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NHS Choices health animations

  • The cartoon competition

About the cartoon competition

The NHS was launched in 1948 with a cartoon character called Charley. He successfully sold the new health service to the nation. You can see Charley in Your Very Good Health, a 1948 film.

In 2008, NHS Choices launched a competition to find new animated characters to communicate public health messages for the 21st century. The competition was run in conjunction with Creative Review, the magazine which has showcased the best of British design talent for the past 27 years.

We invited all animators, both new and experienced, to enter. We were looking for characters that would work well in both static illustration and in short animated films. The brief was to use humour, consistently strong writing and a distinctive visual identity to convey health information credibly, and without alienating the audience by being patronising.

The winner of the NHS Choices competition: The Tokkels

The Tokkles by the Brothers McLeod is the winner of our competition to find a cartoon character to convey health information on NHS Choices. The Tokkels appealed both to YouTube and NHS Choices users and to the judges, who thought it was original, well-crafted, and versatile enough to work in different areas of the site.

The Brothers McLeod were awarded a six-month contract to develop the concept and the Tokkels series is now available on NHS Choices.

"Perfect communication, executed beautifully. The tone is just right for the target audience: funny and mature with a lovely feel to the character and overall design. The sound is simple and subtle but works perfectly with the visuals." Sara, NHS Choices user 

"Short and sweet. That's how to get a message across." Chazthesilencer, YouTube 

"Nice work. It's humorous, easy to understand visually and gets straight to the point." Stickleback, NHS Choices user  


About the Brothers McLeod

Greg and Myles have written and directed animations since 2000 and their work has appeared on BBC 1, MTV, Nickelodeon USA, Channel 4, E4, Sky, as well as being featured on YouTube and Channel Frederator.

The Brothers McLeod are represented by Aardman Animations and directed major commercial campaigns for Skittles and Calvita in 2007 and Stena Line in 2008.

Recent short films include:

  • BT Art Sparks, Tate Galleries, 5 x 5 minutes.
  • Dogg, 4mations, 3 x 1 minute.
  • Sex Education, Hi8us and Birmingham NHS, 10 minutes.
  • Pedro and Frankensheep, CBBC, 10 x 5 minutes.
  • The M Man, 6 minutes.
  • Fuggy Fuggy, MTV, 3 x 5 minutes.
  • Dog Tired, Screen WM, 8 minutes.
  • Homer’s Odyssey, nokiashorts, 15 seconds.

With The Tokkels, the Brothers McLeod deliver health messages quickly and simply through visual humour. Watch the Tokkels series.


Example storyboard

The runners up

Bob and Brenda by Ian Ball

Bob and Brenda creator Ian Ball has made two films for us. In the first animation, Bob discovers the dangers of over-consumption and under-exertion, and in the second, displayed below, Brenda shows us why it's a good idea to "be sensible when you're on the sauce".

About Ian Ball

Ian has worked on a variety of professional animations, illustrations and interactive productions. He has won awards for online design, been short-listed in a number of national animation competitions, and had his art published in Mail Me Art: Going Postal alongside the world’s best illustrators and designers.

To find out more about Ian and his work, visit his website, Albinal.

Bonedog by Boram Lee

In the world of Bone Dog all the characters represent parts of the human body. In this adventure, Bone Dog meets skin and learns about the importance of sun protection.

About Boram Lee

Boram studied animation at Central St Martins College of Art & Design. She was the only student to be shortlisted in this competition.

It’s In You by Wolfgang Matzl

In this whimsical cartoon, Wolfgang Matzl shows that we don't always need to look elsewhere to find out how to be healthy: the knowledge is already within us.

About Wolfgang Matzl

Wolfgang lives in Vienna, Austria. He studied graphic design and became interested in illustration and animation early on in his career. He says:

“Seeing inanimate objects come to life is very magical - doing it by hand even more so. All you need is to dream it...”

Visit Wolfgang’s website to find out more about his work.

Modern Martin by Naomi Zahl

Animator Naomi Zahl created the character Modern Martin, who battles to save his family's health. See if you can spot the iconic moments from classic films that inspired her.

About Naomi Zahl

Naomi works in traditional stop-motion and computer-generated animation. Her work includes the short film Medieval Meddler, for Carlton ITV and West Midlands Arts, the feature film Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, title sequence commissions for Channel 4’s Home from Home, and children’s television including Peppa Pig. 


Page last reviewed: 06/09/2013

Next review due: 06/09/2015

NHS Choices cartoons

Follow the Tokkels or Bob and Brenda and see how they tackle issues such drinking, obesity, vaccinations or STIs

The Tokkels: sun safety

Too much sun can damage your skin and cause cancer. It's important to take precautions to protect your skin.

Media last reviewed: 13/06/2014

Next review due: 13/06/2016