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Behind the Scenes of Jose Cuervo - History in a Bottle

Behind the Scenes of Jose Cuervo - History in a Bottle


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.


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.


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


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.


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.

bottle 2

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.


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.

LAIKAhouse_cuervo_char_marg01 sm

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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


Camera movements were finalized and the shot was captured.


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


Camera and Software:

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


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