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Behind the Scenes - Clearway Minnesota Quitplan Services

Behind the Scenes - Clearway Minnesota Quitplan Services

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By Alise Munson
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Earlier this spring, Minneapolis-based ad agency Clarity Coverdale Fury asked us to pitch a stop-motion approach for a new campaign for Clearway’s QUITPLAN Services – Minnesota’s free tobacco cessation program. Director Aaron Sorenson spearheaded the approach to create unique visuals mixed with unexpected compassionate humor.

The idea to use stop motion techniques to animate the campaign added a feeling of tactile warmth and personality. In the final work, CG animation was used for smoke/smog effects and money clouds.

The character designs also reinforced the negative judgment aimed at smokers. Both Wendall’s and Angie’s designs portray a mixture of exaggeration, idiosyncrasy and, most importantly, sympathy. Aaron’s directive was to make the main characters look a little beaten down and beleaguered with oversized expressive eyes to help them communicate their feelings and thoughts.

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Aaron: “One of the funniest things in Angie’s story is the dynamic with her husband.

I love the passive aggressive air freshener gag because how it aptly portrays the way couples criticize each other. Just imagining the looks between the two makes me laugh and cringe”

The secondary characters’ designs were less compassionate and slightly obnoxious and self righteous to add another level of humor and sympathy to the story.

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Some of the puppets were also built as clay miniatures to support the forced perspective of distance as Angie drives away.

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The final puppets were first sculpted and then molded. For the bodies, foam latex was used over steel armatures and heads were hard cast resin with clay replacement mouths, eyebrows and eyelids. All were painted and then dressed in handmade clothes according to the character design.

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In some of the early environment artwork for Wendall, Designer Ross Stewart echoed the idea of transition in the end city scene. Smoker Wendall walks from a depressing industrial section of the city with billowing smoke stacks (reminiscent of cigarettes) into a part of the city where the sun is just starting to illuminate the buildings.

Aaron: “I thought it was important to visually telegraph the story’s theme of hope as we transitioned from a downbeat beginning to an upbeat ending. We ended each spot with a wide panoramic view to drive home the feeling of hope and not condemnation.”

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In the Angie spot, the narrative was based around the metaphor of taking a different turn of an old road. Positive changes and a new outlook (sunnier, clearer) begin with smoking cession. This created a problem for the stop-motion team. How would they show a car driving on a road without building hundreds of feet of a continuous road set on physically limited stage space.

The solution - build a large wooden drum dressed as a road with grass, trees and signs. The animator could crank the drum incrementally frame by frame while animating Angie driving in her car. The camera POV (from the rear passenger’s seat) added a sense of the viewer riding along inside the car while the road travel underneath – joining Angie on her journey to stop smoking.

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The spots continue to air exclusively in Minnesota, but are also viewable online.

More photos:

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Credits:

PRODUCTION

Production Company: HouseSpecial

Director: Aaron Sorenson

Executive Producer: Jan Johnson

Producer: Jenny Grayson

Line Producer: Karly Chambers

Client Services: Megan Sweigert

ART DEPARTMENT

Art Director: Tracy Prescott

Production Designer: Ross Stewart

Character Designer: Aaron Sorenson

Storyboard Artist: Joe Merideth

CEL

Mac Graphics Artist: Jenny Kincade

Intern Concept Artist: Kristy Kay-Jones

Intern Concept Artist: Joyce Lee

Intern Concept Artist: Michelle Lin

Intern Concept Artist: Manddy Wyckens

FABRICATION

Art Department Lead (Fabrication): Katie Mello

Art Department Coordinator: Beth Lipson

Sculptor: Julianna Cox, Tony Merrithew, Lyla Warren

Armaturist: Sarah Hall

Moldmaking / Cast and Clean: Katie Mello, Matt McKenna

Cast and Clean: Sarah Frechette

Costumer: Margaret Meyer

Puppet Painter: Jessica Bronk

Puppet Painter: Sara Neiman

Model Builder: Greg Boettcher, Mattie Bowden, Matt Burlingame, Paul Mack, Scott Tebeau

