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Wit Animation Creates CG Spot for McDonald's
Wit Animation was recently commissioned to create a character animation spot for McDonald's via ad agency Burrell Communications, which introduces the new Fruit & Walnut Salad. "Patio" involves live-action and cutting-edge character animation, both directed by Wit Animation Owner/Creative Director Jeb Milne.
The spot opens on a live-action sequence where an attractive African-American woman walks down the sidewalk and hears laughing from behind the fence. Pushing the door open she inquires, "Why are you all so animated?" to three CG girls sitting at a table. When one of the animated characters says that it must be their fruit buzz, the real woman asks, "Fruit what?" The CG friends then proceed to explain that they're referring to the new McDonald's Fruit & Walnut Salad. Jump to a live-action product shot where the women describe the salad's delicious ingredients. "Tastes so fresh, so sweet, so real" at which point the formerly live-action woman, now a CG character herself, says, "You mean, like me?" The four girlfriends laugh and continue to chat as the visually compelling spot concludes with the McDonald's logo and tagline, "I'm Lovin' It"
Wit Animation Owner/Creative Director Jeb Milne says that close collaboration with the ad agency, Burrell Communications, was especially helpful during the character design process.
The Wit Animation artists began with sketches and quickly moved into creating 3D images utilizing 3ds max. Work-in-progress character images were sent to the client for approval on the girls' features, as well as their clothing and accessories. Wit was constantly updating boards with character designs by their illustrator David Duong.
Milne was also responsible for directing the live-action portion of the project. "The agency knew that I had extensive experience with integrating 3D with live-action so it made sense for me to direct the live-action as well."
First, the Burrell creatives and Milne cast the live-action girl and then cast three women to do voiceovers with her. All four girls were recorded together and separately in a recording studio. Milne then selected the best of the individual takes and composited them into one seamless performance.
Before the animation process, Milne acted out all of the girls' parts on video so the animators would have good references for their movements. They also taped the girls during the voiceover session for more body language reference. The total turnaround time for the actual animation was three weeks.
"The most challenging aspect of this project was capturing the women's attitudes," observes Milne. "We were able to accomplish this with a lot of reference material and careful direction during the voice recording. Everything was precisely scripted except for the end when the girls freely tease each other. The collaboration with Burrell was fantastic. They were very hands-on yet open to suggestions"
In between commercial commitments, Wit Animation continues to generate its own creative material and ideas. It was one of these original projects that landed Wit Animation a CG commercial for Heartgard Plus, the leading brand of heartworm preventatives for dogs. One of the heads of Ames Scullin O'Haire Advertising (ASO) saw a beaver character created by Wit Animation and came up with the concept for Officer Gus, the lead dog character in the spot "Mean Streets.
"ASO wrote the script and had storyboards written around a New York street corner where Gus, our lead dog character, speaks directly to the dogs in TV viewer land, describes Milne. "The client had a 2D look for Gus and our job was to finesse the design and translate it into 3D using 3ds max. We tried to fit in as many humorous elements as possible from the ‘No Barking' sign to a nightclub called The WAG to a donut shop named Dog'n Donuts. We worked hand-in-hand with the client and I was able to co-direct the voiceover artist as well.
Wit Animation is a small, but perfectly formed commercial production company and animation studio located in Venice, California. Founded in 1998 by Creative Director Jeb Milne, Wit Animation is dedicated exclusively to the art of character animation and focuses on the production of television commercials, as well as the development of original content.
Milne created Wit Animation after being hired to design and animate 14 mutant aliens for the 1998 MTV Movie Awards. He assembled a team of four 3D artists and animators and completed the project within a five-week production schedule, helping to make the MTV Movie Awards a big success.
For the next few years, the studio created 3D elements for commercial projects for companies such as the Disney Channel and Animal Planet, and even a space scene for Steven Spielberg's Millennium movie. During this time, Wit Animation was continually developing original content.
Wit Animation landed its first TV commercial in 2001 for Beconase Hay Fever Spray via ad agency McCann-Erickson in the UK. This led to three spots for client Skips and ad agency Publicis in the UK. The company has spent the past two years establishing its presence in the US with high-profile projects such as the Oscar-nominated Counting Crows music video "Accidentally in Love" Wit Animation created a CG bunny character, which mirrored the likeness of lead singer Adam Duritz. The song was released in conjunction with the animated feature /Shrek 2.
Owner and Creative Director Jeb Milne is continually working on developing feature and direct-to-DVD releases. The main creative thrust for the company is the original content that is created internally. These include pieces like "Pretty Bird," "Beaver" and "Mavis and the Butterfly," which have been successful in inspiring ad agencies to use Wit Animation for commercials.
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