Inspired by pop-art icon Andy Warhol, Psyop does it again, this time going for a crafted look, lively tone and strong message in their latest piece for Coke’s Super Bowl ad.
In this article, directors Trevor Conrad and Kylie Matulick kindly shared some insight on this amazing undertaking by the powerhouse studio.
What was the initial brief like and how did the concept develop from there? How were the creative dialogues between Psyop and the agency, Wieden+Kennedy?
The concept developed out of the idea that no matter how different we seem from one another, we all experience drinking a Coke in the same way. The process of working with both Wieden and our animation partner, Sun Creature, was extremely collaborative.
With Wieden, we took the script and identified key moments to design to. For each key moment in their script, we developed 2-3 visual narratives and then collectively chose our favorite.
With Sun Creature, they were integral to bringing to life the final look of the film with us. We had explored a few different styles at the start, including CG, but ultimately decided that a hand-crafted 2D style would feel more honest and spontaneous. We had worked with Sun Creature in the past on Travel Oregon and loved the way they approached and understood 2D. We wanted to keep the style very friendly and uncomplicated so that the power of the message would really shine and they were the perfect partners in helping us achieve this.
This is a 60-second spot full of characters and transitions. I personally love the sequence at the beginning when we flip through different characters while keeping the same action! What was pre-production like? And how did production go? Any specific challenges and workarounds in the making of it?
When we read the script, we knew that the characters we’d create would play a huge part in the narrative. We gathered a massive team of talented artists from around the world and sketched hundreds of different characters. We were asked to represent diversity in as many ways that you can think: human, imaginary, mythical, tall, short, furry, geometric—any and all creatures were fair game. A guiding inspiration was the New York Subway—we loved it as a unifying device where people from all walks of life can appear. We ended up selecting (collectively) 40 eclectic characters that represented our world.
When we read the script, we knew that the characters we’d create would play a huge part in the narrative. We gathered a massive team of talented artists from around the world and sketched hundreds of different characters.
Much of the story was developed during the storyboarding and design phase where we kept iterating on the vignettes to figure out which moment worked well with another moment while developing clever visual metaphors to complement the VO. Because we wanted a fluid feel throughout the film, we tended to keep the camera simple and consistent so that the audience could focus on the characters and vignettes. We broke out of that with our ending where we added a 3D camera move to pan back and reveal the word “Together.”
The end shot for the “Together” pull out was definitely the most tricky scene to accomplish. Massive crowd shots, with hundreds of characters, are usually created (in CG) in simulation programs but we couldn’t automate for this film because everything was hand animated. Eventually, after many, many calls and design explorations, we devised a solve with Sun Creature to seamlessly transition, as the camera pulls out, from full characters to very simplified drawings representing our cast. We looped some animations to create the sense of life and chose a manageable selection of characters to animate uniquely so that it still felt varied.
This piece touches on relevant themes such as diversity and acceptance. Can you elaborate on the core message you’d like viewers to take away from it?
Psyop has always been a company that actively champions diversity and freedom of thought within our own organization. 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.
Psyop is no stranger to the Super Bowl, always coming up with innovating and inspiring advertising work, traditionally on the 3D side of animation. For “A Coke is a Coke”, you’ve decided to go for a 2D look. How is Psyop approaching production and 2D these days? What role does the partnership with Golden Wolf play in that strategy?
Psyop’s strength has always been to tell powerful stories, regardless of medium. There’s been CG work with Coke in the past like Happiness Factory but there’s also been the 2D like Man and Dog. We approach a script from the concept first thinking about what we’d want people to feel and then exploring the most appropriate technique to bring about that emotion. Once we’ve established what we want to do, we then assemble our team so we can get it there.
We approach a script from the concept first thinking about what we’d want people to feel and then exploring the most appropriate technique to bring about that emotion.
The success of any film comes from a huge collective and passionate effort by all the different artists. Whether it’s with talented studios like Golden Wolf and Sun Creature, or multifaceted artists in-house (on Coke is a Coke one of our compositors also contributed significantly to character design), or talented individuals around the world, we feel truly lucky be a part of a creative community that’s always pushing and inspiring us to break into new visual languages allowing us to keep expanding our scope for telling stories.
Thank you, Trevor and Kylie!
A Coke is a Coke
Directors: Kylie Matulick, Trevor Conrad, Todd Mueller
Managing Director: Neysa Horsburgh
Head of Business Development: Justin Booth -Clibborn
Executive Producers: Amanda Miller, Shannon Alexander, Christine Schneider
Head of Production: Drew Bourneuf
Producers: Lucy Clark, Nick Read, Brian Butcher
Associate Producer: Amy Martz, Jonathan Howard
Visual Development Artists: Tuna Bora, Paul Cayrol, Claire Kang, Denny Khurniawan, Paul Kim, Pete McDonald
Designers: Joe Ball, Gino Belassen, James Lee
2D Animators: Tarun Lakshminarayanan, Taik Lee
2D Supervisor: Ryan Raith
2D Compositors: Sarah Blank, Raphael LaMotta, Lamson To, Anthony Medina, Tommy Wooh
Storyboard Artist: Max Forward
Flame Artists: Adam Flynn, Kim Stevenson
Flame Assist: Sam Shiflett
Editors: Lee Gardner, Joe Hughes, Volkert Besseling
Executive Producers: Guillaume Dousse, Charlotte De La Gournerie
Line Producer: Charlotte Sanchez
Art Director: Guillaume Dousse
Lead Design and Visual Development: Cyrille Chauvin
Visual Development Artists: Kajika Aki, Caroline Lefèvre, Leïla Courtillon, Marine Duchet, Pierre de Menezes, Gaspard Sumeire
Designers: Pierre de Menezes, Gaspard Sumeire, Jess Nicholls
Animation Supervisor: Liane Cho Han
2D Animators: Charles Badiller, Nawell Sdiri, Cyrille Chauvin, Mylène Cominotti, Christoffer Elsborg Kramme, Jonathan Djob Nkondo, Pierre Rütz, Kenneth Ladekjær, Vic Chhun, Thibaud Petitpas, Thierry Torres Rubio, Mourad Seddiki, Bung Nguyen, Slaven Reese, Eve Guastella, Marick Queven, Antoine Tran, Andrzej Radka, Clara Baidel, Hanne Galvez, Laura Büchert Schjødt, Louise Bergholt Sørensen, Mette Ilene Holmriis, Alain Vu, Christian Kuntz
2D Compositors: Anthony Lejeune, Jess Nicholls
Editor: Bo Juhl Nielsen