Carpenter: Gary Logue, Rob Melchior, Matt Perna

Greens: Ans Eills

Set/Model Painter: Jessica Bronk, Brian Capati, Leigh Jacob, Christina Owen

Laser Operator: Daniel Strong

Wrangler: Rob Melchior, Morgan Muta

Intern Fabrication: Lisa Chung, Emma Van Halsema

CG

Technical Director: Patrick Van Pelt

FX Artist: Patrick Van Pelt

STAGE

Director of Photography: John Nolan

Animator: Julianna Cox, Wendy Fuller, Chris Ohlgren

Motion Control: Josh Livingston

Grip: Clay Connally, Jake Hauswirth

Rigging: Sarah Hall

Stage Manager: Erica Johnson

Production Assistant: Anna Rose Williams

EDITORIAL

Editor: Michael Corrigan, Cam Williams

Smoke Artist: Leif Peterson

Flame Artist: Rex Carter

Tape Op: Dino Coons

Scheduler: Cam Williams

OUTSIDE EDITORIAL/POST PRODUCTION

Company: Limbocker Studios

City, State: Portland, OR

Sound Design/Mix: Lance Limbocker

Arranger: Lance Limbocker

AGENCY

Company: Clarity Coverdale Fury

City, State: Minneapolis, MN

V.P./Executive Creative Director: Jac Coverdale

Associate Creative Director/Art Director: Emily Hoyne

Senior Copywriter: Ian Simpson

Associate Director of Brand Development: Molly Hull

Senior Project Manager: Amy Fox

Agency Producer: Jenee Schmidt

CLIENT

Company: ClearWay Minnesota

City, State: Bloomington, MN

Vice President: Andrea Mowery

Dir. Of Marketing & Communications: Marietta Dreher

Senior Communications Manager: Michael Sheldon

Behind the Scenes of Jose Cuervo - History in a Bottle

Behind the Scenes of Jose Cuervo - History in a Bottle

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By Alise Munson

On May 1 our newest work, Jose Cuervo Tradicional®  History in a Bottle, hit screens everywhere including integration into a new virtual reality app. About 80 crew members/artists worked through the winter hand-making tiny agave plants, sculpting historic figures, sewing tiny costumes, building volcanoes, painting tiny bottles, lighting practical street signs and molding/casting 4-foot Cuervo bottle replicas.

The result? Take a look.

Agency: McCANN New York Client: Priximo Spirits - Jose Cuervo Tradicional® Director (animation & live action): Kirk Kelley

Before showing you the story behind the story, take a moment to absorb why working on a Jose Cuervo spot was natural for us:

1. We have a three-chambered margarita machine upstairs in our "break" room.

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2. We would rather celebrate Cinco de Mayo than we would St. Patrick's Day.

3. Our Creative Director, Kirk Kelley, is one of the owners of La Taq, a Mex-Tex Cantina in North Portland.

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4. This guy is located in Producers' Row:

5. Finally - We are one of the best studios in the world at making small things have a big impact and we can prove it.

Want more photos?  --> The Production Galley.

The Process

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To start - everything centered around the bottle. How would we fit practical dioramas into a bottle that looked good on camera? How do you create a bottle that had imperfections like a real bottle, but to a large scale? How long would fabrication take and will the materials work with our timeline? How heavy or unyielding will the finished bottle be?

First, we milled a wooden bottle and covered it with plaster.

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It was sanded and smoothed, and a sculptor added raised letters. The bottle was then sprayed with a high-gloss automotive paint for a smooth finish.

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From there, the smooth, gray bottle was used to create the mold to make nine clear resin bottles, all of which were sanded and polished until they looked like glass. The entire process to make one bottle took about four weeks.

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Character Design & Fabrication

While the bottles were being made in the shop, characters fabricators and sculptors collaborated with McCANN's team to design 65 roughly 4-inch puppets.

One of the lead characters was Margarita, who was the beautiful inspiration for her namesake cocktail. Character designers led by Art Director Alan Cook reviewed reference before  focusing on the character and her effect on the story forming around her.

