As the ESA Rosetta mission has come to an end, we look at how media has referred to its success and how cartoon imagery played an important role in communicating the mission.

The fairy tale cartoon series started in January 2014 with the #wakeupRosetta campaign, when Rosetta woke up after hibernating for nearly three years to save on battery power. We worked with ESA to produce the first video “Once Upon A Time” as part of their outreach campaign. After a successful wakeup and the popularity of the cartoons, “Once Upon A Time” soon became a whole series.

In total we produced 10 episodes of the cartoon animations, as well as a compilation of the adventures of Rosetta and Philae that was screened at Amsterdam Schipol Airport plaza. The characters have taken the world by storm, on social media and news reports. The Rosetta Shop, which we manage on ESA’s behalf, has been hugely successful with hundreds of plush toys, hoodies and t-shirts being sold to celebrate the mission.

The cartoon characters, Rosetta and Philae have captivated the hearts and minds of a global audience. Washington Post have referred to the “sugary sweet cartoons” and how the “saga of [Rosetta’s] lost lander captured the public imagination”. Likewise GeekWire described how “the tale of Rosetta and its plucky little lander captured hearts across the world, in part due to a series of cartoons worthy of a children’s book” as the mission ended with a “bittersweet bang”.

The science news site looks more at storytelling and the development of the cartoons; how the characters have “human features—eyes to see with, mouths for smiling, eyebrows that lift in amazement, as well as arms, hands and for Philae—a pair of spindly legs”, and how “they are made to exhibit emotions as well: affection, trepidation, courage and exhilaration.” After capturing the imagination of so many the site explores “how to end the fairytale”.

SpaceDaily describes some key elements of the final cartoon in “the end of a fairytale”, highlighting how a green and blue cartoon Earth waved “Goodbye Rosetta” with a large banner, as Rosetta slowly drifted away. As the narrator says: “And so ends the amazing adventure of our two extraordinary explorers Rosetta and Philae at Comet 67P”. Mashable warned its readers “try not to cry while watching this adorable video about the Rosetta comet mission” as the mission came to an end.

In its efforts to communicate Rosetta’s Grand Finale, ESA held a livestream event on in the lead up to the #cometlanding, with a review of the mission’s impressive science highlights. In addition it engaged with the public through the use of a Rosetta legacy Tumblr to celebrate the success of the mission, where fans could post their comments, drawings and models of Rosetta influenced by the cartoon animations.

At Design & Data, we are very happy to have contributed to the success of the outreach campaign and see how the mission has inspired so many around the world.  Watch the back-to-back special feature length of the production below.

  • Animations