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Hand-drawn “Abilify” commercial

Feelin’ down about the state of hand drawn animation? I was watching my favorite news channel and spotted this modest, but nicely animated, commercial for the anti-depressant prescription drug, Abilify – and it perked me right up! It was apparently produced out of th1ng (pronounced “thing one”) in London and directed by Neil Boyle (Roger Rabbit, Space Jam), with animation by the talented team of Mike Shorten (Arthur Christmas, The Illusionist), Geoff McDowall and Sam Taylor. Forget the drug – watch this and maybe the animation will cheer you up too:

Director: Neil Boyle
Animators: Mike Shorten, Geoff McDowall and Sam Taylor.
Assistant animators: Alan Henry, Ange de Silva and Ed Roberts.

  • Mark

    If they offer me a million dollars to make a commercial for abilify, I would say, thanks, but no thanks, I have morals…But they did a good job with the animation

    • Stephen M. Levinson

      Hi Mark, can you please elaborate why you would turn it down? What do you mean by “Morals” ? Not being sarcastic, just can’t figure out your statement. Thanks!

    • Mark.
      You are out of your mind.
      Maybe you need to take some Abilify.

      • Mark

        The danger of the crazy sideffects really outweighs any possible benefit. Did you know that in blind studies the sugar as placebo is more helpful than antidepressants that cost millions in research. there´s only two countries in the world where this kind of commercials are allowed the US and Australia. More than 100.000 people die each year in the us from prescription medications FDA approved in the US…

        I enjoyed the animation and the animation and design of the depression character was very clever.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        @Mark. No they don’t. If anti-depressants didn’t exist I’d be dead right now. End of story.

      • Stephen M. Levinson

        @Mark. You forgot to mention the number of people who DIDN’T commit suicide after taking anti-depressants. And that number completely outweighs your dumb statistics.

      • Funkybat

        I think antidepressant drugs do help some people with serious chemical imbalances, people who otherwise would suffer with little hope of overcoming their emotional/physical problems. At the same time, it is undeniable that some drugs are being over-prescribed, often due to influence from various powerful people who have a vested interest in having all kinds of powerful medications become as common as Pepto Bismol in people’s medicine cabinets. I understand very well Mark’s apprehension, but I wouldn’t automatically condemn anyone who chooses to work on projects such as this.

        I saw this commercial and thought it had uncommonly good animation for that “genre.” A lot of the drug commercial animation I’ve seen has been either middling, or just plain awkward to watch.

      • Mark

        I’m glad that the antidepressants help you out. I threw them away, to the trash one day, and I have been feeling great ever since, thanks to therapy, meditation and embracing the pains and joys of life. The statistics aren´t dumb… Those statistics also do not reflect the people that DO commit suicide while on antidepressants…they do help some people they do hurt a lot more while more natural solutions like Valerian are available…

      • Sillyweasel

        I used to be prescribed Abilify, and now I have a perminant side effect of uncontrollable muscle movements, usually they show up as night terrors, which I never had before taking it, and occasionally as full on twitching while awake for no reason whatsoever.
        SOME people may have had good results from anti-depressants, however MANY have not.
        Also, Abilify is almost always prescribed as an add on to an anti-depressant, not on it’s own, so defending it as an anti-depressant is a little silly.

        The commercial is great to watch, but due to the side effects from that specific medication I can’t help but to feel horribly enraged whenever I see it on television. There is no going back for me, I am stuck with this, and the side effects in medication commercials are never properly gone over, or explained, or for that matter even said in a normal speed/tone of voice. They’re practically hidden, which leads many people to falsely believe they are safe, never bothering to question their doctor when it’s prescribed, or to read the tiny print pamphlets of information folded up like maps with their prescription.

