The Power of Makeup Expressed through “The Party Bus”, a Video with Over 7.7 Million Views


Creating a video that communicates the fundamental message of beauty in addition to generating buzz.

--The video "The Party Bus - I Can't Tell You I Love You," released during the Halloween period in 2018, received the Grand Prix in the Film category for the Epica Awards, an international advertising award program from France. Furthermore, the total number of views as of December 2018 had exceeded 7.7 million. This project has generated a great deal of attention, but how did it begin?

Kosukegawa:The real beginning was a Web video created in 2015 called "High School Girl? The Secret of the High School Makeup Girl." That project began because Shiseido's Media Division wanted to conduct some research on generating buzz, which led to a great success with the video, including over 10 million views and the winning of awards at prestigious advertising festivals such as Cannes Lions.

As a result, there was increasing call for a followup, and they held an idea competition within the division. In the end, there were a total of 80 proposals from 15 individuals. Those which would be expected to generate buzz and which were highly feasible were then selected with the help of Show Yanagisawa, who directed "High School Girl? The Secret of the High School Makeup Girl." Our final selection was the idea of "the first animation in the world drawn using cosmetics".

--What was the deciding factor that made you select this idea from among 80 proposals?

Kosukegawa:The major deciding point was its suitability in an Internet context. In other words, a question of whether it could generate buzz. Having said that, the end of 2016 was a period when the conflict structure of the world became visualized, which was triggered by Trump's presidential election victory. Reflecting such a situation, Shiseido shifted to a desire to communicate a fundamental message about beauty instead of simply getting more views.

--How was the original proposal improved?

Ueki:The biggest change was the question of how to incorporate a message representing Shiseido as a company. The entire team, led by director Yanagisawa, worked to expand on that question. The result we arrived at was the concept, "Makeup is courage."

"High School Girl? The Secret of the High School Makeup Girl" released in 2015 to great acclaim

Expressing the emotion of makeup through stop motion photography, with a total of 1,970 cuts.

--The most impressive part of this short film was the changing emotions due to the makeup. How did you arrive at taking this approach to dramatization?

Kosukegawa:The theme of "High School Girl? The Secret of the High School Makeup Girl" was also the power of makeup, but this time we wanted to express the effect that makeup had on a person's feelings. This was also a point which director Yanagisawa and Shiseido's Sawako Yuri, in charge of makeup, were very particular about.

Ishii:The very space of The Party Bus was its own world, and furthermore the way the makeup was seen changed depending on the lighting, so we did test shoots of the coloring many times.

Kosukegawa:The result was that we were able to successfully express that if you found a makeup approach that truly fit you, then you could empower yourself.

--You used stop motion photography for the scene in which the makeup changed on the girl dressed as Princess Kaguya. According to the data, there are a total of 1,970 cuts in that scene. I imagine this was very hard to do, more so because the scene combines stills and animation.

Kosukegawa:It was tough work. The level of accuracy required was something that had almost never been done. The preparation phase was particularly challenging. The animation was created by first doing motion-capture with an actress, and then drawing the result using makeup. Very precise operation was required for the stills, so we imported the face data of Elena An, who played the Princess Kaguya character, and did the final shoot after repeatedly trying many different camera angles.

For the main shoot, we changed the lighting for each cut, and we had to adjust the hair and makeup for each one. It was very challenging for Elena, because she could hardly move her face during the entire shoot. It took four days to finish the entire shoot, and I believe this approach has never been used before anywhere in the world.

Ishii:We were also very particular about the music, without compromise. We tried countless variations in an effort to find the ideal music: music to fill a mysterious space, not identifiable by country, and ideal for expressing the story of Princess Kaguya. I believe that the highly original music that resulted was the outcome of all of that effort.

Ueki:We also emphasized the sense that you could not tell which country this was in areas other than the music. For example, regarding the performers, most of them are half Japanese or multi-racial, including the main three actors. Similarly, at first glance of the costumes you would not know whether the performers are male or female. This is something that director Yanagisawa was very particular about.

Stop motion storyboard for the Princess Kaguya's changing makeup scene
Excerpt from the storyboard
Costume design for Princess Kaguya
Costume design for Dracula

Makeup applies beyond race and gender

--In that sense, "The Party Bus" is both a space of diversity and a place that communicates the concept of who you, as a human, are attracted to, beyond race or gender.

Ishii:I think the dramatization can be read into as deeply as you want to. For example, ENDo, who plays Dracula, is wearing nail polish and has lamé applied to his face, making him an even more dynamic man than he normally is.

--So, it expresses that makeup works irrespective of one's gender. In that sense, I was really shocked when the character with the zombie mask, who appeared male, turned out to be female. I imagine that such a dramatic approach was very effective for generating buzz, but more than that, it tackles issues facing LGBT individuals.

Kosukegawa:One factor behind that approach is that in the past several years, the understanding of LGBT issues within Shiseido has rapidly improved.

While Shiseido has long been proactive in activities to promote LGBT understanding, such as "Tokyo Rainbow Pride," it was on a voluntary basis. But then in July 2017, legislation was established such that any same-sex couple who met certain criteria could receive the same benefits as a married couple, and accordingly, Shiseido's cooperation with Rainbow Pride became an official project.

Also, a newspaper ad on diverse beauty entitled "Love the Differences" was issued on the anniversary of the company's establishment on April 8, 2018, which also raised awareness within the company. These factors allowed us to take the bold approach used in this video.

--I felt that this dramatic approach was also effectively expressed on the website as well. What was the design approach for the website?

Yamura:The video itself was very well done, so we wanted to create content to embody it. The keyword for this approach was "backstage." In this project, many aspects were extremely sensitive, such as issues of race and gender, so we tried to balance that by showing the situation behind the scenes of the shoot.

Kosukegawa:The topic for this video was very difficult, so I believe the website plays a supportive role for that. I assume it is designed so that the buzz will spread even more when those who take an interest in the short film arrive at the website looking for more information.

Yamura:For example, the main video plays on the top page of the website, but switches to the making-of video if you click and hold the mouse button. We also created a page that features photographs taken by the staff of the shoot. There are photos showing Princess Kaguya and Dracula getting along well, while in the main video there is tension between them.

Behind-the-scenes picture from the shoot
Behind-the-scenes picture from the shoot
Scene from the shoot

Through numerous miracles, the resulting work perfectly matches the social context


--It has been about two months since the video was released. What do you feel about the points that have generated buzz throughout the world?

Ueki:We were a bit nervous before release because some of the dramatization touched on sensitive topics. We had originally planned to release the video around summertime, but in the end, we released it around Halloween, two months later than the initial plan.

Kosukegawa:It actually had nothing to do with Halloween, but it certainly did have a mood similar to Halloween, including the costumes, so it may have been for the better.

Ishii:The brand renewal for SHISEIDO was already set for September and we were concerned that if we released at the wrong time, we would fail to leverage a synergistic effect. Therefore, we were very careful about that.

--So numerous miracles occurred, didn't they?

--The result was a great success, and I believe expectations are high for the next iteration of the series. I would like to ask Kosukegawa, who was the person in charge of the overall project, what you have in mind for the next video?

Kosukegawa:Well, we have just finished the last one, so to be honest, I really do not want to think about it for a while (laughs). Having said that, the truth is that it is rare to have a project where you can focus on quality. I believe we achieved the result we did with this film because the goal was clear, everyone wanted to create something good, and we had the passion to communicate a great message.

Shiseido Creative Division
Masato Kosukegawa
Mika Ishii
Aya Ueki
Tomoaki Yamura
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