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A New Exhibit Brings First World War Stories Home

An animated film marks the opening of a new exhibit at London's Imperial War Museum and the centenary of WWI.

Quotation mark characters symbolizing the stories and letters written by those who never left the fields of France during the First World War gather like birds then fly to London in a 90-second film which is the centerpiece of a new campaign for the Imperial War Museums which breaks July 7.

The film, Flight of Stories, was created by London ad agency Johnny Fearless and animation company Aardman to mark the opening of Imperial War Museum London's new First World War galleries on July 19 and commemorate the war's centenary on July 28.

The starting point was to understand what makes IWM London unique, says Johnny Fearless Executive Creative Director Paul Domenet. The creative strategy came out of the idea that the museum's role is as "the people's witness."

"IWM London is a place where people go to gain perspective on conflicts through the objects and artifacts that are there to view in an unbiased and informative way," he explains. "This unique role comes from the objects it holds—letters and personal items from soldiers, especially—and our starting point was to consider: how could we take these items and give them a voice?"

Working closely with Aardman director Darren Dubicki, the team was keen to find a visual style which would both reflect the reality of conflict and encourage reappraisal of what the museum has to offer.

"We wanted something distinct from black and white photographs or images of troops in trenches," Domenet says. Inspiration for the visual style of the film came, instead, from items in the museum’s collection of First World War art painted by serving soldiers.

The end result is a 90 second animation in which 2-D illustrations combine with 3-D CGI animation techniques create a hybrid effect.

"Tone of voice was critical," Domenent adds, explaining the need for the campaign to be respectful while also inspiring people wanting to find out more to visit the museum.

Careful attention was also paid to sound production and the final sound track includes some extracts from early archive recordings.

Also part of the campaign is a series of posters, press, radio, and online ads promoting the new galleries. The posters feature the stories behind a selection of personal objects from the First World War, including a tin of army ration food, lucky underwear, and a piece of wallpaper.

Flight of Stories will be screened online and in cinemas across the U.K. starting Monday July 7.

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