7 July 2009
Mission: Create a 24-spot environmental campaign to air for over a year
Challenge: Gather 29 Disney Channel stars in a nature setting to promote green ideas
In conjunction with their new green goals, Disney Channel conceived a environmental initiative called "Friends For Change: Project Green." The object was to create a number of spots which empowered kids to join together to make a difference. What Disney needed from us was a concept that could incorporate both inspiring visuals in a gorgeous natural setting and all the cumbersome conveniences required when 29 Disney Channel stars are on set simultaneously.
In addition to providing concept development and production logistics, we scripted a series of spots that would convey a lot of technical information in an inspiring, energizing way that would encourage kids to go to the Disney website and get involved in saving the environment. One of the biggest considerations was finding ways to incorporate all of the talent in the spots, which involved coordinating their schedules so that specific groups of stars could be on camera together.
We solved the logistics problem by bringing the "outdoors" indoors via four huge LED screens filled with HD stock footage of nature. Each screen was programmed with its own series of images for each of the 24 spots. Simultaneously, several BTS crews were filming material for a half-hour behind-the-scenes show, Radio Disney was getting interviews with all the stars, and the photo department was shooting stills of all the stars on a miniature version of our set. Our crack production team, well versed in the ways of mondo shoots, pulled off the ambitious three-stage extravaganza without a hitch.
2 Feb. 2009
Mission: Energize viewers for the February 2009 launch of Disney XD
Challenge: Generate a series of high-action spots to integrate with the pre-existing XD graphics
When Disney decided to re-launch Jetix as Disney XD, they wanted it to be a channel that appealed to boys – cool and action-oriented. They asked us to conceive and produce a launch package that could run in theaters, online and on Disney Channel for several months prior to the February premiere. Their idea was that the XD logo was a portal through which kids could travel to a world that was XD-enhanced.
Music was the key component in setting the right tone up front. We pitched an old-school rap approach to the initial tease spot, with the aim of the song becoming so infectious that the tune itself would essentially become a viral marketing tool. In later spots, we rearranged the song so the XD lyrics were couched in an ever-shifting mixup of rap, grunge, heavy metal and pop sounds.
In accordance with Disney's ethic of encouraging kids to be active, we designed a series of spots that incorporated action sports like roller hockey, skateboarding and BMX tricks with skills like breakdancing, drumming and mural painting. Casting kids with engaging personalities who also had mad skills was essential. Since our budget constrained us to shooting in a single location, we found a school which could offer us a parklike quad, a classroom, and space to build a basement rec room set and set up a green screen. Our production team worked closely with our FX company on set to seamlessly integrate our footage with the graphics. A high-energy editorial approach provided the finishing touch.
7 July 2008
Mission: Create an original spot for a top-secret reality show
Challenge: Limited budget and no access to series footage
Creating a spine-tingling spot to launch Sam Raimi's new CW horror reality show 13: Fear is Real was a scream. Since the show was top-secret, we had to scare your socks off without showing any of its actual footage. With the goal of roping in horror movie fans, our challenge was to reference all the tried-and-true slasher film traditions on a very limited budget – without resorting to cliché.
With our budgetary constraints, we planned for a single night of shooting in a location where we could use a variety of dark, creepy areas. We needed to work efficiently to get the most use of all the different locations we needed. Shooting overnight at the height of summer put further pressure on the already challenging schedule. With meticulous pre-planning, our small, agile crew was able to resolve effects problems creatively, practically and inexpensively.
Back in the studio, we cut the footage together in classic horror movie style. The fear became "real" with the creation of an inspired audio design.
7 July 2007
Mission: Create 6 interstitials describing healthy eating around the world
Challenge: Working with Disney International affiliate production teams around the globe to create plate-passing transitions that cut together seamlessly
When Disney asked us to design a series of spots that would promote healthy eating by teaming up with 8 Disney Channel International divisions around the world, we knew we had our work cut out for us – but conquering language barriers was the least of our challenges. The most crucial element of the project would doubtless be the transitions, when our host in the US, Brenda Song, passed a plate to the host in France, who tossed a fruit to the host in India... and on and on.
Extensive pre-planning and storyboarding made communication about what we needed clear to all the international production teams, and the exchange of transition props allowed us to edit scenes together seamlessly. After all the international affiliates had delivered their footage, we shot the bookends with Brenda Song to bring the spot full circle, around the globe.
The project has been so successful that the spots are still airing worldwide on Disney Channel two years later. "Pass the Plate" made such an impact that it even went viral – kids all over the world have made their own versions of the spots and posted them on YouTube. Disney has requested more "Pass the Plate" packages for 2008 and beyond.
1 Jan. 2005
Mission: Create a product tie-in spoof with a Thanksgiving theme
Challenge: Sustain the comedy over 34 spots
For our third year conceiving a series of interstitials for Comedy Central's Thanksgiving cross-promotion with Xbox, we came up with the idea of spoofing fund-raising telethons. Our twist was that no one would really seem to know exactly what they were raising money for... and our host would become increasingly out-of-control and disheveled as the marathon program continued.
Of course, the whole idea hinged on having the perfect host. We were extremely fortunate to get then-Daily Show correspondent Steve Carell to host our telethon, not to mention the perfect foil in his wife Nancy Walls. (Little did we know where he would go from here...) With their pitch-perfect comedic timing, our voluminous scripts came off without a hitch.
What's a telethon without musical acts? It was the perfect opportunity to incorporate a spoof of wholesome Christian singing groups like Up With People. Our fresh-faced singers performed inspirational-sounding tunes that actually viciously skewered racism and homophobia, among other issues. For a change of pace, the Naked Trucker and T-Bones gave us the lowdown on the freedom of life on the road... without pants.
To accomplish all of this in a two-day shoot, our production team set us up in a three-camera television studio, where we ran the shoot as if it was being edited live. This eventually saved us a lot of time in the edit room. A few weeks later, we had a 34-spot package with an additional 60 code-word spots that blanketed the four-day Thanksgiving weekend on Comedy Central with Xbox giveaway opportunities.