How James Corden was turned into a puppet with 3D printing for Sainsbury’s Christmas ad

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As the annual one-upmanship begins between the UK’s major retailers to produce show-stopping advertisements, stop motion experts have used full detail colour 3D printing to tug at our heart strings for the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s.

Puppet maker Mackinnon and Saunders, known for its work on films like Fantastic Mr. Fox, Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride, and London based animation production company Passion Pictures (BBC Olympics, Kyra & Constantin), worked for three months to produce the ad, The Greatest Gift, for Sainsbury’s.

With the full advertisement a musical number voiced by James Corden, running for over three minutes, the team needed to produce hundreds of face masks to animate each of the 27 characters’ singing features by modelling them in 3D CAD, before working with 3D Print Bureau to 3D print them on its Stratasys J750.

By switching each models different expressions, the motion shots were created by a replacement technique, rather than more traditional hand movement that stop motion is well known for.


With the printer capable of full 24 bit colour and multi-material prints, it’s the first time the stop animation industry has used this timesaving measure – reducing the amount of painting of parts by hand.

“It wouldn’t have been possible to create what is essentially a mini-film within the timescale allocated without the magic of a 3D Printer,” explains 3D Print Bureau manager Dave Bennett. “Traditional techniques would have taken 12 months or more to achieve and have a less detailed result.

“It’s been fantastic to see each of the characters come to life on the screen as a moving singing person, after starting life on our inspection table as hundreds of inanimate individual models. We couldn’t have imagined a better way to illustrate how the J750 can be used.”

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