Sunday, February 3, 2008

"It's Mine"

I love this commercial so much that I could end this posting here - but I won't because there is just so much that was done right with the production of it. As usual, it involves three things I'm extremely passionate about: New York City, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and cartoon characters.

In a previous posting, I made clear what I believed to be some of the biggest problems with CG animation and effects.  So much of what's currently produced in CG looks plastic-y. It's either a limitation of the art form or purely a budgetary concern.  Whatever the reason, some art directors and directors have wisely used it to their advantage while a lot of others have apparently tried pushing the envelope of realism and have fallen short. 

"It's Mine,"  the title of this Coke commercial, features some of what I believe to be the attributes of CG. For me, it's effectiveness and believability, begins with it's application: inanimate objects. It's the reason why Toy Story worked so well thirteen years ago. And despite the fact that this spot's antagonists are "sculpted" versions of their animated counterparts, it features very subtle, "wind-induced" acting. There is a little cheating evident in the fourth shot, where Stewie's head turns (somewhat independent of the rest of his body) toward the Coke Balloon followed by Underdog with a similar gesture in the fifth shot, but that's minor and works in favor of the story. The often weightlessness of CG benefits the characters here in their inflatable state. 

Incidental effects, like light reflection and sun glare on the balloons are practically flawless. Details like shadows cast from Central Park West trees onto the balloons, shadows from the balloons cast against buildings and, notably, a reflection on a cab windshield in the twenty-second shot are masterfully executed and ground-in-reality the world created in the commercial.

According to Duncan's TV Ad Land, cinematography was handled by Ellen Kuras. I've seen her work previously in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, a truly underrated and overlooked film in terms of both visual style and performance [I'll add that I'm a bit biased because I live in the neighborhood where it was filmed]. In "It's Mine," Ms. Kuras manages to capture the majesty of an early Manhattan morning in the fall. The light, color and feel (minus the brisk chill in the air) are as accurate as anything I can remember experiencing on a November morning, maybe more-so thanks to the spot's idealized color-styling. 

My only on-going pet-peeve about anything filmed in New York appears in the third shot. While that particular shot appears to have been filmed somewhere in streets of the Upper West Side, it seems inconsistent with the accuracy of parade locations used for shots one, two, four and five. I recognize that certain factors can come into play with stuff like this, like impact on traffic patterns during desired filming times, residential noise-impact, area street construction, finding a location that works for the shot's composition, etc. However, given the amazing effect of the commercial I'm not going to nit-pick.

Character selections are diverse and, barring another Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue special, unlikely to be seen on-screen together again. The spot's agency, Wieden+Kennedy, appears to have had an awareness of the popularity of the 1970's-1980's Underdog balloon, which makes his selection obvious. Stewie, I assume, appears because the Super Bowl was on Fox this year and Charlie Brown's plot angle pleasantly respects the unresolved Charles Schulz running gag while vindicating him in an entirely different manner. 

It's interesting that the commercial received approval from Macy's in the form of their signature star balloons (complete with logo) whereas, in the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street, the film's department store became the fictional Cole's. It's also interesting to point out that it's probably unlikely Stewie would appear in future parades due to Family Guy's high adult content and a statement on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade website's Marketing and Promotion page, which reads in part: "Our theme each year is 'Holiday Entertainment For Children Everywhere.' Therefore, it is important to Macy's that our corporate partners complement that image..."

Special mentions go to the ancillary gags featuring the arguing couple distracted by Underdog and Stewie's own battle outside their window and the little girl in the blue overcoat holding the football (ala Lucy) prior to Charlie Brown's triumphant interception of the Coke.  

Finally, in this most New York-themed of blog posts, I'll send a shout-out to The Bronx's most famous Wisconsinite, Kevin S. There, are you happy now? At least I don't have to avoid eye-contact with you in the halls and elevator at work anymore.

No comments: