To promote its coverage of the Beijing Games, BBC Sport turned to old-school animation techniques and the brains behind the virtual band Gorillaz.
The British rights-holder for the Games tasked Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett with developing a theme and animated cartoon based on the classic 16th-century Chinese novel ??? (Journey to the West) by??? (Wu Cheng'en). The end result, "Journey to the East," includes references to the novel, various Olympic sports and Monkey, a 1970s English-dubbed version of the Japanese series??? (), also based on Wu's novel. Gorillaz is also releasing a new album this summer, Monkey: Journey to the West, the soundtrack to the opera of the same name based on the novel.
was drawn by hand by four senior key animators working with five animation assistants and four special effects animators. According to the BBC, it took about 12 weeks to create.
The central characters in the short — Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy — will appear across BBC coverage of the games, including on radio, television, mobile, online and interactive media. The characters are even available as downloadable "desktop assistants," based on the Adobe AIR platform, that offer customizable Olympic news and updates from BBC Sport along with alerts.