Nice Shoes was brought on to partner with the Toronto Raptors in crafting in-arena animation for the team’s 2017 and 2018 playoff runs, designed to electrify the crowd and energize the team. Led by Design Director Stefan Woronko, Nice Shoes animated close to 40 pieces and elements centered around the team’s rallying cry of “We The North,” which celebrates the Raptors’ identity as the NBA’s sole Canadian team.
Woronko started with the colors, elements and type that the Raptors had established as their visual identity, and worked to fill the frame with motion. The supplied plaid pattern was also explored, with the frame transitioning quickly through elements via a diamond on a 45-degree angle. Animations were created for every location in the arena with a screen, with designs adjusted to work within the different aspect ratios, all while maintaining a fast-paced frenzy.
“‘We The North’ is a really strong starting point. From there, we worked to create a lot of visuals that would tie into that. There were some topographic elements and supplied illustrations in their initial brief that we worked into the backgrounds, and I also created some hand-drawn elements to give every frame texture and depth,” said Woronko.
The animations had to function with the live aspect of the game, as they would be played back and cut into key replay moments by the team’s onsite editors. From an audio perspective, Nice Shoes delivered pieces that were silent, but that had been designed with the rhythm of a high-stakes game in mind.
“We used temp audio, knowing that everything would have to work with any sports anthem or chants. You can’t work in a vacuum though, so I would go on Youtube and cut to fan chants,” added Woronko. “The chants are broken up into syllables, and we would time the elements to anticipate the cadence of the crowd. For example, ‘Let’s Go Raptors’ - the type, the ball, all the background elements - they all move in time with how the crowd would cheer.”
Taking on this project was a labor of love for Woronko, who has been a fan since the team’s inception.
“I was so excited to be there at Game One. I was already invested from a fan standpoint, but I breathed an even bigger sigh of relief knowing that this work was going to be in the playoffs with the Raptors,” concluded Woronko. “It was such a pleasure to work with the team and create this massive expression to show what it means to be a fan.”
Design & Animation: Nice Shoes
Design Director: Stefan Woronko
Animators: Robert Findlay, Scott McPherson
Additional Animation: Yandong Qiu, Adrian Winter, Matt Greenwood
Executive Producer: Kristen Van Fleet