Interview Andreas John – Creative Director YT Industries – IZZO Anime Campaign Video
Pen and Paper – A Powerful Toy
Andreas John is Creative Director at the German bicycle manufacturer YT Industries. The bike experts from Forchheim, situated roughly 200 Kilometers north of Munich, recently created a lot of buzz when they released a one-minute anime for the launch of their new trail bike ‚IZZO‘. The action-packed animation tells the story of a hero fighting his way past three demons in a futuristic Japanese city in just a few seconds. But who is behind this creative masterpiece? Where did the idea and inspiration come from? What does Anime have to do with bicycles? We took the opportunity to talk to Andreas John about all of these topics and the teamwork with ‚The Line Animation‘.
Andi thank you for taking the time! Who is Andreas John, creative director at YT Industries?
I was born in Nuremberg, am 39 years old, married, and have two daughters. I have been working in the creative field for a long time. I love design, I love to create things and creatively expressing my thoughts. This has always been a very important part of my life – alongside my family, of course (laughs). I enjoy creating things, characters, or worlds on a blank canvas, whether on the PC, on the table, or a white sheet of paper. My roots are in skateboarding and graffiti.
Anyone who knows you and maybe even knows your Instagram channel knows that you are a passionate creative and draw a lot. Where does creativity come from? What is the impulse to pick up the pen and scribble on the notepad?
Freeing up headspace. For me, designing and creating is an outlet. I have an urge to express issues that bothering me or topics I am dealing with on paper. It helps me to process things and tune out the noise of the environment that one is confronted with
daily. It helps me switch off, to clear my mind. Then I like to venture into new worlds and create fictional scenarios and build something.
What inspires you in your drawings? Some of your drawings appear dark, mystical.
I enjoy creating creatures or worlds that are serious or dark. I always found Marvel better than Mickey Mouse as a child. I can still remember my first X-Men paperback. That got me hooked right away. The choice between Wolverine with the Adamantium blades growing out of the back of his hands or Mickey Mouse was quickly made for me. From the beginning, I was fascinated by comics, drawings, toys that did not try to imitate real life. Whimsical, creepy, brutal, I’ve always found it more interesting.
Because it has nothing to do with the real world – at least not with the one I am in.
You have played a central role in the development of campaigns for the bicycle manufacturer YT Industries for several years. How come?
It was a winding path until I landed here. I did an apprenticeship as a carpenter after school. I didn’t think it was bad, but I couldn’t express my creativity as much as I would have wanted to. So, I then trained as a media designer. This was followed by a few years as an agency, where I mainly worked in the digital space: animation, video, websites. I always tried to include animation where when it made sense with
customers. Within the agency, we even set up our own department that dealt a lot with game design, web design, and animation videos. I was also active with illustration work for smaller record labels and my own clothes. When I met my current wife in this agency, it was time for a change of scenery (laughs). After 15 years as an agency, I was thrilled to be immersed in a completely new, hyper-creative environment at YT.
YT has recently received a lot of attention with the release of a one-minute anime in which a hero defeats demons in a futuristic Japanese city. The video introduces a new bike for the company. Maybe we’ll start with the inspiration for the anime. Where did the idea come from?
Our product developers initially work with mood boards. Very early on, it became apparent that the Katana sword would be a key element in inspiring the frame design. After looking at the product features that a bike in this category should have, we found that the fit was perfect. There were different considerations, from a shoot in Japan to bizarre short films, but then we stuck with the anime – much to my delight. As a child, I saw and read animes like ‚Ghost in the shell‘ or ‚Akira‘ and I have had a soft spot for Japanese culture and mythology for a long time. It was therefore very easy for me to initiate the project in my head and to create the first designs for the hero and the world
right from the logo design.
Who are the characters and how did you get started?
Our hero was the metaphor for our new bike. A perfect swordsman who fights past demons with great agility and a sharp sword. A Ninja Ronin character with an urban look and feel. Then the ‚Tengu‘, a mythical figure, a forest or mountain spirit, appears on the scene. I spent my whole ‚Inktober‘ with him, where we illustrators challenge each other to draw every day. A quirky creature with a crooked posture and two blades that can only be overcome with speed. As the second demon, you see ‚Unknown‘, also a mystical but floating demon. It can beam from A to B incredibly quickly. And lastly, the ‚Oni‘, the final enemy. It also comes from Japanese mythology and is an insurmountable mountain.
Within a very short time, the video collected almost half a million views and also received a lot of praise outside of the bicycle industry. Some even hoped to see a series soon. The quality of the video and the story seem to have struck a nerve. Did everything come from YT or who did you team up with?
We designed the basic characters and then we went to our agency Shift Active Media with the concept briefing. The story was already there: one hero, three demons that had to be defeated and showcase the attributes ‘Fast. Agile. Sharp.’ Then it was about bringing the story to life. That is real art. Shift connected us to The Line Animation. You could tell that they were extremely keen on the project. The precision and attention to detail with which they breathed life into this anime are incredibly impressive. In our first concept, we had imagined the world to be created much smaller. Seeing how these talented artists made an entire city out of it exceeded all
expectations. Paired with the great script by Matt Skinner from Shift Active Media and a Japanese narrator, a video was created that we are all very much proud of
How important is it to bring in external expertise when developing such a project?
Vital at some point. Because we are neither a film production company nor an animation studio. We have very high expectations, both for the quality of our products and for our campaigns. To meet those expectations, you have to work with the best in the world. You can do cartoons or animation very quickly, but we chose anime and it was clear from day one that it had to be legit. It had to be a top-notch animation and not a 3fps flash movie. We knew The Line was the best for this job. After all, they have made numerous animations for other well-known clients, such as the Gorillaz.
We knew that they are a renowned studio and that they have a passion for anime, something that became particularly apparent when meeting and working with director Wesley Louis. Everyone gave 200% and you can see that in the final result. The Anime turned out way bigger and better than I had ever imagined, thanks to skill and passion The Line brought to the table.
In addition to characters and the new world, suitable music also had to be created. How did you go about this and how important is it that all these components work together?
I heard a lot of Kuso Gvki during the first scribbles and drawings for the IZZO campaign. He is a German music producer. I sent Shift the song ‚Koi‘ for reference. The song didn’t match the tempo of what we wanted to do, but the combination of traditional instruments and beats was perfect. In collaboration with a sound studio, the selection was inspired. But of course: in the end, everything has to fit together.
Style, speed, editing, music.
About Andreas John:
Andreas John was born in Nuremberg, is 39 years old, married and has two daughters. He has been professionally active in the creative field for a long time, drawing has played an important role in his life since childhood. He himself says he was a candidate for the “Best Child in the World” title because his parents only had to give him a pen and paper to make him happy. Today he says that „the great thing about drawing is that there are just so many possibilities – there are actually no limits apart from your own technique.“ There was no family influence that brought him to become such an avid creative: „Both my parents worked very hard and my brother and I are fundamentally different – even though we are still best friends today. An example: He always built Lego strictly according to instructions. I immediately threw them away and thought about what you could do with the new parts.“ Today he made his hobby into a profession. After an apprenticeship as a carpenter and training as a media designer and years of experience in an creative agency he is now responsible for the creative development of product campaigns and brand image campaigns for the German mountain bike manufacturer YT Industries from Forchheim.