I Made The bunnies bounce

In Fallon’s latest blockbuster commercial for Sony Bravia’s Colour Like No Other campaign, directed by Frank Budgen, brightly coloured model rabbits hop about the streets of New York. We caught up with animation director Darren Walsh about his role on it

CR: What was your job title on this?
DW: Animation director.

CR: When, where and how long was the shoot?
DW: We did a number of tests over the months preceeding the live action/stop-frame shoot in NY. All the “pre-viz” for the shoot was animated with claymation in London. We probably animated around 15 minutes of tests, which is pretty much unheard of for a 60 second commercial. We then moved to NY for approximately a month in July for pre-production and the nine-day location shoot in Union Square and other Manhattan locations.

CR: Can you tell us what your responsibilities were on this?
DW: One of the main responsibilities was to plan out and execute the animation on a scale that had never been done before. We needed to work out as much as we could in rehearsals and tests in advance to make sure we were prepared for the location shoot.

CR: So how many animators worked on this ad?
DW: We had 30 top stop-frame animators from all around the globe – many of them acclaimed directors in their own right – and 23 student animators working together in extreme heat and on a very physical type of animation. Most of the animators are used to working in small studios mostly by them-selves so to be working together outdoors on this kind of scale is unheard of.

CR: How did you organise this giant team of animators on the shoot?
DW: We actually had a series of rehearsal workshops with all of the animators in NY in a studio in Brooklyn. It was important for every-one to learn to animate in the same style so it looked as if it had all been animated by the same person, that the rabbits were all moving in the same style. The rehearsals lasted for about eight days and everyone pretty much got the hang of it in that time. It was great to see so many enthusiastic animators who were just keen to get in and have a go.

CR: Were the rehearsals simply concerned with animation technique or were you rehearsing the choreography of the piece?
DW: To be honest, most of the animation done on the shoot had to be improvised on the day as there wasn’t really a storyboard to work to. So our rehearsals really paid off because we were able to have greater flexibility within any of the shots because the animators were so well trained as to be able to be super-flexible and accommodate any new ideas that Juan Cabral and Frank Budgen wanted to try.

CR: What were the rabbits made out of and how many were there?
DW: We used a mixture of “Play-Doh” or clay rabbits combined with six inch, one foot and two foot bunnies which were made out of foam and latex but made to look as if they were made from Play-Doh. In total we had nearly 200 rabbits of varying sizes. We needed to make the larger bunnies out of foam because they would have been too heavy to move if they had been made of solid clay, though of course we did think about it. Somehow the weight of them combined with the New York heat and humidity would have been a disaster.

CR: And how do the bunnies hop?
DW: Each hop consists of six separate bunny models, each representing a different stage of the movement. Artem in London then made moulds of these which were used to make around 130 individual two foot bunnies, which were then shipped to NY.

CR: Were all the models made in the UK and shipped to New York?
DW: The larger models such as the ten-foot wave and 30 foot red bunny were designed by us in London and then constructed by a team of scenics pulled together by production company Gorgeous in Brooklyn.

The 30 foot bunny needed special permission to enter Manhattan and arrived under cover of darkness over the Williamsburg Bridge on the back of a flatbed truck.

Play-Doh Facts
Title: Play-Doh
Client: Sony Bravia
Ad agency: Fallon, London
Creative director: Juan Cabral
Executive creative director: Richard Flintham
Agency producer: Nicky Barnes
Account director: Ben Cyzer
Director: Frank Budgen
Production company: Gorgeous Enterprises
Producer: Rupert Smythe
Animation supervisor: Darren Walsh
Animation production company: Passion Pictures
Post production: Moving Picture Company


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