Obama-mation

Barack Obama commercial

Continuing our coverage of how animation is being used in this year’s Presidential election, below are two pro-Barack Obama spots targeted towards California voters. They were commissioned by the Power Pac organization, and created by Eddie Codel and Ryan Junell. Junell, who handled direction and animation, writes about the spots on his website:

“I made these two ads from concept to completion in less than two weeks with the help of Phillip Niemeyer of Double Triple, Blevin Blectum, Tonya Glanz, and several others. Our target is the younger, fence-sitting voter who needs a positive lift to the voting booth.”

(PS: A friendly reminder to keep discussion in the comments focused on the use of animation in the campaign and the effectiveness of the spots. This is not a forum for expressing political views.)

(via Laughing Squid)


  • slowtiger

    This looks really odd to me – we Germans are used to expensively produced TV spots which try to be serious and, well, very serious indeed. Where is this shown? Does it stand out amongst other ads?

  • HowardK

    They do stand out, and are only a small part of a larger campaign. Virtually all major candidates utilize these tools in some fashion or another.

  • Gobo

    I’m really on the fence with these ads. I love the graphic look of them and the use of type, but everything else — the music, the voices, the characters, and the animation — says “kindergarten Sesame Street segment” to me. And for a candidate trying hard to show how much experience he has, that impression isn’t helping.

  • http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/ Michael Sporn

    They don’t seem to fit in with the dignified candidate I see. Very hard sell and they do feel like Sesame Street. It’s a tough job fitting in with a campaign. I assume these were used specifically for the web.

  • http://eddie.com Eddie Codel

    Thanks for the mention. Like Ryan says on his site, these really are targeted to younger voters (no, not 5-7 year olds). When we came up with the concepts for them, we really wanted to get across one simple idea per video. Candidates have to appeal to many demographics and as long as the general ideas and integrity of the candidate are reflected, I think any style of delivering them are totally valid.

  • http://robcatview.blogspot.com robcat2075

    The chipmunk voices add such a tone of irony that I began to feel the first one wasn’t really “pro” obama at all, but rather was ridiculing his supporters by making them seem shrill and annoying.

    slowtiger’s comment above is interesting. I’ve read that in many countries visible mirthfulness or humor is regarded as unnacceptable for a public official. A sign of unfitness for the serious demands of the job. Japan is often cited that way.

  • http://www.spitandspite.com Spit & Spite

    I agree with robcat2075, but to be fair, I’m sure this ad wouldn’t show up on cnn or any supposedly “credible” news outlet. Maybe Cartoon Network or Comedy Central, possibly MTV. Though I shudder to think what the fans of My Sweet Sixteen and The Real World vote for…

    Anyways, it’s not exactly my cup of tea but with viral videos and the ease of use in producing animation nowadays, it is exciting to see animation playing a role in much more serious subject, I recently heard a discussion where Brad Bird had to correct a (in my opinion) usually well informed interviewer that animation is not a genre so with that being said, I think there is a fine line where animation, even done in a more complicated manner than the simple graphical form presented above, can generally be perceived as “childish” from the starting gate, so I’m curious as to whether the form of animation was a huge consideration in the presentation of this political view. I mean, I don’t think it’s beneficial to have childlike drawings presenting your message but, then again plenty of monstrous corporations incorporate childish images in their campaign for world supremacy so maybe it wasn’t a factor.

    Being an Obaman myself and did find it a bit cynical but that’s just my nature, which is why I can’t believe that I’m so hopeful about what Obama represents (ha! amid), either way, it’s always good when someone gets involved and actually participates in the political process and raises their voice. Kudos on that.

    Also, I don’t think the use of humor hurts a politician here in the states, I mean, look at Huckabee and Chuck Norris.

    Did anyone else get a sort of cheeky, Hertzfeldt sort of vibe from the first ad and its use of voices and scribbled person?

  • Chuck R.

    Good comments above. Robcat, I think the German standards probably apply to the US as well. I suspect these were done unofficially. It looks like they were going for South Park, Munro or Schoolhouse Rock and missed the mark. In a world where you can get in trouble for saying “you’re likable enough” or “he’s articulate”, a flip or silly ad can certainly do more harm than good.

    Eddie, can you say more about how these came to be? And what kind of research was behind them? Is any effort being done to gauge their effectiveness? Does Obama even know they exist?

  • TStevens

    I could actually see something like this working very well for an ad specific to childhood education or for uninsured children. You have to remember that the style is a direct extension of the message. So yeah, for a “get out the vote” type spot it might not be the most suitable style but for a specific issue it might be.

    All in all animation is very risky for candidates because of production time and cost when compared to a “single take” :30 spot. For a halfway look, cut out stills panned in camera is a nice way to go (a la the Kid Stays in the Picture).

  • Thad G.

    Aside from resembling a shotgun marriage between Ernest Pintoff and Heinz Edelmann circa 1970, were these ads effective? Hillary seems to have nabbed most of the California primary vote, possibly because she spent much more time in the state than did Obama.

  • http://www.sandwichbag.blogspot.com Elliot Cowan

    These look jolly enough but I think they are way off the mark. Who is supposed to respond to these? Perhaps it’s a campaign for the future, targeting young ‘uns who will eventually vote for Obama’s offspring…

  • http://junell.net ryan junell

    howdy…

    I’m the director/animator of the two obama spots… two weeks before the primary, a 527 organization focusing on potential obama supporters in california contacted eddie and I about creating some online-only spots with the intent of going “viral”. I hear this in my line of work occasionally and I find it an amusingly vague directive in the era of web 2.0. the 527 settled on creating two pieces, one with a “get out the vote” message and the other with a diversity message… both embedded with a constant sense of obama.

    once we got our marching orders, we were mostly left alone to complete these. the style and direction were entirely left up to us. the 527 is completely independent of the official obama campaign so I really doubt anyone from his camp even saw them.

    I’m a fan of crazy psychedelic videos… so that’s kinda the direction these spots went… these are actually pretty accurate expressions of what came out of me and my friends heads when someone said “GO!”

    the target I was loosely going for was 18 to 26 year old voters in california… I wanted the spots to feel infectiously positive, optimistic, and infused with a spirit of whimsy and fun… I think we accomplished that.

    given the circumstances, I think they turned out awesome and more than speaking to a general community of people, I found these animations spoke very clearly to OUR (eddie and I) communites, which within two degrees of separation I believe made up most of the people that looked at them… we were left alone to publish the videos to youtube, facebook, myspace, and blip. we received GREAT feedback from our people… people that know us and know where we’re coming from… I actually do think we got alot of fence-sitting registered democrat friends to the voting booths and to vote for obama…

    using fun whimsical animation to communicate to several thousand people within OUR specific community was very effective… our people would have looked at anything we made and received the message of “vote” and “vote for obama”… so in that regard, I believe we very much hit the mark…

    I’m enjoying this discussion very much… thanks for posting the vids, cartoonbrew!