      • stim

        Pharmaceuticals released today were approved based on double-blind placebo-controlled studies. If the drug didn’t separate from the placebo by a statistically significant margin than the FDA would not have approved it. You may be correct in saying that in the overall population some drugs aren’t effective, but they aren’t meant for the population as a whole. They are meant for people with a specific psychiatric condition, and in people diagnosed with certain conditions these drugs have been shown effective vs placebo. As for the “crazy side effects” these are also clearly described in double-blind studies, and advertisers are required to provide information on adverse events. Saying this info is “hidden” is patently false. The FDA does not allow any safety information to be “hidden.” Legally, the safety information must be at least as prominent, if not more prominent, than the information on efficacy. Major warnings and side effects must appear in conjunction with certain drug information, and burying safety information is enough to get a company sued by the justice department. The laws are much stricter than people assume, and if anyone ever offered you 1 million dollars to make a pharmaceutical ad you would discover that quickly. People seem to think you can make a drug ad like you make an ad for Ovaltine, and that is just not true.

    • Metallicfire

      When I see ads on TV talking about a pill that lets you have only one period a year, I think to myself such a think is an unholy abomination against nature. But as a man, I do have neither a uterus nor periods. Therefore I have no authority on the subject of period prevention and thus I keep my opinions to myself.
      Similarly, I think it is best left to doctors, lawyers, and depression sufferers to weigh the risks and benefits of a drug.

  • Rooniman

    I’ve actually seen this commercial on TV. Not bad.

  • tonma

    it made me little melancholic….

    nice approach for the subject though.

  • Michael F.

    The Depression Blob! I always like how these drug commercials keep on throwing on cartoon characters to make a serious drug look interesting. You know, like those yellow critters that open up your toenails and live inside them.

    • Funkybat

      The toenail critters and the Mucinex snot people are probably the best “drug commercial” character animation I’ve seen.

  • Anoniguy

    I just saw this ad a minute ago, and was remarking to myself how nice the animation was. The ‘depression’ character had personality.

    On a bit of a tangent, there’s a series of commercials for some weight loss supplement that have cute animated women in them. The animation itself isn’t lifechanging, but the characters they made are very nice and appealing. Lots of good stuff in TV commercial land these days.

  • I like that the depression still hangs around in the background even after she’s on the drug, pointing out that it just makes depression manageable rather than saying that it cures it and makes it go away. Nice to see at least some truth in the metaphor for once.

    • Stephen M. Levinson

      I absolutely agree with you! I like that part of the commercial as well.

    • Mark

      That is true about clinical depression but also indicates that you are going to be dependent for life on that medication. The giant pharmaceutical corporations are not your friend! Talk with your doctor about it

  • I just watched it without the sound and then with and I like it without. No comment on the voice actors, but the acting is really nice without. I love the timing, especially when the doctor is gesticulating on the wee white screen. Nice, understated and convincing.

    Not a fan of the depression thingy after she gets outta the hole but, whatever, nice commercial.

  • Dave

    Very nice animation. I like seeing commercials animated in this style.

    Kind of hard to get around those bizarre disclaimers at the end about how Abilify can cause all sorts of horrible side-effects , including things like “thoughts of suicide, increased blood sugar leading to coma or death , etc ”

    I think I’d rather be depressed.

    (not really. don’t mean to make light of it . Depression is serious stuff, but yikes the side-effects they talk about are scary)

    Anyway, I appreciate you posting this . I did enjoy the look of the animation very much.

    • I think the choice to have the doctor playing a film of himself rattling off the side effects is rather clever. They could have had the character himself do it, but this is a lot more visually interesting, and strangely makes the list more noticeable.

      • Parker51

        Seems like there may be a subtle explanation for the use of the screen. The advertising agency is exploiting “deceptive framing” to get around so-called “white coat” rules in advertising. The medical disclaimers are not being presented by a doctor, or a fictional representation of a doctor. Rather the commercial is pushing into an inner reference frame to give a double-fictional representation of a doctor, which somehow does not run afoul of the FTC or FDA.

    • Twitching

      “Be sure to tell your doctor if you suddenly start twitching uncontrollably. It may become permanent.”

