Darin Bristow is a 28-year veteran of the Animation industry. As Pipeline Studios' Executive Creative Director, Darin’s leadership has been a major factor in the studio's continued success in delivering globally-recognized, award winning content. Darin truly understands animation production inside & out and his management of Pipeline's talent allows the teams to continually grow, explore innovative new technology and advance new ways to produce content. Prior to leading Pipeline’s initiatives, Darin held a position at Nelvana as an executive within Studio Operations, and before that gained expertise developing cutting-edge VFX for Feature Films at Rhythm and Hues.
When developing animated content aimed at Preschoolers aged 2-5 years of age it is difficult for content creators to determine what the most important and impactful visual elements to incorporate should be to engage this specific audience demographic. With online streamers such as Netflix now considered broadcasters, the battleground for brand awareness has been relegated to rows of 220 x 121-pixel thumbnails, each vying for the viewer’s attention. Meaning, the role of the visual, and specific recipe of the art direction is more important than ever. With the average production budget costs in the millions and the required employee resources in the hundreds, the responsibility of engaging your intended audience has never been greater. With so much money and resources at stake, plus the critical responsibility of shaping the young minds of tomorrow, there must be safeguard processes in place to guide content creators in ensuring all aspects of the content is correctly aligned to their target audience by way of the incorporation of elements known to elicit audience engagement.
Peppa Pig, the 2004 preschool series, has reached a level of global brand success not seen in decades, and as content creator myself, I was well aware of the enormous accolades it continues to receive for its enormous accomplishments. Interestingly, I also noticed that within the celebratory praise and acclaim were derogatory comments, aimed specifically towards its visuals. This conundrum piqued my interest. How could a six-billion-dollar global brand with over two hundred licensees, four theme parks and a recently unveiled seven-year brand strategy which will take the episodic count to 500 not have visuals that were found highly engaging?! As a content creator who witnessed his daughter return to Peppa Pig time and time again, my opinion was that the visuals surely must have played some part, if not an integral part, in attaining this staggering amount of financial and engagement success. Was everyone (everyone being adults) just missing, or more likely, misunderstanding, its enduring and endearing visual allure?! My assumption was that it is an iconographic language only appreciated - and understood- by children. But to what extent did it engage and how deep did the recipe reach, was unknown. The motivation was that surely there must be something to be learned by closely examining its unique aesthetics and my project set out to find out what. The initial questions I needed to determine answers for were somewhat surface: did preschoolers truly find Peppa’s visuals engaging? If so, why, to what extent, and how was this recipe arrived upon? The deeper level questions then became, was Peppa Pig’s simplistic, flat, and highly graphic aesthetic self-aware in its ability to evoke massive engagement, was it an accident, or was it the product of the current focus-testing process? To hit a financial pay dirt of this magnitude surely it must be the product of extensive focus testing and an army of consultants. These where the burning questions I set out to uncover, by way of methodically breaking down a Peppa Pig asset via the production design process and along the way compile the research findings to form a "Best Practices" document to help guide content creators, key stakeholders, artists and educational institutions in creating highly impactful and engaging preschool content.