Digital storybook teaches cyber safety
Keeping children safe from online bullying, inappropriate content and predators masquerading as ‘friends’ can seem like a daunting challenge. The New Zealand government’s new digital storybook ‘Inter-Yeti’ supports cyber safety education for children, an initiative the Watermark Creative team are incredibly proud to have been a part of.
Through five chapters of animated graphics, a friendly young yeti named Gunther helps children build their knowledge and learn how to make informed choices about cyber safety issues. The adventure begins when Gunther receives a delivery of a brand new laptop to his ice cave. He gets sucked into a digital vortex where he finds mean troll-like characters who taunt him, a sea full of dark information, and a stranger offering him gifts. His trusty friend Byte helps him to make informed decisions around what to do in each situation.
The Watermark Creative team were briefed by digital creative agency PHQ to provide character design, environment and interactive design, and animation. Over a 3 month period, our team of cross-disciplinary artists brought PHQ’s vision to life, crafting 60 scenes, 25 unique characters and 150 individual character animations. Each scene required storyboards to plan out the visual composition, while the main characters required dozens of unique pose variations (including over 50 for our hero Gunther).
Ensuring that such a rich interactive experience would run smoothly online came with a number of challenges, and with a relatively tight timeframe to work within, it became imperative to find smart solutions.
Key to our success was pulling together a synergistic team of creatives who excel at their craft, and who know each other’s strengths and ways of working. The team consisted of Anton Petrov (storyboarding & lead artist), Shannon Jahnel Lanktree (animation director), David Way (artwork, animation, project management), Phillip Small (supporting artwork) and Meng Hong (animation).
Our close relationship with the PHQ development team enabled us to find intelligent ways to bring the world to life without overloading devices. We developed a system that allowed us to reuse animation and artwork assets between scenes and chapters, so that as the project moved forward, we had fewer new assets to create. This had a dual benefit in that these scenes were better optimised, allowing us to bundle a lot of animation into the same character, which only need to be downloaded once, but can be used across many scenes.
We’re incredibly proud of our creative contribution to this project, and the unique elements each team member brought to the process. Anton’s rich renderings of the environments captivate the reader, while his use of visual puns add a playful element to the storyline. Shannon’s vivid imagination and meticulous attention to detail ensure that each character has its own unique appeal, while Meng’s masterful animations further draw the reader into the adventure. David’s expert project management ensured that every deliverable exceeded expectations.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this project was seeing how Gunther’s journey developed from an idea in a script, to an animated adventure that educates and inspires transformation. Knowing that the book is actively being used by schools and families to create positive change brings an overall feeling of satisfaction to every hour that was spent on fine tuning and optimisation.
Client: New Zealand Government
Storyboarding & lead artist: Anton Petrov
Animation director: Shannon Jahnel Lanktree
Artwork, animation, project management: David Way
Animator: Meng Hong
Supporting artwork: Phill Small