ESPOLÒN Tequila's creative team here at BFG came across a unique scenario recently — a digital artist went rogue and used the brand's beloved logo mark (Ramón the Rooster) on Instagram. Okay, people post this image all the time; it’s even become a popular tattoo. It wasn't just that this artist USED the artwork, though — it's that he brought it to life.
"I love the @EspolonTequila label illustration, but couldn't resist the urge to move it," motion designer Ryan Woolfolk said about why he animated Ramón the Rooster, whose head now vividly bobs as he runs.
Bridging the gap between the brand and its fans, Ryan's Instagram post paved the way for BFG to use truly fan-generated social content for ESPOLÒN. The creative team reached out to the artist and asked him to create a more in-depth animation of the bearded calavera, one of ESPOLÒN's scraggly skeletons with a knack for good music. Ryan eagerly agreed to help in exchange for a box of swag and some credit, and then created an amazing video for ESPOLÒN's social channels that is now part of a highly visible VICE.com media takeover.
The lesson here is to take note of a brand's fan base. BFG could have easily used its extensive network of designers to put together a similar video, but by using an actual ESPOLÒN fan to create the artwork instead, a sense of trust is built between ESPOLÒN and its creative community, and a new resource was discovered.
Read on to learn about Ryan Woolfolk's process throughout both animations, Ramón the Rooster and the bearded calavera.
ESPOLÒN is hands down my favorite tequila. Smooth and full of flavor. You don’t need a chaser. Most of the time I’m sipping on it neat from a lowball.
The thing about ESPOLÒN that first caught my eye was the label. Hand drawn in a traditional Day of the Dead style, it looks more like something I would frame and hang on my wall than a typical tequila label. I appreciate great illustration work, but the motion designer inside me always wants to see it move. Every time I saw the bottle the urge to animate Ramón grew stronger. One day I finally caved.
Typically I have the original file neatly split up into layers that I can then rig and connect to create some sweet motion graphics magic. Since I was going rogue I had to surf the web to find the highest res image available. The detail in these characters is intense. When a skeleton rides a rooster, his legs swing and his arms bounce. To achieve that motion I had to cut out the skeleton in order to manipulate it, leaving a cavity in the rooster, like holes in a magazine when you cut out images. I had to clone different parts of the rooster to seamlessly fill the holes.
As difficult as Ramón was, he was easy compared to the guitarist. Cutting up the skeleton resulted in several late nights ending in blurred vision and crossed eyes. It was almost impossible to tell which lines belonged to his beard versus his shirt. His crossed legs took several attempts to get right.
Once all the legs, feet, arms, hands, guitar, and other moving parts were separated and their resulting holes filled in, it was time to rig the character so I could bring it to life. Rigging is basically connecting layers and setting them up to move and bend like they would naturally. To get the strumming arm to move properly I had to cut it into three parts, shoulder, forearm, and hand. Then I made sure they all rotated in the proper spots, i.e. shoulder rotates upper arm, elbow bends forearm while forearm moves with shoulder, and hand follows forearm while rotating around the wrist.
Once the character was rigged and had the proper controllers set up, I began setting key frames to animate his foot taps and head bobs to music. I had my musician friend and digital film director at LEAPframe demonstrate the type of strum pattern. Getting the right pattern to hit at the right time was tedious. The fret hand was even more complex. I had to rotate the fingers while simultaneously moving both the hand and arm to match guitar hits.
Motion design is just another form of illusion. It’s always cool to start seeing something lifeless begin to move. There were several times I felt like giving up but overcoming challenges keeps things interesting and the need to see something come to life pushes me through the difficult moments. That and my glass of ESPOLÒN Reposado.
— Ryan Woolfolk is the Sr. Motion Designer at LEAPframe, a digital film and motion design boutique located in Cincinnati, OH.