Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity) has launched an animated film to bring to life the journey their patients make from hospital to home at Christmas. The film was created in partnership with creative communications agency adam&eveDDB, alongside illustrator and animator Marlies van der Wel, a newly signed director at Partizan Studio whose “digital cut-out” style caught our eye earlier this year.
The short film features Mia, a real-life patient at GOSH, one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals. Mia was especially animated for this film alongside her sister Amy, both of whom were treated at the hospital years apart for the same rare condition. Mia was just three weeks old when she was admitted to GOSH, returning home just in time to meet her big sister on Christmas Eve.
Marlies explains how Mia ended up being the star of the film. “The briefing for the film centred around that feeling we all know from being a kid,” she tells us. “That feeling of jumping out of bed before dawn to see what a magic Christmas morning has brought into your home.” Early on in the process, she and the team were shown footage of Mia and Amy running downstairs in matching pyjamas to open their Christmas stockings. “When we saw the home film footage of Mia and her sister, the decision was made,” Marlies says. “She was going to be our main character.” This home-video footage, taken by Mia and Amy’s mum, Sam, is still visible at the end of the film.
However, the film – which is set to a score composed by Dutch musician Pieter de Graaf – opens the night before, with Mia falling asleep in her room at GOSH, adorned with festive decorations. A magical force wheels her and other patients out of the hospital to start their journey to their homes across the country. Featuring landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle, the Angel of the North and Clevedon Pier, the film reflects the fact that over half of seriously ill children treated at GOSH live outside of the capital.
While magic, of course, plays a major role in the short, the creative team were keen to balance the magical elements with realism. “While the beds are being driven by a magical force, we didn’t want to overdo it with too much magic and enchantment, as that would only be distracting,” says Marlies. “I tried to create a plausible world, where an observing fox and squirrel are just as amazed as we would be at the sight of a hospital bed passing by.”
One particular moment felt a bit too real for one of Marlies’s team, however. “One of my animators was feeling sorry for the kid who initially had her blanket slip down due to the bumpy cobblestone road, and tucked her back in.”
Stylistically, Marlies wanted to use the same “digital cut-out” style she had perfected in her film Jonas and the Sea (2017), in which she combined pictures in a photo-collage and then painted over them digitally, combining scanned textures with brushstrokes. For this film, though, she had a limited timeframe, so, she says, “I decided to combine this technique with a more simplistic stylised design, which led me to a combination of cut-out and hand-drawn images. I got heaps of photos and drew all characters from real existing staff and patients.” This means that while the animation of Mia is detailed, with textures and colour, her surrounding is “more stylised in a duotone colour palette”.
The film is part of GOSH Charity’s Home For Christmas campaign. The money raised from this year’s campaign will go towards funding vital resources and the support that GOSH needs to get seriously ill children back home as quickly as possible.