Natterjack a good fit for Nike

Steven Evangelatos, head of Vancouver's Natterjack Animation, is a fan of the off-beat....

Steven Evangelatos, head of Vancouver’s Natterjack Animation, is a fan of the off-beat.

And the work speaks for itself.

In its first year of operation – Natterjack opened its doors in November 1993 – the animation company has worked on a series of inserts for mtv’s The Brothers Grunt, a feature film entitled Felidae for Germany’s Trickompany, pregame interstitials for Fox’s Grunt’n'Punt, segments of the cd-rom game Peter and the Wolf for Kroyer Films and Chuck Jones, a series of Mighty Max spots for Film Roman, and an episode for Nelvana’s animated interstitials, Stickin’ Around.

And, after completing a 60-second animated segment for the live-action feature film Tank Girl for San Francisco’s Colossal Pictures (‘Initially, Colossal was nervous about giving us a break on the job. But we were relatively inexpensive and very eager. They took a chance and were pleased,’ says Evangelatos), Colossal threw a pool of three 30-second Nike (Japan) spots Natterjack’s way.

Evangelatos jumped at the opportunity to direct the ads. ‘I’ve always respected Colossal and the work that they do,’ he says.

The Nike spots, out of Portland, Oregon agency Wieden and Kennedy, began airing in Japan last month.

The three-part series – ‘Effort,’ ‘Friendship’ and ‘Victory’ – chronicle the heated rivalry between two baseball teams, the Black Hearts (aka the bad guys) and the Super Nike team (aka the good guys) in a ‘to be continued’ format. The spots combine stylized black-and-white comic book animation of backgrounds and baseball players which interact with live-action, full-color players.

Since all the animation was done in Vancouver (with producer Mandy Kealey and animators Daniel Lefrance, Chris Derochie and Andy Bartlett on the Natterjack team), Evangelatos spent a lot of time on the phone, talking with Colossal director Gordon Clark every couple of days for the two months it took to do the job.

‘We wanted to reproduce the Japanese style of sports animation and go further with it. In this case a baseball diamond is turned into a war zone,’ says Evangelatos. ‘We also wanted to make reference to the black-and-white comic books that are so popular in Japan.’

At Colossal, Anne Smith produced and Yukiko Ishiwata posted. Ben Grylewicz produced for Wieden and Kennedy, John Jay was the creative director and Jamie Barrett the copywriter.

Originally from Montreal, and raised in Ottawa, Evangelatos is a veteran of the animation biz, with a career spanning 14 years and Canada, Europe and the u.s.

He believes in the craft of animation: ‘My primary concern is quality, not quantity. I’ve never wanted to work in some animation hack shop cranking out ream after ream of product. I think it’s important that young Canadian animators get trained properly – even if they have to go the United States to do it. Hopefully, they’ll come back to Canada and start their own studios.’

With a repertoire of commercial work, television and feature films, Evangelatos hopes to do more work in the theatrical genre. ‘Ideally, I’d like to work on five- to six-minute shorts for theater,’ he says.

But for now, and the rest of this year, Evangelatos and a staff of 22 will be working on a sequel to Trickompany’s animated feature film Werner, about the adventures of two troublemakers. ‘It’s very non-Disney and non-traditional – with a lot of fast-action craziness.’