Motion Theory creates a better bullseye

Creative production studio Motion Theory has released a cinematic fully animated project to help US retailer Target launch new grocery departments in many stores

Target approached Motion Theory with the goal of creating a dynamic, engaging animated world that embodied teamwork and captured audiences with the personality and style of a feature-length animated feature – all while echoing the friendly, stylish surprises of the Target brand. 


The piece opens with a monumental Target bullseye (the brand logo) opening at the touch of a button – casting a shadow across the landscape and introducing a crew of quirky little workers standing alongside their machines, staring in awe as they see what’s inside the bullseye for the first time. The crew of characters immediately start carting in different fruits and vegetables via all sorts of familiar-looking items built into extraordinary machines. 

The tempo of the story bursts into activity as the camera glides through the action, highlighting remarkable clockwork efficiency within what would otherwise appear to be absolute chaos. The team spirit and personality is explored in cinematic fashion, moving from vertigo inducing high angles and sweeping helicopter shots that look down at the ant-sized workers below, to ground-level angles that show off the great towering mass. Whether they are riding zippy motorized three-wheeled vehicles, using combination wheelbarrow-catapults or bike-powered conveyor belts, or even scaling the bullseye on Mission Impossible-style harnesses, the animated team members are only satisfied when every little nook and cranny in the bullseye is jam-packed with everything fresh. Nor is the exterior ignored either, as the spot ends with a loud squeak of a squeegee making the bullseye shine followed by the departure of the workers.

Creative Process

Motion Theory Director Chris Riehl led the in-house team of animators and artists through a very condensed production schedule that mirrored the character and story development of a much larger CG animated film. The goal from the beginning was to create human and naturalistic characters with the depth to support a great variety of stories. The characters were all developed as in-house originals at Motion Theory, which also created a range of Target-branded utilitarian uniforms and nifty gadgets.

“During the character design process, we really wanted to focus on very relatable and lovable characters,” Reihl told Fired By Design.  “We began by making a list of ironic character archetypes and used a simple shape language of gestures to find the basic form for each character type.  Then we took these generic silhouettes and began to develop their finer details to bring them to life within a very limited palette of actions and minimal screen time.  Ultimately this process made for iconic and simple characters that can communicate a lot with very little.”

Riehl’s vision was to create an engaging and detailed story, providing viewers with new experiences and discoveries even after many views. “Partnering with Target and having the opportunity to create an entirely new animated world with original characters and storyline content was an exciting and fulfilling process for the whole team from the very start,” he said. “The team and I explored every possible detail you see from the memorable cast of characters to the host of strangely specific heavy machinery and vehicles which we hope comes through when watching the spot.”

“Although the time constraints were daunting, the team jumped at the chance to create a group of characters that seem to have a life of their own and a world of style and personality,” adds Danny Zobrist, the project’s CG/Animation Supervisor and Character Lead. “There was a lot of love put into each of these characters and that’s what makes the spot shine.”

“From a technical standpoint, we used Cinema 4D and Maya for pre-vis and camera blocking, Maya for all base modeling and animation, ZBrush for final modeling touches, VRay to shade and render, Nuke to sweeten and composite, and good old fashioned paper and pencil to design – with a little help from Photoshop,” continued the Director.  “To keep with the warmth and spirit found in the creative direction we started with an illustration-heavy approach to make sure the relatable humanity and warmth would come through.  Almost every aspect of this job started with a drawing.  These ranged in complexity from doodles on a napkin to labour intensive turntables of how our characters should look from any angle.”

The production approach was incredibly streamlined. “In order to make this doable, we employed a blitzkrieg-like strategy of parallel processes and a teamwide can-do attitude of work smarter, not harder,” Reihl revealed.  “We had multiple teams of artists working simultaneously on related but vastly different aspects of the job.  For the most part, we had already designed and developed the characters, the vehicles, and set pieces during the pitch process.  When the job kicked into full production, we simply took the front loaded designs and began building them out as usable 3D assets.  During this modeling process, intensive camera blocking and character pre-vis was done completed simultaneously so that we would know which items needed what level of detail and technical ability to be animated.”

Despite the punishing production schedule, it seems that Motion Theory had a pretty smooth ride on the spot- and not just because of tight planning. “We were fortunate enough to have a client that was so trusting and supportive of our process and ideas, that ultimately we were unhindered by any potential creative roadblocks,” said Riehl. “That, coupled with a strong technical team and world class output capabilities, meant the project was one of the most fun and rewarding experiences I have had the pleasure of being a part of.”

Visit Motion Theory


Title: Target “A Better Bullseye”
Client: Target

Production/VFX Company: Motion Theory
Director: Chris Riehl
Creative Director: Kaan Atilla
Art Director: Chris Riehl
Executive Producer: Javier Jimenez
Managing Producer: Patrick Nugent
Producer: Peter Nelson
CG Supervisors: Charles Paek, Danny Zobrist
Animation Supervisor/Character Lead: Danny Zobrist
Pre-Visualization: Simon Dunsdon, Trevor Tuttle
Designers: Leanne Dare, Paul B. Kim, Ken Gunn Lee, James Levy, Satomi Nagata
Character Designers: Brendan Wiuff, Nate Wragg
Character Animators: Daniel Edwards, Thom Judd, James Parris, Harry Porudominsky, Lauren Wells
Character Riggers: Brian Escribano, Andrea Gausmann, Amy Gohal
Vehicle Rigging/Animation: Scott Cullen
3D Generalist: Ian Mankowski
Lead Character Modeler: Emmanuel Fragelus
Character Modelers/Texture Artists: Bryan Repka, Jean Choi, Sean Kim
Vehicle/Props Modelers: Nick Loizides, Marc Steinberg, Chad Roen
Hair: John Felipe, Martin Furness, Chad Roen
FX Artists: John Cherniack, Matt Johnson
Lighting Supervisor: Charles Paek
V-Ray TD: Justin Lloyd
Lighters: Matt Bell, David Chan, Justin Lloyd
Lead Compositor: Rachel Dunn, Ryan Trippensee
Compositors: Krista Benson, Michael Dobbs, Aaron Frebowitz, Rachel Keyte, Daniel Raschko
Finishing: Matt Motal
Production Manager/HR Director: Tina Van Delden
Production Coordinator: Paul Pianezza
Production Assistant: Sarah Smith
Concept/Writer: David Fowler
Storyboard Artist: Yori Mochizuki

Editorial Company: String
Editor: Doron Dor
Assistant Editors: Jeff Aquino, Jeff Johnston

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