Agile Films' Simon Willows directs three dashboard-mounted CG pups for spot out of Leo Burnett
Three nodding dogs designed and animated by Framestore are the stars of the latest Simon Willows-directed commercial for McDonald’s. The 30-second film, entitled 'Dash Hounds', shows a car journey that quickly turns into a visit to a McDonald’s drive-thru as the three dashboard-mounted CG pups get more and more excited at the prospect of the car’s driver getting a bacon roll with ketchup. In their design, Framestore’s team gave each dog its own character and expressive mannerisms that are on display in this playful commercial for Agile Films.
The initial brief from Leo Burnett was to create three charming bobblehead dogs with distinct personalities that could be conveyed entirely through their facial expressions. Framestore’s design team started the process by sketching several dogs in different poses to decide which breeds would work best in the commercial and then set about designing a consistent look for the three dogs while still finding a way to show their individual personalities.
It was Yukari Schrickel, junior motion designer at Framestore, that took on the job of designing the dogs for the commercial. Talking about the breeds that were picked and how they were to be represented on-screen, Yukari said: "We settled on a droopy Basset Hound as an older, more mature dog which is laying down throughout the advert, an alert, guard dog-like Doberman which sits at attention and a lopsided and excitable mutt that looks like it’s itching to bound around the inside of the car."
While the dogs’ faces change throughout the commercial, the movement isn’t something seen by the audience. "The big challenge on this project was designing how the dogs’ excitement would build throughout and show emotion without their faces being animated," added Yukari. "So we designed a series of different static expressions which showed how their emotions built as the shots cut from one to the next."
The Framestore team then placed the dogs into the live-action environment of the commercial and animated their nodding action. The project’s CG and compositing team which included Leo Costa, the project’s lead 2D and Taekyu Yang, the CG lead also added another level of realism to the film by really effectively matching the lighting conditions of a moving car onto the dogs.
"This project has been one on which the team has needed to pay extra attention to the finer details; from making subtle movements realistic and lighting the three dogs to their unique textures which when added, gave them additional individuality," said Ben Cronin, creative director at Framestore and the VFX supervisor on the project. "It’s these things that have made this project an enjoyable one to work on and we’re really pleased to have delivered this great-looking work for Simon Willows, a director that we have a really great relationship with."
Dash Hounds is the latest in recent collaborations between Framestore and Leo Burnett, having worked together for several recent McDonald’s commercials to create fresh and visually-interesting films for the brand.