“Telling stories that matter”: How we use animation to draw the world’s attention to sensitive topics

Nov 23, 2022

Rooftop is all about telling stories that matter. But the stories that matter are not always ‘pretty’. 

They’re about war, child soldiers, communities who have been devastated by weather disasters, child marriage, and gender-based violence. 

Understandably, it’s difficult for viewers to watch video footage of these issues. But making sure they are brought to the attention of as many people, governments, and organisations as possible, is the first step to effecting change. 

This is the vision we share with the majority of our clients, and the reason Rooftop has a dedicated animation and motion graphics team to handle sensitive projects.  

In the past, we’ve also combined video footage, photos and animation together to draw the viewer in. Our scripts, artwork, music, voiceovers and sound design all combine to create an impactful product that is true to the topic but also encourages action.

How we helped raise awareness about the civilian impact of the war in Ukraine.

It’s not just the soldiers on the frontlines who are impacted by war. In 2022, millions of Ukrainians were forced to flee their homes when Russia launched its attack on the country. 

To raise more awareness of how the war was impacting civilians, UNICEF approached Rooftop to create a animation video using drawings created by Ukrainian children.

This posed the unique challenge of sharing the children’s stories in an authentic way, and using their artwork without trivialising a very serious topic. 

The UNICEF team sourced hundreds of drawings from Ukrainian children who had been asked to share their experiences of life before the war, their escape, and their present situation.

Creating an emotive, relatable balance between imagination and reality.

The animation team initially decided not to use a voiceover as we wanted the animation to speak for itself. But one child’s story stood out amongst the rest, and he was eventually included in the video with a brief voiceover. 

Eleven-year-old Maxym’s submission showed his entire experience in striking detail, and it created a solid framework for our animation team to work with. 

A brief video clip of Maxym appears towards the end of the animation, creating a very emotive link between the children’s drawings and their reality. 

Seeing his face and hearing him say the words “I’m wishing for the war to end” makes a strong statement. Audiences are suddenly transported away from the animation, to face the reality that real children in Ukraine are suffering. 

Primary colours for visual impact.

When it came to choosing colours for the animation, the children’s artwork was once again the major inspiration. Their bold use of primary colours showed audiences the strength of the emotion that the children put into their drawings.

Bright reds for ‘danger’, ‘injury’ and ‘fear’, black and red combined in scenes of chaos, while their memories of ‘home’ were more subtle blues and greens. 

Viewers around the world can easily relate to the children’s drawings – their tears as they wave goodbye to family, the sense of loss, and the anxiety of arriving in a new place as a refugee. 

Sound design.

Instead of a voiceover, we decided to keep it the video as simple as possible. We didn’t want the animations to be overshadowed in any way by on-screen-text or subtitles. The images speak for themselves, and we wanted the viewer’s full attention to be focused on them. 

So, we used music and sound design to drive the energy and intensity of the animation until the final message from Maxym at the end. 

This video documenting children’s’ experience of the war in Ukraine is just one of the many impactful motion graphics videos created by the Rooftop team. And we will continue to use this style to start conversations, ignite action, and build awareness around important topics in the future. 

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