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Roof Studio, RPA Dream Up Imaginary Friends For Pedatric Cancer Patients


Robert Goldrich
Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017


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New York-based creative studio Roof Studio teamed with ad agency RPA, Santa Monica, Calif., and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation to uncover smiles in a time of worry and distress in the original animation short What is an MRI?, as a means to educate pediatric cancer patients on an MRI procedure in an entertaining way. The short is part of a 20-film series that features a fictional group of characters coined the Imaginary Friend Society, created by RPA, that helps educate kids on cancer treatments in a way that’s engaging and easy to understand. Launching during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, “What is an MRI?” and the additional videos debuted on September 24t at a special screening event during the foundation’s Starry Night 5K at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. 

Roof Studio, led by director Guto Terni, leveraged its expertise in creating vibrant, whimsical animations to bring each character and the storyline to life in a way that is imaginative, educational and enjoyable. The studio designed a duo of original characters. The first is Charlie, a brainy three-eared white rabbit with charming denim jeans and a bow tie, who acts as the instructor and guide for young viewers. The second character is Roger, a green creature with furry tentacles who is ornamented with blooming flowers and a quaint blue top hat, who provides the comic relief throughout. Terni chose to depict Charlie as a bunny to add a sense of movement to the piece’s single setting, filling up the space and adding an interesting dynamic with his swift motions. Roger’s character design was a fusion of monster and nature, emphasizing a pure spirit that would be relatable to young audiences.

The animation transforms the educational and somewhat heavy subject matter into a delightful, yet informative piece that artfully fuses the serious topic with a dose of levity. The short shows Charlie coaching Roger, the more silly and timorous of the pair, through intimidating scenarios including an MRI procedure, easing his nerves with a stuffed animal for support and expanding his imagination to envision the MRI machine as a space ship. 

Terni noted, “I decided to make the film in a way that would feel really tactile, with realistic lighting and textures to make the MRI room feel believable. Vivid colors create an atmosphere that helps kids feel comfortable, allowing them to become immersed completely in the world of the story. The tactile approach of the CG helps close the gap between what the patients are seeing and what they will experience in real life, leaving no room for surprises that they could be afraid of.”


Client Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation Agency RPA, Santa Monica, Calif. VFX/Animation Roof Studio, New York Guto Terni, director, art director, animation director, Lookdev, compositing; Derek Henriquez, animation director; Crystal Campbell, exec producer; Emily Branham, producer; Joanna Santos, assistant producer; Heber Conde, storyboard & layout, simulation; Shane O’Hara, 3D lead, Lookdev, 3D lighting/rendering, compositing, fur; Ivan Freire, storyboard; Pedro Minho, Victor El Guy, Lucas Camargo, Rafael Martin, Fabio Valle, Bruno Jacob, Basia Tran, concept art; Rayza Alvarez, Alex Liki, Jean Marcel, Danilo Gerrard, Thiago Batista, Lucas Ribeiro, modeling; Vivi Adade, Danilo Pinheiro, rigging; Alfredo Hisa, layout; Mallo Ryker, Alex Ferreira Simoes, Diego de Paula, Nico Pateta, Marcelo Zanin, Michel Denis da Silva, Rafael Polanczyk, Renato dos Santos Sena, Heber Conde, Paul Wei, Marcio Nicolosi, animation; Josemar Queiroz, fur, 3D lighting/rendering; Lookdev; Joe Nguyen, Vinicius Paniello, 3D lighting/rendering; Flavio Mac, Lookdev & simulation; Guzz Soares, Gustavo Groppo, Lucas Ribeiro, Lookdev; Marcelo Bortolini, lead compositor & pipeline; John Harrison, Bruno Ferrari, compositing. (Toolbox: Maya, 3D Max, Vray, Nuke, After Effects) Sound Butter Music and Sound Additional VO record and mix Mixtape Club


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