The McLaren Group – the Woking-based family of high-tech companies that encompasses Formula 1 motor racing, high-performance sports cars, and the development of an ever-increasing range of motorsport-derived applied technologies – today announces the launch of a new company, McLaren Animation.
McLaren Animation’s first production – Tooned – is a new CGI-animated series that has been targeted to generate new levels of audience engagement and brand loyalty. It features McLaren’s two Formula 1 World Champions, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, who voiced their own characters, as well as the acclaimed British actor and comedian Alexander Armstrong. The series will debut on SKY Sports F1, to coincide with the 2012 Santander British Grand Prix, on July 8.
McLaren Animation, which is a joint venture launched in partnership with the Oscar winning visual effects and animation studio Framestore, is structured under the corporate canopy of the McLaren Group, alongside McLaren Marketing, a company that has consistently broken new ground in the field of Formula 1 marketing since its formation in 1987.
Ron Dennis, Executive Chairman of McLaren Group, said:
“Tooned is the result of extensive market research carried out by McLaren, which John [Allert], our Group Brand Director, and I then analysed carefully together. It’s an exciting and creative concept that addresses the insights gleaned from our research in a very innovative way.
“I’m confident that the opportunities it presents will be extensive. Creating a more demographically accessible ‘face’ for McLaren will help our brand appeal to a wider audience whilst also fostering increased brand loyalty.
“McLaren has always aimed to be pioneering in everything it does. McLaren Animation’s remit and objectives are therefore consistent with, and complementary to, the ethos of continuous innovation on which the McLaren Group has been built.”
Sir William Sargent, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Framestore, said:
“We share a vision and passion for excellence and a common bond in seeking new ways to appeal to new and wider audiences.
“For us our partnership with McLaren provides a perfect platform in a sport we love and with a brand we admire, to innovate new ways and content for McLaren to reach a wider audience.
“I have long admired Ron Dennis and McLaren’s achievements as a world class company – and am pleased to be invited to partner in this new and innovative form of content which opens new channels for McLaren and their drivers to communicate and connect with their audience worldwide.
“The films you see today are a start – and their simplicity and quality hide an enormous commitment in time and technology from a world class team at Framestore – one that has been excited by the McLaren challenge in the same way as they have on a Harry Potter or Superman film.”
John Allert, Group Brand Director of McLaren Marketing said:
“Along with the escalation in complexity of the control systems that orchestrate the watching of TV programmes in homes all over the world, there has also been a gradual shift in the power and influence of children over family viewing habits – not only in terms of what they watch, but also in terms of how they watch it, on PCs and smartphones as well as televisions.
“Into that gap we’ve decided to launch a sophisticated CGI-animated series that follow a tradition established by films such as Toy Story and Wall-E: story-telling that is thematically big in scope and can be enjoyed on a number of levels, appealing to kids and parents alike.
“That new series, Tooned, offers a unique platform for McLaren and its partners to achieve exposure to a wider audience, as well as to integrate brand messaging in a format of a high-octane sport not known for an ability to laugh at itself.”
McLaren Marketing bypassed the traditional creative agency route by approaching Framestore directly. Framestore was then engaged to centralise the roles of creative agency, production company and VFX house, thereby creating the series on a cost-effective budget and to an efficient schedule.
“Tooned will be broadcast as a series of three-minute episodes coinciding with each Formula 1 Grand Prix, and will air in the UK on the SKY Sports F1 channel before each race. Each episode will use the drivers’ celebrated camaraderie and urge to race as fertile territory on which to grow comical adventures that test the patience of ‘Professor M’, voiced by Armstrong. Professor M’s primary role, aside from acting as a comic foil to the two heroes, is to create the weird and the wonderful innovations required to stay at the forefront of Formula 1 motor racing.
Alexander Armstrong, the voice of Professor M said:
“Professor M isn’t based on anyone specific, but I guess you could say that he’s a blend of Steve Jobs from Apple, ‘Q’ from the James Bond movies, and, yes, maybe even one or two people from behind the scenes at the McLaren Technology Centre.”
Writer-directors Chris Waitt and Henry Trotter created the scripts with input from Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley, whose credits include Ten O’Clock Live, That Mitchell and Webb Look and The Armstrong and Miller Show.
Once the basic characters had been mapped out, dialogue was laid down through voice recording sessions, director Waitt encouraging the two drivers and Armstrong to improvise and play off against each other.