21st May 2024

The making of the My MS Diagnosis Animation

My MS Diagnosis Campaign

The new animation for the My MS Diagnosis campaign shows what it’s like to navigate an MS diagnosis. Inspired by real voice notes from people with MS, the animation follows the diagnosis journeys of five individuals across the globe. It explores the challenges people face in search of answers and why the right diagnosis matters so much. This behind-the-scenes look reveals how the animation was created in collaboration with the global MS community and a talented design team.

New theme, new animation

In November 2023, the new diagnosis theme for World MS Day 2024-25 was publicly announced. A central focus of the campaign is raising awareness by sharing real diagnosis experiences, and highlighting global barriers preventing early and accurate MS diagnosis. The MS International Federation (MSIF) and it’s World MS Day working group agreed to create an animation to do just that. Brilliant illustrator and animator Alissa Thaler was enlisted to bring these realities to life with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations.  

Gathering stories from people living with MS

In December 2023, MSIF reached out to MS organisations from different countries, inviting people with MS to share their diagnosis stories. Participants were asked to share an audio recording talking about their MS diagnosis. To keep the recordings global, contributors recorded stories in their first language. Honest and moving accounts were sent from Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Poland, The Republic of North Macedonia, South Africa, the UAE, and the US.

Connecting stories from different places

Everyone’s diagnosis story was different but there were many common experiences. The next stage of the process was identifying which stories worked together as a cohesive narrative. The chosen stories needed to include diverse cultures, backgrounds, languages, and regions. Most importantly, they needed to flow together, bringing audiences on a diagnosis journey across the globe.

The five stories featured in the animation intertwine to create a unified narrative. The chosen contributors were all from different locations – Jonathan lives in the US, Rayan in the U.A.E, Leonardo is from Argentina, Kanya from Indonesia and Jessica South Africa. The animation follows each diagnosis journey from initial MS symptoms to challenges such as misdiagnosis, low MS awareness, diagnosis costs and more. Every animated characters were drawn from real-life photographs, staying true to the actual likeness of the individuals.

Contributor Rayan from the U.A.E describes what it was like:

‘I shared my story for the My MS Diagnosis campaign to make people like me feel seen and heard.’I felt unique seeing myself animated. What makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful!’

Rayan, animation contributor from the U.A.E

The five contributors were consulted for feedback as the animation developed. Their original voice-notes were used in the final cut, capturing the real words and emotions expressed. Sarah Dobson, MSIF’s Senior Communications and Campaigns Manager, emphasized the importance of this approach.  

‘It was essential that the animation was shaped by the voices of people with MS. We wanted to be led by the real memories and reflections rather than dictating a certain script. Crafting a storyline from so many sources felt a bit like a puzzle, but the result is really powerful. The animation takes the viewer across borders and moments in time, highlighting shared challenges and emotions.’

Sarah Dobson, Senior Communications and Campaigns Manager, and the animation producer

The sound quality was refined by Old Cottage audio who polished the recordings with expert mixing and mastering. The music was chosen to suit the pace and emotion of the story, communicating a sense of urgency but also hope.

Creating the visual world

The visual world of the animation needed to support the stories and theme. The campaigns brand identity had already been developed by with designers Osomi and Alissa Thaler. The palette, fonts and empowered characters all created to speak to different angles of the My MS Diagnosis campaign. The animation built on the brands visual language, creating character landscapes with specific colours for each protagonist. Alissa’s distinctive illustrative style carriers the viewer through key diagnosis moments. The vibrant scenes and creative transitions, chart the ups and downs – the worry, the waiting and relief. Allissa, the animator and illustrator shares more.

‘We tried to capture the sense of unknown, the uncertainty and exhausting search for an answer visually with colour, facial expressions and metaphors. I combined different techniques in the animation. Some scenes were drawn frame by frame, and I also used texture loops and stop motion effects to mimic a hand drawn look and feel.’

Allissa Thaler, Illustrator and Animator

Symbolism was used to unify the stories and speak to the campaign theme. For example, the concept of a diagnosis journey was represented by a pathway weaving between characters as the storyline unfolds. This unifying motif also represents the My MS Diagnosis campaign tagline ‘navigating MS together’.

The striking imagery helped the viewer experience many of the feelings described by the protagonists on the road to diagnosis.

‘Metaphors helped visualise the emotional world of our protagonists. We see Jonathan sitting in his bedroom which changes into a kind of alternate reality as he feels like his ‘nerves were being unplugged from reality’. We see Jessica standing still in a world that ‘keeps on spinning’ getting a glimpse into her sense of mourning through a close up of a crying eye.

Allissa Thaler, Illustrator and Animator

Reflections from contributors

Jessica from South Africa reflected on why she wanted to share her diagnosis story in the animation.  

‘Diagnosis was such a defining moment in my life. It was so pivotal I tend to think of everything in terms of before and after my diagnosis. I remember grappling with the diagnosis and the intensity of the emotions during that time. My hope was by sharing my diagnosis story I could offer someone a moment of peace, I could offer them hope or just let them know that they are not alone…by connecting and sharing our stories, we also share our strength and uplift each other to overcome these difficult things. Seeing the animation come to life has been so wonderful. I’m hopeful that with increased awareness of diagnosis less people will have to endure such heartache and trials to get their diagnosis and get the right treatment. I feel so connected to the MS community and I am so proud to have been a part of it.’

Jessica, animation contributor from the South Africa

Leonardo, from Argentina shared his thoughts.   

‘I wanted to tell my story for the campaign because I firmly believe in the importance of MS awareness and visibility. Sharing my experience can help others feel understood and generate greater understanding. Seeing myself turned into an animation has been a surreal and rewarding experience. Seeing my story represented creates a unique connection and helps spread the message of hope and strength.’

Leonardo, animation contributor from the Argentina

The animation and its core message that ‘the right diagnosis matters’ is now being shared across the globe and translated into different languages. Share the animation with your network on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to raise awareness this World MS Day.

Our thanks to members of MS International Federation’s World MS Day working group who played a key role supporting the project from start to finish. Their expertise contributed to the quality and universal nature of the animation. Special thanks to the following MS Organisations for nominating the story participants: The National MS Society in the United States, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society UAE, the Asociación de Lucha Contra la Esclerosis Múltiple in Argentina, the Indonesian Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and Multiple Sclerosis South Africa.

Illustration & animation: Alissa Thaler https://alissathaler.com/

Mixing and mastering: Old Cottage Audio https://oldcottageaudio.co.uk/

Brand design: Osomi

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