The past few months have been interesting to say the least. However, as we adapted to the events taking place we realized that no matter what’s happening in the world, our desire to create is unwavering. During the nation-wide lock down, the U.S. Census Bureau started a video competition in hopes of motivating hard-to-reach communities to get counted. The Census comes once a decade and is meant to aid in the distribution of funds to certain areas of the country based on population density and other factors. Our Executive Producer, Andrew Klein, found out about the competition in the middle of April, which gave us 3 weeks to create something from scratch. We concluded that our only option (with the lock downs) was to do an animated video.


Our friend Zak, singer and songwriter, put together an incredibly catchy song in one weekend, which gave us the idea to turn this into an animated music video. Our Lead Animator, Steve Cook, managed a team of two other animators/designers – Dmitri Yakovlev and Michael Stelmar. Dmitri took on the directing role and we hit the ground running with his storyboard and script.


We decided to go with animals for characters, since one of the guidelines for the video was to capture the diversity of the population. The bear became our main character and was created in 3D so we could have the most freedom of movement within the environment. The other characters were illustrated and animated with 2D layers. We accomplished the mouth animations of the bear very efficiently by tracking Zak’s mouth shapes (visemes) and aligning them with 2D mouth shapes in Adobe Animate. We then created an animated shader that was placed on the 3D model. All we needed to do after that was focus on the dancing and gesture animation.

Since we were all remote from one another, we had to use tools like Slack, Google Drive, Discord and Zoom to communicate with each other and share files. Michael would finish an environment or a character animation and send it to Steve to add to the master project. Meanwhile, Dmitri would work on other scenes simultaneously. With Dmitri’s directing and Michael’s expert design skills, we were able to submit our project to the Census 2020 competition with 3 minutes left! We didn’t win the competition, but out of the ~750 entries submitted to the U.S. Census Bureau, our video landed among the top ten finalists! Big thanks to the team for the late nights and the incredible effort to get this looking as good as we hoped in such a short amount of time.

Check out the official Take The Census 2020 video HERE

and HERE are the Get Out The Count 2020 Award Winners

Written By: Steve Cook – Creative Director, Fog Coast Productions