getting our own render farm set up. This dedicated group of computers allowed us to quickly get our rendered animation back in a timely fashion, which really helped us meet the deadline.”
Originally, Santa was going to be live action but about a week into the project we realized that it would be better to have Santa be a CG character as well. For his reference, we used one of the many Nasty Santa toys we have around the office to model from. Once all the modeling was done, we built a rough layout pass to get all camera moves ready and then we started animating. While all of this was going on we were also working on texturing the characters and lighting them to match the backgrounds. Motion tracking the backgrounds was a bit tricky but luckily new tools in After Effects allowed us to get the desired results fairly quickly.
Many late nights later, Santa’s Twerk Shop was born. This project proved to be a very fun and rewarding challenge. We had a pretty short turnaround on this and I’m very happy with what we were able to do in that timeframe. The whole project took about a month starting in early November. Being the only full time 3D guy at JibJab, Taylor was happy to bring in a few freelance artists to work on the prop models and some of the rigging. I think we realized what we can accomplish in a short amount of time given the right opportunity. Not only that, but it provided a lot of fun for the team.
While this animation was finishing off, our technology team was hard at work creating the app. Once the final video was delivered, they dropped it in and sent it off to the App Store, where you can download for a mere 99 cents.