Stretch your creative possibilities with animation.

How We Made It | Sutter Health

Our recent project for Sutter health is a perfect example of how animated video can be used as narrative storytelling. In the right hands animation can be much more than the typical explainer and how-to video.

The assignment ask was for 7 live-action videos covering a range of mental health issues that young people are experiencing during the trying Covid environment.

We were all in for the subject and messaging, but the budget was nowhere near what was needed for the complexity of a live action production of this scale. This was also during the peak of the pandemic when Covid safety requirements added still more complexity to live shoots.

All this added up to cost and difficulty which we felt would be impossible within budget.

But we weren’t passing on this one. We suggested using a narrative animation approach as a way to achieve the messaging objectives with the budget.

Benefits Of Animation

  1. As voice actors, our cast could double-up roles over the series, acting out several different characters, adding flexibility and diversity to our on-screen cast.

  2. Since our environments would now be animated, we could set our stories wherever we wanted and no longer be constricted by the cost and practicality of locations.

  3. Some clinical information could be presented using abstract visuals within the films – such as demonstrating work / life balance within a circle.

  4. Information could be adjusted more easily in development. Scripts could be more fluid, requiring only audio changes, and modifications to character and appearance could be made at late stages.

  5. These were after all clinical films, advising and imparting information. Without so much visual “clutter” of real-life actor’s personalities and locations, viewers might focus more intensively on the information imparted. 

How We Made It

We chose a simple, modern style that referenced anime characterizations. We felt this would be simple and clear, yet strike a chord with our demographic. The style also enabled us to create a diverse on-screen cast – a mix of gender, ethnicity and appearance.  

Each film was required to cover a different condition of mental health in young people, including anxiety, depression, college worries, sleep hygiene, and stress.

Even using animation the budget presented creative challenges. Visually animation solved a number of storytelling needs but we still had to cast voice actors. 

It was vital for this messaging to be presented in an authentic way to be believable for the audience. One weakness in animated characters can be that they don’t emote – a critical problem with our subject matter. 

We connected with a young actor in New York and asked her to pull together some of her real life friends to do a live table read as a group. Being so comfortable with each other, the young actors nailed it adding the layer of ‘live action’ needed for successful peer-to-peer communication.    

The Results

Sutter Health was delighted with the end results. They commented, “We’ve gotten great feedback from kids especially, but also other therapists and our physician teams, too. And in response to the videos, a donor made additional contributions to purchase play and art therapy supplies for our work!”

Watch The Videos

Here are a couple of our favorites covering social media habits and the big move to college life.


Contact Marc Heal for more info on how Kontent Films can help you realize new ways to use animation in your video messaging strategy.


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