      Cracked me up. Nice animation, too.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        I was trying my best not to listen to that clearly!

  • Lanigan

    Abilify Depression Blob vs. Zoloft Depression Bump
    Go go go

    • Anoniguy

      Internet rule 34, invoked.

  • if you take this you might die, or kill yourself, or get some other horrible condition.
    Is this normal in the us that ads for medicine have 50% of their running time dedicated to how this might actally kill you?

    • I think it’s the law that all side effects must be listed in the ad, and some other restrictions on the wording as well.

  • Was My Face Red

    Lovely animation but was the scriptwriter being paid extra for everytime he used the word depression, just to make sure everyone understood the back cloud metaphor? Definitey better with the sound off, especially when the doc goes into his ‘may lead to suicide, death, more suicide, bleeding gums and Satan inheriting the Earth’ speech.

  • 2011 Adult

    lol I was wondering when the Brew would pick this up.

  • Great catch, I saw this commercial the other week and was wondering who produced it. Thing One has generated some interesting deliverables in the past.

  • Liesje

    I work for a company that handles LOTS of ‘pharma’. We have copywriters here that specialize in writing for ‘pharma’. You can’t have any old copywriter do it – they have to have specific qualifications because of all (and there is A LOT, believe me) legal jargon they need to make sure is in there. Copyrights, layouts, font sizes, terms – it’ll make your head spin.

    I’ve seen this commercial several times and it’s actually surprising how much they got away with, at least based on my experience. I started working on a ‘pharma’ project back in Spring, 2010 – three glorified Flash power points for a major drug on the market. Nothing major but it’s taken over a year for it to be even close to finished and that’s just the Flash part, not counting all the months of layout, design, copywriting, development, etc.

    A note on the animation end – for the most part it’s a great little bit of animation but when they use that After Effects, MAN it stands out.

    • Keith

      I agree on two accounts. First, I’ve worked on some pharma projects and the amount of legalese the writers have to go through is incredible. Also, you’re right about the effects usage, it’s noticeable. Especially when the blob is sliding(?) around at the end.
      But great animation otherwise!

  • Lisa

    I saw this when I was visiting San Francisco over spring break with friends and we were all gabbing about how great we thought it looked. I also like how cute depression is.

  • Lilo

    Clinical depression is a symptom, not a cause. Only life changes can truly ‘cure’ depression.

    • Serotonin

      Really? Brain chemistry has nothing to do with it? Considering there’s lots of research that proves depression and other psychiatric ailments have a biological basis?

  • I know someone who took it for depression and had a very bad time with it, so I’m biased…Abilify was originally prescribed to treat schizophrenia. Sometimes drug companies expand the uses for a drug (i assume for monetary reasons), when there is not a lot documentation to prove it actually works well for other ailments. And while the animated spot is nice and all, I personally don’t understand why pharma companies advertise their prescription products to consumers. Sorry for my rant.

    • David

      The way that big pharma are able to advertise their products directly to consumers in the US is outrageous. Really, really shocking.

      But they do it for the money, naturally. It bypasses the professional opinion of doctors and goes straight for the consumer’s wallet.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Which I guess is a good thing (to them).

  • N. W. Smith

    If anything, Depression is TOO cute – I feel sorry for him/her/it. Before he and the woman had a kind of co-dependency thing going on; now he still has to follow her around, but can’t interact with her anymore.

    • Inkan1969

      I wonder if as a result, the depression will succumb to depression.

  • Mister Twister

    >animation used to sell an anti-depressant


  • I just started watching American t.v. on cable, and this was the first medication ad that I saw. I have seen 9928475968 thousand of them since then.

    But this one’s the best.

  • I wish my depression was a quasi-cute, tangible little blob. XD
    But seriously, cute commercial. I liked it. :)

  • Elmer

    A lot artists get depression, but never take antidepressants no matter how low you feel, it’s awful stuff

  • Alison

    I knew I wasn’t the only one who found something in particular with this ad. I didn’t figure it would be 2-D since even 2-D can be colored in using a computer program.

