Following last year’s holiday campaign, the loveable characters are back again to continue their adventure. This time, the group escapes from a DICK’S Sporting Goods Distribution Centre, commandeers a delivery truck, and drives to a young boy's family home to deliver the presents themselves.
The campaign saw multiple MPC studios come together on the VFX which brought the spot to life. The work was led out of the New York studio with support from studios globally including LA, Bangalore and London, as well as the MPC Film team who handled the pre-vis. The MPC team was led by animation director Chris Bernier and creative director Anthony Bloor, working closely with Anomaly and Shawn Levy in a collaboration process that started well before the shoot began.
“This year we were all focused on bringing even more character into the whole story. Anomaly, Pacific Rim Films and MPC worked together to come up with ideas during the edit, so that our animators could include as much action as possible to make the characters likeable and fun, including kick flips, rail slides, fun runs and football kicks,” commented Chris.
David Piombino, 2D Lead, added: “The main challenge in re-creating something in CG that also exists practically is that you need to be incredibly accurate. In the shoot, we were mindful of this and shot elements of the actual products as stand-ins. The director, agency, and set crew were very understanding of our process and this gave us a wonderful reference to match with and guide us to our final result.”
The team revived many of the characters from last year’s DICK’S Sporting Goods holiday spot to serve as supporting members of the group. The main cast for this year’s spot includes updated versions of the hoodie, skateboard and ping pong paddles from last year’s spot, as well as new characters such as the gym weights and football.
MPC’s VFX and animation was once again key to bringing these objects to life, while also allowing them to express emotion without the use of humanlike facial features or expressions.
“Every character – original and new – was updated so that their performance was pushed even further this year. There was more emphasis on trying to get more emotional read and humour, so each character had to hit very specific poses for us to master the emotional connection,” commented Anthony Bloor, MPC creative director. “Technically that meant building new animation rigs or find new ways to simulate the cloth in instances like the hoodie, where we also used our famous fur system to recreate the fibres of the material to give it a realistic cloth effect.”
Chris added: “The key challenge with an animated campaign like this is finding the very fine balance of a believable photo-real product that also has a fun, likeable character. We lean on the traditional animation principles like squash and stretch to build character and fluid movement, but we have to make sure we don't push it too far into a cartoon feel. The lighting, texturing, shading and simulation of the characters goes a long way to introducing believability, but ensuring a fun performance to avoid the risk of feeling hollow or lifeless.”
One key difference in creating this year’s campaign was working remotely across the teams. A physical shoot took place in person with socially distant safety protocols while MPC interacted with Anomaly and Levy remotely to go through the animated shots together via collaborative review sessions. Although different, the process was smooth, and communication was seamless throughout.
“It was a pleasure to work with Pacific Rim, Shawn, and the team at Anomaly again. They bring an excitement, creativity, and collaborative spirit that allows the work to really shine,” Chris concluded.