Old Rab­bit, New Trix

Calabash An­i­ma­tion re­designs the iconic mas­cot of count­less Trix ce­real com­mer­cials for a new age.

Animation Magazine - - Commercials -

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.

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