Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

Your Shot: Coke’s Animated Call for Unity at the Super Bowl

Production Company
Los Angeles, USA
Psyop’s Kylie Matulick and Trevor Conrad on the vision behind ‘A Coke is a Coke’
Coke likes to use the Super Bowl as a platform say something more than just 'buy our soda'. 'It's Beautiful' was one of 2014's most talked about Big Game spots, featuring people singing 'America the Beautiful' in all manner of languages from Hebrew and Hindi to Spanish and Senegalese-French. Last year's 'The Wonder of Us' highlighted that Coke was for everyone, and 'A Coke for a Coke', its 2019 effort continues in similar vein. 

Created by Wieden+Kennedy Portland, the animated spot is inspired by an Andy Warhol quote on unity. That quote was the inspiration behind an original poem, written by Wieden+Kennedy creatives, that voices the ad. It was brought to life by Psyop directors Kylie Matulick and Trevor Conrad, and their animation partners at Sun Creature. 

LBB's Addison Capper spoke with Kylie and Trevor to find out more. 

LBB> Why was this project something you were keen to be involved in?

Kylie & Trevor> It's always exciting to create a film for the Super Bowl because it has such a large audience. It was even more exciting because the message of the film was simple and powerful. It was a call for acceptance and a sense of community which is always a good thing to be reminded of. 

LBB> How closely did you work with W+K on adapting the poem into the visuals? What was that process like? 

Kylie & Trevor> It was a very collaborative process with W+K and Sun Creature. The schedule for the project was tight so the challenge was to develop a style that was compelling, dynamic and simple enough to execute. It's also a very emotional message and we wanted to make sure that was felt as well. With each key moment in the poem we developed two to three visual narratives and then collectively chose our favourite. 

LBB> There are so many characters and elements incorporated into the film - what was the process like when developing everyone? How did you ensure everyone that you and W+K wanted to represent was represented? 

Kylie & Trevor> We worked with a lot of talented artists from around the world and sketched hundreds of different characters. The brief was to represent diversity in as many ways that you can think: human, imaginary, mythical, creatures, tall, short, furry, geometric creatures. Everything was fair game. We ended up selecting (collectively) 40 characters that represented our world. 

LBB> What was the inspiration behind the cream background that everything lives within? 

Kylie & Trevor> We locked into a very simple visual style very early in the process, working with the basic colours of the brand (red, white and black). We originally started with a white background but we felt that it was too stark and cold on the screen. The warmth of the cream softened the tone nicely. 

LBB> What were your main aims with the overall aesthetic of the film?

Kylie & Trevor> The main goal aesthetically was to have it feel very spontaneous and hand crafted. Some of the illustrations feel more finished and others we left quite sketchy and rough. A lot of the environment details are even more reduced visually. This puts all the emphasis on the diverse set of characters and how they playfully interact with each other to bring the message to life. It was important to us that this felt light, playful and not overly laboured (even though it was).  

LBB> Technically, how did you pull off the shot at the end (where 'Together' is revealed)?

Kylie & Trevor> Whenever we start a new project we always look to see where the 'work holes' will be. By that l mean, what ideas or scenes will require the most time in technical development and animation. The end shot was definitely the most tricky scene to accomplish because massive crowd shots, with hundreds of characters, are usually created (in CG) in simulation programs so it can be more automated. With this film everything is hand animated so you can't do that. Eventually we devised a strategy with Sun Creature where we seamlessly transition, as the camera pulls out, from full characters to very simplified line drawings of our cast. Some of the animations loop to create a sense of life and a manageable number of characters are animated uniquely to add variation.  

LBB> The ad deals with quite a serious topic but, at its heart, is also a super sweet animated film that makes you smile (at least it did me!). Why do you think it's such a powerful way to deal with a topic like the one here?

Kylie & Trevor> Poetry calls to us, like the wild geese from an open sky, as Mary Oliver would say. It has a way of breaking through our cautiousness and touching our imaginations. Animation has that ability as well. You can make something as visually dense or as simple as you want. Like the words of a poem, every visual element is carefully chosen and considered; the cadence and rhythm of how the story flows over time, the use of colour and texture, the framing and expression of a character. Everything speaks to the message or idea you are trying to convey and nothing is in there that shouldn't be. Our approach was to keep the style very friendly and uncomplicated so that the power of the message would really shine and our characters passionately and purposefully deliver this important thought. 

LBB> What were the trickiest components when bringing this to life and how did you overcome them? 

Kylie & Trevor> Time constraints are always difficult to deal with, especially during the story and design phase. We wanted this piece to be very special and animation requires time to explore different visual directions and story ideas. Looking back l think the time constraints worked in our favour. Nothing was overly belaboured which kept the film feeling spontaneous and lighthearted.

LBB> Do you have a favourite moment in the film and why? 

Kylie & Trevor> I have many favourite moments but two l particularly like are when the boxer and little girl giggle at how they are both missing the same front tooth. l also love the moment when the poem changes tonally and speaks about how “we all have different hearts and hands" and we are able to visually represent that shift by simplifying everything in such a simple and loving way.

LBB> Any parting thoughts?

Kylie & Trevor> The success of any film is the result of a huge collective and passionate effort by the many different artists we work with around the world. Sun Creature were an amazing creative partner in this and we couldn't have done it without their tireless dedication to bring this to life. Our team at Psyop, developing initial story and finishing, were invested in every little detail. Overall there was a lot of love for this project and it really comes out on the screen.   
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