Best Christmas animations of all time : staff picks
You know the festive season is in full swing when you see the first Christmas adverts of the year: they really set our merriment into motion and fill us with festivity! We always look forward to seeing what gets produced – be it and ad from one of the largest and most anticipated marketing performers, or an unexpected gem.
There have been some memorable animated ads released this year, some of which have taken center stage – such as Disney’s The Stepdad, with its contemporary depiction of a modern family and introduction to the new song Love Runs Deeper by Gregory Porter. Aldi has developed on the long-running story of Kevin the carrot and his family with the addition of Ebanana Scruge, and McDonald’s has introduced the character Imaginary Iggy in the touching story of a girl and her imaginary friend.
2021 has had a lot to live up to though, as throughout the years there has been a wealth of animated adverts that have marked the festive season. We asked the Ministry of Motion team to look back at what they think is the best festive animation of all time.
Erste Christmas Ad 2018
“I’m a big fan of Erste’s Christmas ad, both for its lovely story and incredible visual style. The fluffy textures give it the feel of an arts and crafts project, which works perfectly to highlight the main character’s problem. Pair that with lovely set design and cinematography, and it’s an all-round adorable Christmas short. Wonderful stuff!” – Adam
2018 marked the first of Erste’s Christmas animated ad campaigns, and since then we’ve met numerous delightfully varied and equally charming characters.
Created by Jung Von Matt and Passion Pictures, Erste’s 2018 animation features Henry the Hedgehog trying to settle into his new school. There’s just one problem: his prickly spines prevent him from getting close to his classmates. The advert rises to a heartwarming peak when we see his woodland classmates have given him a gift to protect his spines and allow him to become closer to his friends. The fuzzy felt aesthetic of the animation helps give it an extra layer of childlike wonder, like that fuzzy feeling we get inside when we think of our childhood Christmas memories.
Irn-Bru Snowman Ad 2006
“I love this advert. A parody of the original short animation, it’s darkly funny and beautifully animated; the line ‘He nicked my Irn Bru and let go of my hand’ gets me every time.” – Alex
Christmas adverts can be well known for shamelessly tugging at our heartstrings and doing everything possible to evoke an emotional response. Irn Bru, however, had a different idea. The advert parodies one of the most renowned Christmas animations of all time: The Snowman. It flips the narrative of a kind and caring relationship between a boy and a snowman on its head, with a can of Irn Bru ultimately causing the snowman to drop the boy who refuses to share his fizzy pop.
Produced by The Leith Agency, the advert succeeded in making something that’s not only genuinely really funny, but that cuts through the noise by being starkly different in approach than the majority of adverts of the season. It also does so while remaining visually striking and brilliantly animated.
This has led to it being one of the most memorable Christmas adverts of all time – even 15 years on – and to a sequel being created in 2018.
Iceland Christmas Ad 2018
“It’s one of my favorite ads because it’s made to appeal to both Children and Adults but it’s non-traditional in that it carries an important message. There’s also a really nice combination of traditional hand-drawn looking 2D animation which we don’t see so much anymore, with 3D animation. The clash of styles is really what makes the message so impactful – like any good animation the medium is really important to the storytelling too.” – Sasha
In 2018 Iceland teamed up with Greenpeace to publish an advert that gained a lot of media attention when it was banned for being ‘too political’. This was due to its message on the negative effects that products containing palm oil have on the environment, causing deforestation and endangering wildlife. This ban from TV didn’t hold the ad back from making an impact – rather, the news encouraged curious viewers to seek it out and see what it was all about.
The advert takes an unorthodox approach to Christmas marketing: watching it, there is little to make it distinguishable as a Christmas advert at all. Instead, it focuses on a pressing issue of our time and allows Iceland to step up as responsible for the role the organization plays in our future.
Created by Mother, the animation is beautifully drawn, and employs a storybook style, both visually and through the narrative. This helps us see things through the innocent eyes of the animals which are endangered due to deforestation. It also provokes us to think: what will the world look like for the next generation of children? Mother has documented the impact this advert had on children and schools on their website https://motherlondon.com/work/greenpeace-rang-tan
BBC One Christmas Ad 2017
“I love this advert not just for its delightful visual style, but also for the level of detail that makes it seem like it could be set in a home on my street, or a school in my town. Although the message is just as ‘heartwarming’ and ‘magical’ as is expected for a Christmas advert, there’s a level of relatability to real life that makes it really touching.” – Clare
The Supporting Act focuses on the relationship between a girl and her busy father, who doesn’t appear to always have the time to pay attention to his daughter. The story concludes with the father supporting his daughter through her school talent show and subsequent stage fright by dancing alongside her, showing her that he knows her dance moves from all the time they’ve spent together.
There’s a wonderfully satisfying tactility to the style of the animation throughout, and the classic message we often see in Christmas adverts, that friends and family is what it’s all about, has been launched into a contemporary setting.
The animation by BBC Creative and Blinkink was painstakingly created, and again, the ‘making of’ video for it is an awe-inspiring watch (https://blinkink.co.uk/projects/bbc-christmas-the-supporting-act).
John Lewis Christmas Ad 2013
“For me this has to be one of the best. The film is a beautiful spectacle to behold, but from a production standpoint the way it was created takes it to a whole new level. They could have simply motion tracked the set and added the characters in post, which would have been a far more cost-effective solution. But hey, when you’re John Lewis and it’s a Christmas animation, it’s worth investing… So instead, they printed and laser cut every frame of the characters and placed it into the shot so that it was stop motion. The results of this (rather painstaking) approach added something magical and unique. For me it’s as much about the effort and creative as the final piece.” – Andy
The John Lewis Christmas adverts are always greatly anticipated, and the company has an outstanding track record for producing well-received adverts that have almost become synonymous with Christmas. They have also inspired many other creatives and companies to follow in their footsteps.
The Bear and the Hare is one of their impactful classics, and it seems to have everything one could ask for in a Christmas advert: a collection of loveable critter characters, a story focused on friendship and togetherness, and a visual style that nostalgically harks back to classic children’s storybooks.
What’s perhaps even more impressive is watching the ‘making of’ video from creators Adam & Eve DDB (https://youtu.be/lCB_5japiIg). It’s incredible to see the careful production process, which involves an innovative combination of digitally produced imagery, traditional drawing and some elaborate set footage.