The NSPCC has teamed up with Aardman and OMD UK to launch a brand new animation ‘Pantosaurus’ in cinemas across the UK to get parents talking to their children about sexual abuse. Animator extraordinaire, Lucy Izzard, shared with us about working on the project. 

What an amazing project to be a part of! Tell us how you were involved in creating Pantosaurus. 

It is an amazing project to be a part of! Not only do I get to animate dinosaurs, they're dinosaurs dancing in pants! And it's all for a really good cause. The NSPCC came to us at Aardman (where I freelance as an Animation Director) and said they'd like to make a song and animated video to teach 4-7 year olds about keeping safe from sexual abuse. They had already created a little dinosaur called Pantosaurus who featured on a pair of pants in some of their reading material, so he seemed like the perfect character to bring to life for our film and help explain to kids how they can stay safe. 

What were the challenges in creating the animation? Was it tricky finding the perfect visual elements to communicate a sensitive issue?

Pantosaurus' original design 

Pantosaurus' original design 

The song was commissioned first and this in itself was tricky. It had to be really memorable so that the children can easily pick up and remember the key points and just as the tone of the visuals had to be carefully thought through, so too did the language used so that the children would understand the message being told. A company called Adelphoi made the song and then Aardman animated the video. We had discussed with the composers at Adelphoi that we thought Pantosaurus should be our main lead, taking the kids through a narrative, sharing the serious message but also being fun and light hearted to make it the kind of thing they want to watch over and over again. The whole purpose of the video is to act as a conversation starter for parents to feel more at ease bringing up this difficult subject with their children. We wanted to keep the visuals subtle without being too overt in tone, that way the parents have the option to go into as much detail with their children on the topic as they feel conformable. 

The original design of Pantosaurus needed a bit of work before beginning animation, so I made some slight design adjustments to keep him looking cute and about the same age as the target audience; I squared off the head shape and made it slightly larger to give the impression he was a younger and added some spikes to the end of his tail. 

The animation and song is so cheerful and catchy – a great way to cut through on a very serious message. Why is animation the perfect medium to convey this message?

Animation is perfect for engaging children, they love the bold bright colours and simple shapes. And in animation, a world of dinosaurs is completely believable! Animation allows you to step away from showing race, sex and wealth - three things that are completely irrelevant to sexual abuse. We looked at lots of children's television series for inspiration whilst making this; Peppa Pig and Hey Duggee being two.

 Anything else you'd like to share about the project? 

It was tricky to get the dance routine right. The NSPCC asked a choreographer to create a routine that children could easily copy. But once we'd recreated it in animation form, it didn't look very dynamic and they wanted something a bit more fun like our animatic. So we loosened up on the copy-ability and found something which is fun to watch and not too tricky to mimic - even if the kids get a few of the moves, that'll be great! 

See more of Lucy Izzard's work here