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Work / Illustration

Dan Woodger channels the fun of the beach for McDonald’s Japan

London-based illustrator Dan was commissioned to create an image for the tray mats for McDonald’s in Japan that celebrated summer and promoted its ‘sweet treats’ range. “It’s been one of my favourite commissions to work on,” says Dan. “The art direction was clear and the client, TBWA Japan & Agent Hamyak, really let me go to town.”

“McDonald’s usually pushes products on the tray mats, so I had to work in the three food items,” explains Dan. “After that I had free rein.” The busy composition is packed with a mix of cheerful and cheeky characters engaging in activities from having a bbq and playing volleyball to upsetting a mermaid while fishing in a dingy. Although the golden arches are prominent, there was no obligation to stick to the bold colour palette in the McDonald’s brand guidelines and the freedom he was afforded allowed Dan to go as far to sneak in a self-portrait. “The client had a couple of suggestions, and I worked those in, and then I was able to add jokes and humour wherever I could,” he explains. “I wanted to hold the viewer’s attention for as long as possible.”

The project was not without its challenges, with the support of creative director Satoshi Chikayama and art director Yo Kimura Dan wrestled with the composition, exploring whether to place the sea in the foreground or background and then packing the image with activity but ensuring there was clarity. “I tend to work without perspective,” he says. “So there was a challenge with this image to make sure it didn’t look to weird or flat when the characters are all the same size.”

Feedback from the client asked for a man falling into a hole in the sand to be replaced as it could be deemed as dangerous, a point that amused the illustrator. “I was happy to change it, he is now kicking over a sand sculpture of a lion, but it was interesting that they wanted to change that when they were perfectly happy with he characters sticking their hands, or jumping, into the food!”

Without being able to speak Japanese, the illustrator needed some help placing the text onto the image. “They sent over the text and I placed it and adjusted the characters so that they fitted the scene. I then sent them back to check I hadn’t altered the meaning in anyway,” says Dan. “I still don’t really know what it all means…”

This week, Dan travelled to see his work in Tokyo, spending a brief two days in the city and visiting every branch of McDonald’s he passed. “I was just great to see my work out there. It was surreal to see all these people sat with my work, and I was able to ask them what they thought of it. The staff were really obliging, I ended up signing a couple and in one store I got to stand behind the counter to have my photo taken.”

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Dan Woodger: Summer Treats

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Dan Woodger: Summer Treats

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Dan Woodger: Summer Treats

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Dan Woodger: Summer Treats

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Dan Woodger: Summer Treats

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Dan Woodger: Summer Treats

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Dan Woodger: Summer Treats

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Dan Woodger: Summer Treats

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Dan Woodger: Summer Treats

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Dan Woodger: Summer Treats in progress