Charlex Falls in Love with VerizonLopez Negrete recently enlisted the help of Charlex to bring to life a unique and entertaining :60 spot for Verizon's newest campaign.

"They came to us with a concept that was truly unique for their client," reported Charlex director Ryan Dunn. "They wanted to create a direct sales spot with a story but no live-action. Instead, they wanted to tell the story strictly through character animation. It was a fun challenge, and one we were up for."

The storyline is simple but effective: a guy is in love with a girl in Alaska, but their Internet connection freezes and their relationship turns cold. Verizon comes along and saves the day, and the boy meets another girl from a much warmer part of the globe. Charlex's quirky visuals perfectly echo the silly romance and the spot's intentionally naïve qualities.

Because of the relatively tight schedule for the job—five weeks from start to completion—the agency encouraged a simplistic approach to the design and animation. Dunn and his team had ultimately pitched three distinct looks for the commercial, based on three very different illustration styles. The client immediately responded to the "melting transitions" that Charlex's art director Masayoshi "Masa" Nakamura created on the initial treatment, which included a globe morphing into an igloo.

"We have a history of collaborating with this agency," Senior Producer Alex Jarman added. "They recognize and appreciate the firepower the Charlex crew is able to bring to the job."

Once the client had settled on the look and creative direction of the spot, the Charlex team faced a simple but notable challenge: in order to achieve the loose, abstract morphs, the team needed to use cel animation. But this approach wouldn't have been effective schedule-wise, so they transformed Masa's illustrations into puppets in order to get the bulk of the acting across. "This allowed us to create more controllable face and body animations," said Dunn, "which gave them a bit more heart and soul, and also allowed us to make revisions more easily. We still built cel animated transitions, but puppeteering was the backbone of the editorial process."

Charlex assigned four animators, a designer, and two Flame artists to the task of fleshing out the subtle aspects of the characters and their storyline. "What does it look like when the guy falls in love with Verizon?" Dunn wondered rhetorically. "Does he jump for joy? Does he put his hand over his heart? Does he swoon? Float? Faint?" The team played with a range of possible reactions/emotions for each shot, seeking out the best way to tell the story. They spent the first week of the design process ensuring that all of the characters were rendered with enough detail to portray a range of emotions.

But the storyline is only "one of the two masters you have to serve with this kind of job," Dunn added. "You also have to include an overt call to action in the form of extended title cards. We did our best to blend the love story with the title cards, without forcing our hand." Dunn reported that the client—although new to working with this type of animation on a spot—"was completely onboard from day one and very happy with the results."