Manhattan Mini Storage recently introduced NYC to “Space for All,” a new advertising campaign spanning online ads as well as those seen across the city carrying on a long tradition of out-of-home billboards. The cast of characters featured are The Manhattan Minis, and while usually you only get to see the finished product from an advertiser, we thought we’d give you a little peek behind the curtain on how the Minis were brought to life.   

A behind the scenes look at the animation of Manhattan Mini Storage's Space for All ad campaign featuring a cast of characters called, "the Manhattan Minis."

“We wanted the characters to be instantly recognizable. The people you see on the subway. Or on your way to work. Or at a bar. Or in line at the bodega. Quintessential New Yorkers, that whether you were born and raised in NYC, or only lived here a few long months, you’d be like yeah…I know that person.” Dentsu mcgarrybowen, the Manhattan-based creative agency who developed the “Space for All” campaign, told us.

A behind the scenes look at the making of Manhattan Mini Storage's latest ad campaign. A view of an illustrator looking at inspiration photos while creating character design.

The creative team explained that much initial planning went into determining how to best bring the characters to life. “We knew we wanted to develop these ‘every-person’ character-types of real New Yorkers, and so for us it was more important that the focus be on their personalities and lifestyles than their looks,” they said. “So, we immediately ruled out photography. We considered using puppets (sorry for whoever looks at our search history). And we ultimately landed on illustration, providing us a huge opportunity to really customize the characters and give them the vibe and attitude that we needed in order to bring their individual stories to life.” 

The agency wasn’t the only collaborator involved in the project; Yum Yum Studio was tapped to create the illustrations of the characters as well as backgrounds and accompanying props used across the campaign. Yum Yum referred to the character styling as “sausage people” and they gave us some insights on how the sausage is actually made. “Each of the characters share a distinctive body shape and facial features – a modular look with a capsule shaped body, oversized head, and noodle shaped arms and legs. We wanted to keep the character to a specific ‘style’ which would become recognizable as the Manhattan Minis,” the artists told us.

Yum Yum Studio worked as the animation partner to create Manhattan Mini Storage's Manhattan Mini characters for their Space For All campaign.

After initial hand-drawn sketches, Yum Yum illustrators then modeled each character in 3-D. Once complete, they then “rig” the characters to make them posable for animation or other movement. “The finishing touch is applying texture and detail to the clothing and accessories which add an extra layer of hand-crafted personality and charm to the Minis,” Yum Yum explained.

Characters from the The Manhattan Minis series, being designed for use in the Manhattan Mini Storage Space For All campaign.

The first character Dentsu mcgarrybowen concepted was Chad, the FiDi guy (a nod to NYC’s financial district workers). Chad’s signature wireless headphones and fleece vest make him instantly recognizable. They said the process was easy, “…once we started thinking about the characters of New York, the rest just kept on coming. We literally had close to a hundred at one point.” As the campaign evolves, Manhattan Mini Storage plans to add new characters and get to know the entire universe of the Manhattan Minis, which is as vast as the city itself.

Dentsu mcgarrybowen said about creating the work for Manhattan Mini Storage, “We’ve all really, thoroughly, enjoyed bringing these Minis to life. It’s not often you get to do work for such an iconic brand, but to do work we all actually love for such an iconic brand, right here in your own backyard? Well, fuhgeddaboudit.”