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Once the concepts were approved, sculptors interpreted the designs into the practical world and in the right scale. Each figure had to fit into the final dioramas, so prop sizes and environments became part of the character design process.

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Each character was sculpted, molded, painted and dressed in custom costumes.

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All elements inside the bottle were dependent on each other and their relationship to the scene and the camera. Everything worked in harmony to give a believable look and feel.

Props

In addition to the 65 puppets, the fabricators created hundreds of props, including surfboards, palm trees, tequila barrels, agave plants, cannons, donkeys, guns...

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Fitting It All Into a Bottle

A CG pre-visualization of the viewers' movement through the scene was created to establish how the camera would move through the space of each bottle. Using this as a guide, foam core mock-ups were built of each vignette to ensure the camera, set lighting as well as all characters and props would fit correctly inside each of the bottles.

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While the props and characters were finalized, the stage crew built the sets and started to program lighting and motion-controlled camera moves.

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For this diorama set in Hollywood in the '50s, the lighting designer added working practical lights to the street, the signs and cars' front and tail lights.

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After all the elements were installed and glued down, the vignette was carefully slide into the bottle.

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Camera movements were finalized and the shot was captured.

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This process was repeated nine times to create the final 60-second spot.

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Camera and Software:

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Dragonframe, Flame, Smoke, Avid, Maya, Photoshop

Credits:

CD.Director: Kirk Kelley

Executive Producer: Lourri Hammack

Executive Producer: Jan Johnson

Producer: Julie Ragland

Production Coordinator: Jenn Catalino

Production Assistant: Megan Sweigert

Creative Director: Kirk Kelley

Art Director: Alan Cook

Character Designer: Michelle Lin

Production Designer: Christopher Appelhans

Concept Artists: Huy Dang, Kristy Kay-Jones, Joyce Lee, Michelle Lin, Manddy Wyckens

Matte Painters: Jenny Kincade, Manddy Wyckens, Stephen Bodin

Storyboard Artist: Fred Fassberger

Character Fabrication Lead : Katie Mello

Set/Prop Fabrication Lead: Rob Mechior

Sculptors: Christy Becker, Julianna Cox, Kameron Gates, Tony Merrithew

Moldmaking: Matt McKenna, Mattzilla Duron

Character Painter: Sara Neiman, Jessica Bronk

Costumer: Margaret Meyer, Elodie Massa, Jessica Rogers

Set/Prop Fabrication: Greg Boettcher, Mattie Bowden,Brian Capati, Lisa Chung, Ans Ellis, Gary Logue, Paul Mack, Katie Mello, Chris Ohlgren, Matt Perna, Alison Potvin, Daniel Strong, Emma Van Halsema, Andres Piedrahita

