Tea Time

An unexpected highlight of the Scotland Loves Anime Festival has turned out to be a surreal quest narrative that has been screened before every film on offer in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It’s the new advert for Twinings tea, “Getting You Back to You”, (see it here) and according to its makers, is intended as an allegory of ten minutes of “me-time”.

“Women today juggle such a wide variety of roles, on a day to day basis, whether it is being a mother, housekeeper, cook, employee or friend. Recent research has revealed that women all over the UK are so focused on looking after others, they do not have the opportunity to take any “me-time”, and as a result are sometimes left forgetting who they really are.”

By “recent research”, I think they mean a focus group at Red magazine, but rediscoveries of the wheel aside, the Twinings advert brings to mind a subject that has been recurring throughout the festival, and particularly at the Education Day on Friday. Here we are, at a week-long series of events dedicated to animation, including not only Scotland Loves Anime, but also showcases for Polish animators and presentations from Aardman and a workshop from Axis. And yet the animated works seen on the most occasions, by the most attendees, regardless of what they actually paid to see, are commercials.

Psyop, the company that made the Twinings advert, are the latest in a long line of animators who have used advertising as a patron of the arts. All three presentations at the Education Day showed commercials as part of their studio showcase, and noted that it was a far better way of paying the bills than animating stick-men in a garret and waiting to be discovered.

The Twinings advert has met with repeated hilarity at Scottish screenings, largely, I think, because some people have confused it with a festival bonus film, only to discover that they are being sold a cup of tea. But in terms of generating interest in the product, it already has people talking. Since part of my job here is to introduce the films, I have had to sit through the adverts before every single one, and have been noting the number of times that animation plays a part. Red Bull, entirely animated. M&Ms, integrating animation and live-action. Even Orange, in their “Phone Break” satire, have had to pay someone to go away and make the “Phone Break” animation that appears on movie screens as part of the advert.

I’ve written elsewhere about the most widely seen piece of Japanese animation in 1958, which, contrary to expectations, was not the feature-length colour movie Hakujaden, but a 60-second commercial for Torys Whisky. The recent book Anime-gaku claims that up to 70% of early Japanese commercials used animation in some form, even if it was just a simple graphic presentation of the way that an indigestion tablet worked, or a striking product logo. This has always been the way, and the Festival Director Andrew Partridge and I will be discussing the presence, absence and enduring value of short animation at our Q&A later today.

But first I have to go in for my last day of duties. Firstly, herding cats at the festival jury, in order to pick our winner. Still no name for the award. I have suggested the “Golden Partridge”. Someone else has mooted the Scotland Loves Anime Vaginahands Homodolphin. I think we’ll just call it the Judges’ Award. Then I have Ryosuke Takahashi for a Q&A on his career and an introduction to the Tekken movie. OH…I nearly forgot, I am off to London on the sleeper tonight. I’d better pack!

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