  • Funkybat

    The doctor in this commercial looks like a cheerier version of Rick Dicker from The Incredibles. Maybe he took Abilify and felt good enough to pursue a different line of work. The main character looks kind of like Helen Parr, too.

  • I found this depressingly British.

    Until the legals kicked in anyway. This is about 20% ad, 80% clearly stated reasons why the product shouldn’t even be allowed, much less taken.
    I’m willing to bet the copy on those legally required horror tales went back and forth for a year, and that the awkward sliding blob at the end was an Adobe After-thought. Maybe even done in the avid on the last day.
    I appreciate why they used that walk cycle for like 30 seconds, too.

    • TsimoneTseTse

      re: “I found this depressingly English”

      When I first saw it I thought it felt British, with the very relaxed pace, the “Richard Williams eyes,” the teen wearing 70’s moonboots.

      Tv commercial, hand drawn animation has always been a horse of a different color.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Didn’t always used to be that way. Nowadays it’s just doesn’t seem to work much anymore.

  • Chuck Howell

    I saw this the other day and actually found myself paying attention because the animation was so engaging. It was kind of strange to find myself studying an anti-depressant ad as if it were the work of Warner’s or Disney, but I thought it was a good use of the craft. I think (as has been pointed out) the fact that the product is not depicted as a “magic bullet” is also effective, and allows the animators to do some interesting character work with the “cloud of depression.”

  • Some Girl

    How come we don’t see anything like this in our state? Unless I ahve been watching the wrong channels. Pfft..GA.

  • Hilarious

    I’m not sure if this ad is meant to be pro- or anti-drug.


  • Metallicfire

    Is that Buffy’s mom? And if so, why doesn’t she just get the Slayer to kill the depression demon?

  • AdrianC.

    I love how depression is taking notes during the doctor’s presentation.

  • cc

    am i the only one that’s bothered by the whiteness of this? i don’t know the demographics so maybe that could be the issue, but i find it irritating to have the doctor characters be consistently white older men.
    i saw some pharma illustration with a female asian doctor, i wanted to take the drug just because they were a little more aware.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Surprised someone uses political correctness as an effective tool.

    • Beau Zeaux

      Oh Jeez! For once, a white man wasn’t portrayed as some doofus who needed to be educated by either his wife or his kids. I guess you would’ve preferred the doctor to be a black woman in dreadlocks? Silly question, I guess …

  • Chris Sobieniak

    If it wasn’t for the fact we have the typical disclaimer being hammered at the usual rate, we would not have this cool animation of a women overcoming her depression and takes the family out for a picnic. The commercial would certainly be WAY shorter than it is here without!

  • Vzk

    Looks like Bloo and one of the Amoeba brothers had a child.

  • Club58

    The commercial is OK… but I have a strange observation: both male charactors have no shoulders. Is that weird? since they both (Dr. & “Husband”) It must be on purpose. Can anyone shead light on that?

  • Meh

    I wish they would make a beany baby out of the depression blob. I could put it on my desk when I’m depressed so everyone will leave me alone. I love this ad! Especially when the blob is taking notes.

  • Crashinit

    If you love animation in drug ad’s get ready.Drug company will use more and more animation because of the new laws on drug ad’s who forced ad maker to mention thing like this:This guy not a real doctor-This girl a actor-Paid testimony ETC…

  • Beau Zeaux

    Two comments by “Mark” at the top of this list strike me as particularly dumb:

    1. Placebos have been shown to work better than anti-depressants – Really? You mean taking an anti-depressant is worse than doing nothing? So I guess the stupid (by your reasoning) pharmaceutical companies should instead work on a drug to make you depressed instead, because they’ll always get it bass-ackwards by your reasoning, huh?

    2. Take Valerian instead, because it’s “natural”. Whatever’s in Valerian is a CHEMICAL, Mark! Did you know that there are many, many, many deadly poisons that are “natural”?

