At a time when our world feels more divided than ever, who would have thought we’d look to monsters for acceptance? Mattel’s Monster High teaches us that there’s more in the world to unite than divide.
2016’s Welcome to Monster High, directed by Stephen Donnelly and Olly Reid, presented our London studio's first-ever feature film. Mattel approached the London studio to totally revamp the Monster High brand, telling a story fans of the series will love while also adding a new visual twist.
The project represented a great opportunity for the London studio, enabling the team to flex its creative muscles across production, from script, storyboard and design to final delivery.
Flaunt followed up on this project with 2017’s Monster High Electrified – a neon-hued adventure that further develops the brand’s new aesthetic.
Mixing things up
Flaunt utilised a diverse range of artists for Welcome to Monster High and Monster High Electrified, with one unifying goal—refresh the brand while retaining that which has made it so popular over the years.
“We were creating something targeted at 6-11 year old girls, but giving it a fresh, bold look at the same time,” explains London studio art director Jon Beeston. “Monster High is such a strong franchise, so we worked closely with Emily Kelly-Cabal, Mattel’s art director, in order to achieve this goal, making sure we kept things on brand while giving things a twist.”
Our London studio also coined two new terms to fulfil the brief—all assets contained within each frame were ‘monsterfied’ and ‘wonkified’.
The former involved adding monstrous elements to each of the studio's designs—cobwebs, skulls and bat wings all make an appearance. As for the latter, ‘wonkification’ referred to the distinct shape language introduced to the design process. Skewing the lines of objects gave the world a strange, off-kilter feel, while retaining Monster High’s playful, charming quality.
Alongside these two values, our London studio delivered assets with the highest production values, using realistic materials and textures to give Welcome to Monster High and Monster High Electrified’s characters and environments a real, tangible feel.
Our London studio's roster of designers and illustrators worked to flesh out each Monster High character’s individual personality when building them into CG models. They turned to the voice actors for inspiration in some instances, mimicking their hand gestures and facial expressions in the VO booth and transplanting them into the animation witnessed on screen.
Shane Amsterdam, the creative force behind Monster High, and Mattel’s supervising director Jun Falkenstein, challenged the studio at every turn to deliver their most colourful work to date.
“We wanted to have moments of real heart and emotion,” says director Stephen Donnelly. “These weren’t just dolls; these were real, breathing characters that we wanted the audience at home to get emotionally invested in.”
Of course, fashion plays a leading role in the Monster High universe. Mattel encouraged exploration here early in the production process: Axis needed to deliver on-point styles that looked backwards as well as forwards – especially considering the 80s-influenced fashion of Monster High Electrified.
“We spoke to some fashion stylists to get valuable knowledge from the fashion world,” says Richard Scott, executive producer on the project. “We wanted to know not only what’s hot and fashionable right now, but also what could be coming up further down the line. The biggest revelation for me was definitely ‘pastel goths’. Never heard of that before!”
The fashion element plays into the Monster High ethos. This is a place where students embrace and celebrate what makes them different—a mantra that’s just as important at the London studio.
“There was always a great energy in the team—everyone was excited to be working on such a popular brand, not to mention working on a feature-length production. That carried through to every department,” says Andrew Pearce, the London studio's executive producer.
“At the end of the day, we were creating animation and working for a toy company—the two most fun things in the world!”