Grrrr to Grrreat
Director Craig Brownrigg - FRANK
Agency VML Chicago

Case Study

We teamed with Kellogg’s, director Craig Brownrigg at Frank Content, and the folks at VML to bring Tony the Tiger to life for game day. Our creative brief stressed wanting to see the familiar Tony “between commercials:” just a regular guy with a carefree life, kicking back, watching the game, and pranking his friends.

Our first step was updating Tony’s look—with Tony being such familiar and classic pop culture icon, we had to maintain the integrity of his character, while also making him seem more adult. The teams eventually agreed on our proposal of a mid-point between his original, smooth cartoon body, and the newer, furry version, currently seen in the most recent TV campaigns.

After many amusing tests, we settled on a plush texture, a bit felted, almost like an oversized stuffed toy. This was a practical decision as much as a creative one: it ended up being much quicker than a complex fur simulation, and injected a bit of humor by counter-balancing his potentially intimidating stature with the appearance of a toy.

We turned to Vray fur and spent early RND time building a series of textures we felt gave him a convincing plush feeling for his coat. We played with different lengths of fur and facial hair until we found the perfect balance for the Tony character. Sticking to the more “adult” feel, we even gave him a bit of scruff and added paw prints to his chest, as if he hadn’t combed his coat that morning.

Our extensive on-set experience was crucial to our success during post. We supervised the shoot in Toronto, while generating photoscans and HDRI photographs, along with detailed set measurements and sketches to give us the basis for building the GC set. For the animation to work, we needed to cast shadows and reflections on to the live-action footage, allowing for the Tony character to be naturally integrated into the film.

The entire process was exceptionally collaborative. Animation is always a funny process, with lots of back and forth, but working with Devon, Jeff, Rob, and Lara at VML was great—they laughed at our ideas, allowed us to animate, and then really enjoyed the results.