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Ichi, ni, san, shi: Our Google doodle gets fit in Japan
Saturday, November 1, 2014
Today marks the 86th anniversary of the first
radio broadcast of calisthenics
in Japan—a fun and healthy practice that every Japanese person is familiar with. We made this video doodle of the Google logo dancing along to the classic calisthenics routine that’s broadcast every day on Japanese national television.
We sat down with its creators, Googler Shun Ikeda and doodler Kevin Laughlin, to find out what inspired them and hear about the fun they had behind the scenes.
What’s the story behind Japan’s love for calisthenics?
These short calisthenics routines first aired in Japan in 1928 to commemorate Emperor Hirohito’s coronation. They were created by Kampo life insurance company to encourage the whole nation to be healthier through improved circulation. Eventually, the practice became popular nationwide and a part of everyday life.
Many schoolchildren spent the mornings of their summer holidays doing calisthenics in the neighborhood park. Japanese manufacturing companies started out the day by leading their employees with these exercises—a form of greeting and a way to wake everyone up. Today, this calisthenics routine is aired on NHK (the country’s national TV broadcaster) at 6:25am, 9:55am and 2:55pm every weekday. The moves basically haven’t changed in 86 years!
How did you merge calisthenics together with the Google logo?
I had never even heard of radio calisthenics until I worked on the doodle. To get up to speed artistically, I watched
of NHK calisthenics broadcasts and noted their consistent look and feel.
At first we considered representing this in animation form, but it became clear that we had to shoot it as a video with real people. The question was, how do we incorporate the Google logo? We thought about having the actors hold the letters, but that became too clumsy. We eventually hit on the idea of having the actors wear the letters of the Google logo.
Sketch of the Google logo in their calisthenics costumes
The video is very authentic, down to the music and the lighting. How did you go about shooting the video?
We shot the video in NHK’s studios, with the actual NHK calisthenics announcer—you can hear his voice-over narration of the doodle, counting “Ichi! Ni! San! Shi!”. The two ladies at the front are famous professional calisthenics performers on NHK, while the Google letters were actors.
The costumes were the most challenging part of the creation process. We had to find a material that was stretchy enough for the actors to move around in, yet sturdy enough to retain their shape. Eventually we found a costume designer to hand-sew these costumes, which were made out of urethane and plastic leather.
In terms of art direction, I worked together with the NHK director on the look and the lighting to make sure it was exactly right. I worked on the background animation to give it an ambient, slightly cartoony, but distinctly Japanese feel.
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