Kingston University graduates behind John Lewis Christmas animations

Graduates from Kingston University’s illustration animation course were chosen by John Lewis and Waitrose to help produce this year’s Christmas advert.

Leksey Lee, Bella McEvoy, Amelia Fowler and Marta Pinto all graduated this summer, and were selected in response to a country-wide call-out made by John Lewis’ ad agency.

Work on the advert, which has become a fixture in the annual TV schedule, began in March and was quickly shaped by the growing pandemic.

However, the graduates only became involved in the project in October and did so without knowing who the client was.

Senior lecturer of illustration animation at Kingston University, Rachel Gannon said: “The project was opened to students I think to acknowledge that this year would be a tough one for people graduating in all sorts of careers, particularly in the creative industry.

“We value anybody who’s willing to work with young creatives. 

“I suppose there’s a little more sense of risk on their part dealing with people a little less experienced. Though, they said right from the beginning that after seeing the student’s show-reels they felt confident.”

John Lewis’ choice to incorporate the work of graduates in the 30-second charity-specific accompaniment to their centrepiece follows the praised concept behind the 2020 campaign.

The overarching premise of the project was to include as many visual artists and creatives as possible who had their work impacted by events this year.

Lee said: “It was really good for them to give back to the creative industry – especially as the theme of the advert is about sharing and giving.

“This year has been hard for a lot of people so it’s significant that they’ve done this.”

ANIMATED: Kingston University graduates worked on the John Lewis charity ad

The graduate’s input begins with a transition from live-action to animation and features a number of visuals as they animate and add emotion to the characters in director Oscar Hudson’s storyboard.

Gannon commented that to be acknowledged in the same credits as established artists would be a huge confidence boost for the graduates despite working remotely.

She added: “It’s really significant in that it gives the students a very public showcase for their work. 

“That’s why the prestige and national exposure of this project is great.”

Other artists involved include Oscar Hudson, who has previously worked with Radiohead and Apple, Oscar-nominated French director Sylvian Chomet, and Andy Ghent and Antony Farquhar-Smith who have contributed to Wes Anderson films Isle of Dogs and Fantastic Mr Fox.

It also includes the original composition from BRIT Award winning singer-songwriter Celeste, in collaboration with Jamie Hartman.

Lee added: “It’s going to be difficult graduating into this situation because it’s harder for job prospects since we can’t work in house.

“That makes a lot of things difficult that wouldn’t have been so difficult had we graduated outside of a pandemic.

“Though it makes for a fun story to tell in the future.”

John Lewis and Waitrose have partnered with food poverty charity FareShare and family support charity Home-Start with the aim to raise £4 million.

To support the work of FareShare and Home-Start, text ‘LOVE’ to 70630 to donate £3 and John Lewis and Waitrose will match your donation.

You can also read about the John Lewis Christmas advert’s Tooting connection here.

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