Forget ‘Sorry Charlie,’ the classic brand icon for StarKist Tuna has never looked better thanks in large part to , the award-winning 3D animation studio led by Creative Director Wayne Brejcha and Executive Producer Sean Henry. The studio partnered with acclaimed director Steve “Spaz” Williams, who began his career at legendary visual effects house ILM, production company Phasmatrope, West Conshohocken, PA; and the Harrisburg, PA-based Quench Agency, to create the new ad “Modern Charlie,” which boasts the heart-healthy benefits to StarKist’s Tuna and Salmon Creations products.
The new ad isn’t the first time Calabash has been trusted with the brand icon (they were the animation masterminds behind the classic 2005 MasterCard Super Bowl ad “Icons”), but for Henry it was important to stay true to the original look of Charlie.
“Charlie’s basic design has hardly changed since he was first introduced in the early 60’s, but he has been interpreted in slightly different ways over the years,” Henry says. “We felt obligated to stay as true as possible to the official look, but there were a lot of elements to the design that needed to be thought out carefully. Charlie’s design is pretty abstract, like a comic strip character. It works well as a drawing, but it is a real challenge to sculpt in 3D since it is only designed to be seen from one or two angles.”
Brejcha found the recent “Peanuts Movie” from Blue Sky Animation inspiring in its adaptaion of quirky 2D characters into 3D.
“Charlie’s 3D spatial coherence is playful,” Brejcha notes. “Sean rigged our CG Charlie to be able to do what the handdrawn cartoons can do. He’s not a strictly jointed armature – he’s more of a series of liquid forms, and we kept a sharp eye on the resulting 2D shapes you see as the final result to guage how well we were capturing Charlie’s personality.”
“Modern Charlie” (:15) pays homage to a classic ad from the 1960s featuring his sidekick known as the Octopus in which we see Charlie playing the harp and “putting his heart into it” when the flute-playing Octopus reminds him that StarKist “doesn’t want tuna with heart, they want tuna that’s good for the heart.”
“From the very beginning, it was clear that everyone shared a similar vision for the project and it was a great collaboration,” Henry says. “It was an honor for us to work with Spaz, one of the original pioneers of CG animation, while Phasmatrope Executive Producer Jon Isen did an amazing job keeping the creative effort focused and on task and the agency and Quench proved a perfect creative partner, providing excellent direction and plenty of creative space to explore possibilities.”
Brejcha notes that this latest ad is yet another example of the power of brand icons in the ever-increasingly fractured media landscape.
“Characters like Charlie carry an enormous amount of equity for their brands,” Brejcha explains. “A memorable mascot has the power to elevate a brand to the status of cultural icon, and one thing we are seeing is that these characters have serious longevity and flexibility to adapt with ever-changing culture and technology. We love breathing new life into a classic.”
About Calabash Animation:
Led by Creative Director Wayne Brejcha and Executive Producer Sean Henry, Calabash is the Chicago, IL-based animation production studio known for its award-winning animation for the advertising and entertainment industries. Calabash Animation is perhaps best known for their creative character animation and development of some of America’s most beloved brand icons. In addition to it advertising working, the company has also produced several acclaimed short films, including ‘’Stubble Trouble,’’ which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002.
Project: “Modern Charlie” (:15)
Agency: Quench Agency, Harrisburg, PA
Chief Creative Officer: Jeff Odiorne
CD/Writer: John Gilbert
ACD/AD: Dave Spink
Producer: Matt Campbell
Group Brand Manager: Ami Lawson
Brand Manager: Laura Osmolinski
Production Company: Phasmatrope Studios, West Conshohocken, PA
Director: Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams
EP: Jon Isen
Animation: Calabash, Chicago, IL
Creative Director: Wayne Brejcha
EP: Sean Henry
Click here to watch “Modern Charlie”:
Click here for more info about Calabash:
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