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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 15, 2004

Ads use animations, rap to discourage smoking

 •  Lyrics: 'Just Let Me Breathe'

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

With an animated battle between a green, tar-like tobacco monster and a posse of skateboarding teens, not to mention catchy rap to back it, the state Department of Health's newest TV commercial has once again hit the spot with Hawai'i's youth.

The state Department of Health's "Just Let Me Breathe" commercial tries to reach young teens with the help of animation by Wiki Wiki Cartoons.

Wiki Wiki Cartoons

As part of its ongoing anti-smoking campaign geared toward teens, the Health Department produced "Just Let Me Breathe," a music video-style commercial that began airing statewide in December. The ad follows the department's popular "Leave Um Where They're At" commercial of 2002.

"I think it was cool the way it goes from real life to animation, especially when the cigarette turned into, like, this humongous monster and tried to eat the kid," said 13-year-old Sarah Gehlke, who learned the "Just Let Me Breathe" rap by heart after hearing it just two times.

The Kailua Intermediate School 7th-grader heard the song on the radio in her homeroom class not too long ago, then sang and danced along to the tune with her classmates.

"It resonates a little better with the younger teens," said Julian Lipsher, coordinator for the state health agency's Tobacco Prevention and Education Project.

Rap artist Mo' Luv, director James Sereno and independent media consultant Jan Nagano — among those behind the successful "Leave Um Where They're At" commercial — were contracted once again to put their heads together for the new ad.

"I just thought about, you know, what would be a polite way to tell somebody, 'Don't smoke around me,' " Luv said of the lyrics. "The first (commercial) was going straight at people that smoke and how it would affect them. ... So the second was to go after the second-hand smoking issue."

"Just Let Me Breathe," a live-action and animated television ad and radio spot, is geared toward 8- to 14-year-olds.

"It had a different spirit from the first one," said Sereno, of Kinetic Productions. "I knew we were trying to communicate to younger kids."

Getting through to the younger set came with help from the anime- and Disney-style artistry of Dan Boulos, 36, owner of Honolulu-based Wiki Wiki Cartoons.

Animator Dan Boulos, owner of Wiki Wiki Cartoons, has worked on features such as "The Prince of Egypt" and "Beauty and the Beast."

Wiki Wiki Cartoons

The former Los Angeles native, who lives in Palolo, was an animator on features such as Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" and DreamWorks Pictures' "The Prince of Egypt" and "The Road to El Dorado."

"I think that he is extremely talented in this marketplace, and he has so much to offer creatively," Nagano said. "He did a great job."

The way Sereno and Boulos combined the live action and animated portions of the commercial was "very smooth," Nagano said.

"We were able to do a lot in 60 seconds, in an MTV format," Lipsher said, "and then adding this new creative piece of putting animation in there was a lot of fun."

The commercial may last a mere minute, but the project took about three to four months to complete. The 30-second animated spot alone was a two-month process, Boulos said.

"We take the idea for the scene that's been outlined in a storyboard — which is like a comic-book style picture of the shot — and physically we draw one sheet at a time, a series of drawings that when you flip them like a flip book shows the movement that will happen in the scene," Boulos said.

"Those drawings are then digitized into the computer, where they're colored and composited with a colored background, and that produces one frame of the 30-second spot."

Boulos and his team at Wiki Wiki Cartoons produced 900 frames, or 30 per second.

While officials are pleased with the way "Just Let Me Breathe" turned out, what matters to them is that the ads reach their young audience.

For Sarah, the Kailua 7th-grader, the message is loud and clear:

"You shouldn't (smoke) cigarettes because you're, like, going to ruin your future."

Reach Zenaida Serrano Espanol at zespanol@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8174.

• • •

'Just Let Me Breathe'

Can't you hear what the kids tryin' to say to you,

Tryin' to tell you that smoking ain't the thing to do?

So why you still insist on killing yourself,

Burnin' up yo' money, spending all yo' wealth?

Don't come around me after puffin', tryin' to fake it

Run up in my face and your breath, I can't take it

Listen close to what the kids tryin' to say to you
and say, 'Hey,
Just Let Me Breathe'

Big tobacco company, don't be targeting me
and say, 'Hey,
Just Let Me Breathe'

and if you wanna live healthy,
Help me, 'Hey,
Just Let Me Breathe'

— Written and produced by Mo' Luv. Recorded by Mo' Luv Productions. Performed by Mo' Luv, featuring Michelle Aglim and Ashley Ramos, both 12 years old, of the girl group 2M.