As If We Need a Reason.
Ben & Jerry’s have had a long, playful, and somewhat unconventional history. Not only is their ice cream just about the most amazing thing you can put in your mouth, but they’re also socially conscious and put a lot of care into the ingredients they use. It’s something we can stand behind. So when we got a call from the good folks at Mekanism, we were excited to see what we could do with such a fantastic brand.
Turns out Ben & Jerry’s was onto a sort of breakthrough in ice cream: already the masters at mixing ingredients into their ice cream, they topped it off with a thick layer of fudge and brownies. Yes please. We knew all the research we’ve been doing for the past 5 years would be called upon to craft a spot worthy of such a cause. And we were up for the task.
We started with Ben & Jerry’s most famous icon: Woody.Slightly sassy. Witty and Wacky. Playful and Fun. We had to adhere to a couple key rules while designing her look. The challenge was to design a character with no arms, keep her hooves close to her body at all times and have her body stay true to a two dimensional silhouette that’s been gracing Ben & Jerry’s packaging for years.
Staying true to Woody’s look has been a thing for Ben & Jerry’s, and they have solved it in different ways, in different spots. We explored a range of options to give her “depth” without breaking her silhouette. What we ended up with was a true 3D model of Woody that we can manipulate in 3D space, but that aligns itself to the camera in such a way that it never breaks her silhouette completely.
As our character artists were exploring the finer nuances of bringing a cow to life, our designers were honing in on the language of Woody’s Vermont home. The green hills and blue picturesque skies is as iconic to Ben & Jerry’s as Woody is. We explored options that fell into the “crafting” sensibility and other that were more hyper-real. Where we landed feels somewhere in the middle.
Before we dive into full animation, we work out the timing and composition in previs. This is also the stage we work on general story telling, making sure what we have planned actually works with the client’s best interests. Sometimes things change when we can all see them in motion (that is the purpose of this phase). That happened with the “Caring Dairy” section of the spot. Initially we wanted to fling Woody up into the clouds where there were floating angelic dairy cows lending their support. While having a change of scenery was nice, and getting a perspective of Woody coming back to earth on a parachute was kind of awesome, the decision was made to scrap it and bring it back to the Vermont farm.
Pretty Sure Brownies Don’t Do This.
This is a pretty fantastic and whimsical spot (even when you discount the whole “cow standing on her hind legs” thing). The way Woody haphazardly gets into trouble with the product is a part of its charm. But it also warrants a different approach to what would be a standard table top product shot.
Everything in this spot is CG; it has to be. We have ribbons of caramel swirling Woody into the foreground and chunks of brownies flinging her into trees. Obviously keeping an appealing photorealistic look was key – and we achieved it with plenty of reference images of product and realistic shaders built from them.
The final touch to the crafty, hyper-real world we created for Woody was a little depth of field. We still wanted this piece to feel filmic, and since everything was in the same CG space, putting a little depth of field in there felt natural.
Look, we don’t want to come off as snobs – but we’re sort of connoisseurs of ice cream. Every week we have ice cream tastings paired with a selection of wine. It certainly takes the edge off (and explains a lot of things). Ben & Jerry’s has been a staple in those weekly tastings for some time now, and with Topped, we really don’t think that will change. We were honored to build a new chapter for the Ben & Jerry’s brand and to bring Woody into a 3D world, full of hyper-realistic textures and whimsical effects. We feel it’s a look that stays true to the sensibility that has defined Ben & Jerry’s for years, while opening it up to some new possibilities down the road.
We look forward to seeing what adventures Woody finds herself in next, cause naturally that means adding a new flavor to the litany of Ben & Jerry’s flavors we’ve all grown fond of. And as we said before, ice cream is our jam.