Kong Studio Help Abeo Realise her Potential in a Short for Pentagram and the Gates Foundation
The story follows Abeo, whose life opportunities depend on her ability to read, which was created in collaboration with Alleana Harris and Pentagram for the Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Hub.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Global Education Program in 2018 to improve reading and maths outcomes. Also referred to as the Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Hub, the initiative focuses on children in their early years in sub-Saharan Africa and India. The programme aims to provide data and resources to help identify barriers and provide support to make meaningful progress in improving learning outcomes.
Pentagram, the world-renowned multi-disciplinary and independent design agency, approached Kong Studio to create an animation exploring issues around access to education and being able to read with understanding. It was important that the detrimental effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on educational attainment was also included, stressing the urgency to reverse the last few years of disrupted learning.
American illustrator Alleanna Harris designed the characters which then became part of presenting the literacy data from the Foundational and Numeracy Hub. Pentagram wanted a visual way of presenting the data to make it more accessible. The main character is a young girl called Abeo and we follow her learning and how her life chances differ depending on her level of education.
Tom Baker said, “We love working with Pentagram as they have such an amazing reputation for quality and this project was a fantastic opportunity to blend old talent with new. This was character animation at its purest – bring Abeo to life. An animation like this has over 2000 different drawings and they all need to be cleaned up, coloured-in, on model and sensitive to the subject matter. It’s a lot of work. At Kong, we’re lucky enough to know quite a few talented recent graduates and some seasoned pros, so we were able to create an efficient and happy pipeline.”
To bring the illustrator’s characters to life, Tom called upon the services of two animation stalwarts. Hand-drawn animation expert, Elroy Simmons was joined by animator and writer Harriet Gillian. Harriet, whose short animation ‘Your Mountain is Waiting’ was nominated for a BAFTA this year, brought a wealth of experience in working in 2D animation, while Elroy had previously designed and animated another Pentagram project, ‘Colour of the Climate Crisis’.
Elroy said, “I was pleased to be asked to animate Abeo. I immediately thought of my nieces when they were the same age. Working on a character that would potentially be ‘familiar’ helped me get a handle on her. I felt a responsibility to bring Abeo to life in a way that retained Alleanna Harris’ beautiful character illustrations. Tom Baker and I worked together on Abeo’s movements. We broke down how she walks, tumbles, and picks up a book with the aim to make her as natural, and believable, as possible.”
Naresh Ramchandani, partner at Pentagram said “The Kong Studio team took our illustrations and made them flow into a beautiful film about the life opportunities of an African girl who’s not taught literacy and numeracy at an early age versus the much more fulfilling life she could have if she is.
Kong Studio made the film poignant when it needed to be and rousing when it needed to be – and always very human. Despite the tight schedule, they always took opportunities to improve the film with character-based or music-responsive animation touches that helped make the film a pleasure to watch throughout.”
The result is a touching and visually beautiful animation that explains the literacy data in a simple and accessible way.
Commissioned by Naresh Ramchandani at Pentagram Design
For the Literacy and Numeracy Hub, a part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Illustrations and character design by Alleanna Harris
A Kong Studio Production
Animation Director, Elliott Baker
Sebastiano Fossali, Wiktoria Lewandowska and Tomas Eisenberg
Producer, Emma Burch