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  • Kiera Gerner

Live más: the animated series.

Nacho fries are back, and so are Saturday morning cartoons. Taco Bell’s recent campaign, Fry Force, by Yapico Studio, combines mech cartoons of the 90s with the cheesy delicious goodness of nacho fries. The ad celebrating the return of Nacho Fries even has a Japanese title, フライフォース (Furaifōsu). The promotional video is animated in Japanese style, leading viewers on the internet to refer to the piece as the “Taco Bell Anime.” The word “Anime” means “cartoon” in English, yet there are very different stylistic differences between the two.

One key difference between American and Japanese styles is the character design. American animation usually falls under two categories: comic book realness, or exaggerated humanoid (think The Simpsons.) Since cartoons are seen as mostly a thing for children, most shows fall under the exaggerated humanoid category, often including animals. In Japan, anime has programs for all age groups, and it is common for adults to enjoy. Character design in Japanese animation features big eyes, lines for noses and lips, detailed hair and eyelashes, and multi-dimensional coloring. Anime uses a 2D form of animation, so there are fewer frames per second than American cartoons. To move the scenes, animators use theatrical angles, and zooming motion to create flow from pictures. The exaggeration of features such as prominent blushing, or huge teardrops helps with this.

The influence of Japanese animation styles and cultural references to the popular genre of mecha anime. A mecha is a large armored robot, controlled by the person inside it. The Fry Force spot makes use of this trope. The foreign animation style helps the spot stick out from other food-related ads. Taco Bell also understands its target market, which is likely young adults from 18-30 who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons like Naruto, and are currently interested in anime and manga. The advent of the pandemic increased the demand for at-home entertainment, and streaming services like Netflix achieved great success by releasing tons of popular anime. Having nothing better to do in lockdown, many young people discovered and fell in love with anime, flocking to social media sites like Tik Tok, Twitter, and Instagram. People made jokes about the shows, artists drew fan art, and created costumes. The development of this community gave Taco Bell an opening to do something creative.

As an anime fan myself, I enjoyed it, despite the cheesy nature of it, and I am curious to see if more brands will use this style in the future.

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