    Please desist from passing off your personal politics as medical advise …

  • K.D.J.

    Oh my god as someone who deals with hardcore depression I can tell you the cartoon woman and doctor (especially the look on the doctors face who is on the movie screen talking about the side effects) are SO CREEPY. Even just the whole feel of the add is creepy. It would been a strange campaign with live actors but using the cartoon just makes it creepy.

  • Chris

    I am not a doctor nor a pharmacist, but depression and other mental disorders are serious diseases that millions of people deal with everyday and are going on with their lives untreated because they feel there is no hope. My problem with this commercial is that it looks like an after school tv special for 5 year olds. Yeah kids dont worry, depression is just a cute old sad robe that holds you down, I think it’s just a real cheap shot that insults everyones intelligence and insults people who have depression. It’s a little more complicated then a sad robe, and a commercial like this could actually make someone feel worse because it doesn’t take the issue seriously. But to add to the debate on prescription drugs, remember that cute little white puff ball Zoloft? Didn’t that drug cause some real serious harm to a lot of people? I think the other point is that taking any drug is not a subject to be taken lightly and using cartoon animations sort of gives people a false sense of security. Now where else did we see cartoons being used to push harmful products to your health, ahem! Joe camel, ahem! Joe camel! How is ablilify any different just from a marketing stand point?

  • William


    As someone who has worked in the field for the last 15 years, I can cynically say that your positive results with anti-depressants like these are incredibly rare. I see these things prescribed after the doctors here see the patients (for the first time) in less than ten minutes. If you poke around outside of your own situation, you can imagine how dangerous this would be given the criteria of the DSM-IV+ is incredible for contradictions. Patients can rattle off symptoms in the given ten minutes and they could actually be suffering from something that an anti-depressant would just send spinning off into chaos.

    Look around, the internet is CRAWLING with people suffering after going from doctor to doctor to doctor with permanent damage done to their nervous system, and more often than not, having their situation worsened by medication. And more often than not, the cases I see overcome it do so by changing their diet, exercising, minimizing how much time they are sitting around idle at the computer and couch.

    I’m glad the medicine helped you Stephen, but like I said…you are the rarity. These drive by ten minute evaluation prescriptions are going for numbers. If we shoot prozac out to 100 people, a handful of them will truly be helped. The same way a telemarketer can cold call 200 people, a handful of the people will actually be potential customers.

    The drive-thru approach to administering drugs like this is extremely dangerous, especially given the likely hood many patients can be suffering from a serious mental illness that will be overlooked as depression and anxiety, and that’s when things get very dangerous.

    Even if you are the rare birds who were lucky and were given a medicine that addressed your problem when absolutely nothing else wood, you CAN not overlook this reality, and you should still be extremely alarmed. These are not black and white “statistics”. This is every day, more and more people, in droves. Look around.

    The cartoon is realistic, though. It isn’t that far off where a patient would go see his doctor and instead of being able to engage in a meaningful discussion, he’d be presented a video of a doctor presenting an infomercial for the drug he’s about to be prescribed. Read the pamphlets, kids.

    • Richard

      Right on! Great animation!

  • Vidurr Skjoldrbrot

    Beautiful animation. The background reminded me of the old Peter rabbit cartoon. Soft, light and peaceful. The characters where smooth and well drawn. I would love to see this animation team do a prime time comedy cartoon in this style. I would not only dvr every episode just to see the art but if it was well written I’d buy every season.

  • alecks

    Why is the disclaimer of side effects like thoughts of suicide and higher chances of death of heart disease. And what about the insert what are they made of. More people die from prescription drugs than illegal drugs. Do research and look at the pros and cons.

  • GB

    Style reminds me of The Critic.

  • nikto

    I stand for the day when all children take Abilify.

    Abilify’s GREAT.

  • nikto

    “If Abilify causes you to become a zombie seeking to eat human flesh, discontinue use.”