Old Rabbit, New Trix
Calabash Animation redesigns the iconic mascot of countless Trix cereal commercials for a new age.
Animated pitchmen have a long tradition in the advertising biz, and have produced some of the most well-known characters in the medium’s history — all just from short spots.
Keeping successful animated ad characters vital for current audiences is a rare and interesting challenge that Chicago-based Calabash Animation tackled recently in redesigning the Trix Rabbit for a pair of recent spots.
The Trix Rabbit has since 1959 been trying to trick kids into giving him a bowl of Trix breakfast cereal only to be found out and told, “Silly Rabbit! Trix are for kids!” The character was created by Joe Harris and has appeared in television commercials for the fruit-flavored cereal ever since.
Calabash, which recently redesigned Lucky the Leprechaun of Lucky Charms fame as a 3D character, had the task of re-imagining the rabbit and worked closely with creative executives at famed ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi to achieve the final result.
Here’s a Q and A with Wayne Brejcha, Calabash’s creative director, and executive producer Sean Henry about their work redesigning the Trix Rabbit. Animag: So what’s different about the Trix Rabbit and what was the creative process like? Wayne Brejcha: We took some inspiration from the classic UPA Productions look, best known for their streamlined, abstract style of the early 1960s. Working closely with the Saatchi creative team, particularly Brad Rodriguez, who provided the guiding light with early sketches and showed us the landing zone we were aiming for. One major change Brad brought to the Rabbit is his new ability to literally morph onscreen into different characters, rather than putting on disguises. Animag: How was the redesign character appropriated into the new Trix spots “Disco Rabbit” and “Bunny Hop”? Sean Henry: We’d already started on “Disco Rabbit” with the old model — in fact I think our color concepts and Leica were done with the old version. It was a bit of luck that we had the new final model in time to animate with it. But “Bunny Hop” was envisioned as having this new, more stylized Rabbit in there from the beginning. The surrounding kids and environment echo the new Rabbit’s design cues — the slick, thicker outlines and flat color areas. Brejcha: Our first stages of poses and even first drafts of full animation are often still roughed in with sketches, and then at a later stage the Toon Boom software asset-based Rabbit model was comped into the animation and fine-tuned depending on how complicated the action is, and whether you’ve already got assets that will allow you to put the figure in some pose. It’s possible to have an immense library of a thousand heads, bodies and hands ready to go and not one of them is right for the scene. Animag: The new Trix spots are different stylistically. Did the difference in look affect how you used the redesigned Rabbit? Brejcha: Context determines subjective perception of objective form, so yes the Rabbit looks slightly different placed into CG settings than among other very flat graphic elements composing a scene. In “Disco Rabbit” we let the apparent light on him be simple — he’s somewhat lit and colored by the scenery and the lights within the environment, but not highly modeled by those lights. Our animator Chris Blake did an artful job of finding a nice middle ground for the Rabbit’s lighting. The Rabbit stays simple and flat and graphic, but he feels part of the scene — a 2D cartoon character alive in the 3D world. Animag: Did these spots present any particular challenges for you? Henry: With “Disco” we focused on creating the fanciful light effects from the Trix Yogurt product’s LED-flashing spoons, which is what the ad is for, and getting the dialogue and the acting on the CG kids to be convincing. With “Bunny Hop” it was more complex. We were inventing a new overall feel for the entire campaign — creating a totally new style for not only the Rabbit but for everything around him. It meant a lot of back and forth with the creatives to make sure we were all on the same page with the new look. The new- look Trix Rabbit is up to his old tricks.