Set Painter: Richard Brian Capati, Leigh Jacobs

Scenic Painter: Loren Hillman

Wrangler: Elecia Beebe, Morgan Muta, Sarah Frechette

Production Assistant: Jaime Ginesky, Annarose Williams, Alex Webster

Art Department Manager: Erica Johnson

CG Lead TD: Terence Jacobson

Previs: Kameron Gates

Modeling: Allan Steele, Josh Tonnesen

Texture Artist: Josh Tonnesen

Lighting Artist: Frank Ritlop

VFX: Karl Richter

Director of Photography: John Nolan

Animator: Chris Ohlgren

Motion Control: Josh Livingston

Gaffer: Jake Hauswirth

Rigging: Rob Melchior

Grip: Brandon Lake

Stage Manager: Erica Johnson

Production Assistant: Annarose Williams

Editor: Michael Corrigan

Flame Artist: Rex Carter

Smoke Artist: Leif Peterson

Tape Op: Dino Coons

Post Production Manager: Cam Williams

Live Action Production Company: LAIKA/house

Director: Kirk Kelley

Executive Producer: Lourri Hammack

Producer: Elliot Freeman

Director of Photography: Eric Edwards

Production Designer: David Sicotte

Live Action Set Construction: Department of Art

Company: McCann NY- Erickson

City, State: New York, NY

Global Creative Chairman: Rob Reilly

EVP, Chief Creative Officer: Thomas Murphy, Sean Brown

SVP, Group Creative Director: Mat Bisher

ACD/Art Director: Vi Loung, Nic Howell

ACD/Copywriter: Colin Iisley

Copywriter: Sarah Lloyd, Mike Howard

Director of Integrated Productions: Nathy Aviram

Sr. Producer: Jessica Coccaro

Executive Music Producer: Peter Gannon

Music Producer: Mike Ladman

Client Lead: Elwyn Gladstone

SVP, Gr. Account Director: Lauren LaValle, Matthew Rakow, Rachel Heiss

Jose Cuervo - Photo Gallery

Jose Cuervo - Photo Gallery

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laikahousegallery03 We collected photos during the entire four-month production schedule. These images reveal the richness and detail we are masters at in animation. Take a look.

More more insights, take a look at our inclusive post.

Making the Bottle

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Jose María Guadalupe de Cuervo

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Battle of Puebla

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The Distillery

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Meet our Interns (1 of 2)

Meet our Interns (1 of 2)

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By Britt Appleton

Our winter interns are a hard-working and talented bunch. We're so proud, and we want to show them off.

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First up: Prasad, Kristy, and Siddhant.

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Prasad Narse is from Mumbai, India. He is an animation intern in our CG department. Prasad has been a fan of animation since he was little, when his dad would take him to the theater to watch animated movies. He preferred 2D animation as a kid, but once he saw Kung Fu Panda and Wall-E, he decided to make a career in 3D animation.

In 10 years, Prasad hopes to be directing feature-length animated films. If he were an animated character he would be Master Po Ping.

"I mostly like him because he shows us how to enjoy each and every part of our lives." More than anything in the world Prasad hates smoking. "Eat healthy, be stronger!" He could live on tea, wheat bread and butter.

To see more of Prasad's work, visit his website his Facebook page, or his twitter.

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Kristy Kay is a Concept/Storyboard intern from the Bay Area. She was first drawn to animation by James and the Giant Peach. When she saw that movie she knew she wanted to become a visual development artist.

In 10 years Kristy hopes to be traveling and creating beautiful artwork, with close friends by her side. If she were an animated character, she would be Dory from Finding Nemo because she loves that positive outlook. Just keep swimming! More than anything Kristy hates spiders and the dentist. She could live on Flaming Hot Cheetos and coffee. Bonus fact: Kristy is a twin, and her sister is also very creative.

For more from Kristy, visit her website.

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Siddhant Sakoskar is a Compositor Intern from Mumbai, India. Sidd loves animation for its ability to tell stories. In 10 years he'd like to be on the forefront of an animated film or animated short. If he were any animated character he would be Olaf from Frozen. Just like Olaf, he enjoys all kinds of crazy weather.

More than anything, Sidd hates hate. "We all need to learn to like everything and everyone or just ignore, if we can't like them." He could live on his mom's home-cooked Shrimp Biryani. Fun facts: He's got Bollywood dance moves, loves mimicking accents, is a huge comedy fan and a Cricket enthusiast. Also, he loves rain.

You can see more from Sidd on his website, on twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud.

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A Donutty Timelapse

A Donutty Timelapse

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We put 4 dozen donuts and a timelapse camera in our busiest kitchen, proving that animators love to play with their food.

 

Kraft Singles - Behind the Cheese

Kraft Singles - Behind the Cheese

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Q&A with LAIKA/house Director Aaron Sorenson

By Alise Munson

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aaronThis week, three new spots for Kraft Singles aired on broadcast and online outlets. To echo Kraft’s dedication to eliminate artificial preservatives and flavors from Kraft Singles slices, Chicago advertising agency mcgarrybowen worked with our Director Aaron Sorenson to visually represent the appeal of natural foods. The result was an innovative mix of stop-motion and 2D animation techniques that give movement to an adult storybook illustration style. Take a look at how the spots were made, the design choices and the narrative built for this campaign. Aaron and Artist/Designer Alan Cook expand on the journey.

The final spots: Make Something, No Artificial Preservatives, and Tasty Ending.

Q: What approach did you pitch to Kraft Singles and mcgarrybowen?

Aaron: The appeal of our narrative and our look is based in a handcrafted simplicity. To support the statement “nothing artificial,” we created a truly handmade series of commercials combining practical elements, stop motion and hand-rendered painting. Our approach started in the dimensional world with the fabrication of key practical pieces such as cows, barn and a milk truck.... We set up our scenes and animated these elements in stop motion to form a firm foundation—a rather simplified base layer that gave us real-world information about movement, light and shadow. The next step was frame-by-frame hand painting, which we overlaid on the photographed animation. Here, we developed the details—allowing some of the stop motion to mix back into the painted image and merge dimensionality with textural nuance.

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Q: What direction did you take in the design?

Aaron: These spots called for a simple watercolor or gouache paint style. I wanted a style that felt spontaneous and unlabored with a minimalist sophistication. Also by its nature, there is a lightness and airiness to watercolor that felt right. The palette used warm earth tones and rich greens to tie into nature. I also knew that combining a painterly illustration style with dimensional sets would enhance the camera moves as we panned from image to image. We introduced an element of parallax to the different tableaux as the camera moved around the page to enhance the illustrative style. The animation style of the cows was restrained and specific. I wanted the final look of the cows to move in a distinctly cow-like way regardless of the stylized design. Seeing the cow’s weight in her walk, swaying from side to side as she ambles along—this gives the viewer a feeling of authenticity in the animation.

Alan: I think a hand-made aesthetic was important. Making it feel as though the image was crafted by traditional means mirrors the image of the product - that it was created in a natural way that people often respond more directly to.

 

Farm Concept Art

 

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Barns Concept Art

 

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Props/Misc Concept Art

 

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Q: The technique seems to be a custom innovation.

Aaron: It’s certainly unique; it’s actually hard to think of any other pieces of animation done exactly like this. That’s one of the great things about LAIKA/house—we have the ability to combine stop motion, traditional 2D animation, live action and cg easily and all in-house.

Alan: The best reasons to integrate the two mediums were the ability to push some of the animation itself, to do what the puppet couldn’t actually do, and the ability to read and use the shadow and highlight information from the actual stop-motion shot.

Q: What software/tools did you use?

Alan: The main tools were Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects. There were a few other 3D packages to do some other tricks with integrating it all together, but most of the work came together in the animation timeline in Photoshop. On stage, we used Dragon software to capture images.

 

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On stage: These photos illustrate the technique we used. We painted the practical puppets, props and sets in bright neon colors allowing 2D artists to easily isolate individual objects to matte and paint. Objects in the forefront, like fences, were painted orange while the grassy pasture were painted day-glo green and the barn was colored yellow.

Practical Shots on Stage

Under black light: When the black lights were turned on, each neon color popped vibrantly giving artists a more defined canvas and simpler way to isolate objects on different planes.

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Q: Live action?

Aaron: Yes, the beauty shots of the grilled cheese sandwiches made with actual Kraft Singles. Mcgarrybown Creative Director Michael Straznickas brought in well-known food stylist Susan Spungen to create the perfect grilled cheese. The entire studio smelled delicious and the product shot was mouthwatering. After the sandwiches were shot, each frame of the live action was then hand-stylized to be consistent with the overall look and feel of the spot.

Videos

Each shows how the spots looked during the first phase of animation on the stop-motion stages.

The final spots: Make Something, No Artificial Preservatives, and Tasty Ending.

WIN A HOODIE

WIN A HOODIE

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For a limited time only, sign up for our bi-monthly email, WILD/fire, and you are entered to win this incredible, and incredibly exclusive, LAIKA/house hoodie, complete with a cozy pocket for your phone. hoodie

 

UPDATE: We have our winner. David Cusak and his LAIKA/house hoodie are very happy together.

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