Helmed by Robert Stromberg, two-time Oscar winner and veteran visual effects master, this year’s Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl spot takes a fresh approach to unveiling the new 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S sports car. From the creatives at Merkley & Partners, with character development, animation, and VFX by artists at MPC, “Fable” is a modern twist on Aesop’s timeless tale, The Tortoise and The Hare. A live-action-animation hybrid, the charming spot combines vividly real CG characters with spectacular storytelling to illustrate ingenuity and perseverance in life, as in auto engineering, always prevails - underscoring Mercedes-AMG’s “One Man, One Engine” philosophy.
The ambitious project spanned over three months to translate the cast of characters from concept art to living creature. Director Robert Stromberg opted to film in the deep woods of Oregon to create a sense of realism. MPC NY Creative Director Alex Lovejoy, 3D Lead Chris Bernier, and Lead Animator Grae Revell took the reins to maximize the spot’s emotional impact, injecting human-like emotional qualities, believable character performance, and incredible CG elements on a grand scale to match the cinematic direction of the film.
“It’s exciting to continue our long-standing creative partnership with Robert and the Merkley team,” said MPC NY Managing Director Justin Brukman. “Creating feature film quality visual effects and combining that with an age-old tale makes for a memorable commercial worthy of advertising’s biggest stage.”
Director Robert Stomberg said: “I’ve done many projects with MPC. We always seem to either come up with something new or redefine something in a way that, as an artist and as a director, is always great to push the limits of what’s possible.”
Merkley & Partners Creative Director Chris Landi said: “MPC not only delivers in terms of the skillset, they’re full of ideas. It’s a real joy to come and see each day, a new scene added with their ideas and their input as well. The way the Hare takes off his glasses or challenges the Tortoise. Just small little touches, things that appear in the trees, hidden moments, Easter eggs if you will. They just continue to ‘wow’ us, not just with their expertise but with their imagination as well. It’s been a terrific collaboration.”
“Fable” aired during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX.
Merging reality and fantasy, the MPC VFX team carefully considered subtle-yet-crucial detail to breathe life into each character, from the hero characters – the hare, tortoise, and she-hare – to a full cast of supporting characters, including a quirky mole, a card-dealing weasel, and a referee fox. Extensive research and tests helped to achieve a well-executed CG model and nail the distinct personalities, physical attributes, and performance.
Grae Revell, MPC NY lead animator, explains: “Everyone knows ‘The Tortoise and The Hare.’ The Mercedes-Benz spot has beautifully retold this classic where it’s easy to get lost in a magical world, and you wished there was more to the story. We set out to introduce audiences to unique and relatable characters that are more than photoreal CG creatures. They not only act and talk just like people, but they must also retain their animal traits. Our Hare is a pretty arrogant guy, and our Tortoise has a reserved confidence and an unexpected wit. Each character's personality comes out in the way we animate them. The whole spot is infused with subtle animation in order to achieve that performance.”
“Since most of our characters are furry, we leveraged MPC’s proprietary ‘Furtility’ tool, originally developed for our film pipeline, to simulate the level of detail in fur dynamics typically seen in large-scale blockbusters” said Chris Bernier, MPC NY 3D lead. "Likewise, lighting and texture shading were developed to provide a high-level cinematic quality that highlights all the features and intricate details of the characters and environments."
The 2D team, led by Creative Director Alex Lovejoy, took on the challenge to integrate the characters into the enchanting environments. “To seamlessly merge the live-action and animation, we composited the characters into the shot footage and created a fairytale aesthetic with a combination of matte paintings, leaf and dust particle simulation, and practical blue screen elements of the forest floor,” Alex explains.
Colorist James Tillett crafted the grade, further refining the dreamlike mood and magical look of the fairy tale forest. Equally, sculpting of the car enhanced the precision and gorgeous design of the AMG GT.
The project, led by MPC NY, was a collaborative global effort across multiple MPC studios, maximizing the skillsets from Los Angeles, Bangalore, London, and Mexico.
Merkley & Partners
Partner Andy Hirsch
Cut & Run/NY
Bill Chesley @ Henry Boy
Philip Loeb @ Heard City
Camila De Biaggi
Carl Fong, Jonathan McKee, Gigi Ng, Jacob Fradkin, Ty Coyle, Andres Weber, Tiago Dias, Charlotte Bae, Angela Carafas, Reginald Emvula, Emma Taylor, David Estis, Carolyn Figel, Kelly Bruce, Andrew Montague, Dan Fine, Anthony Patti, Danica Parry, Chris West, Lee Wolland, Lukas Wadya, Michael Nieves, Ross Scroble, Bill Burg, Anderson Ko, Sean Curran, Anthony Traviesco, Chloe Dawe, Carlos E. Flores, Jimmy San, Irene Kim-Ahiska, ShuChen Lin, Cody Chen, John Patterson, Martin Boksar, Chris Gereg, Brian Houlihan, Nick Tanner, Ajai Verghese John, Akshay Wadwalkar , Manjunath Ramakrishna, Sumesh Chammancheri, Vittal Kuntla, Bibin Balan P., Minju Thottiparambil Sukumaran, Pritesh Krishnappa Kotian, Raju Ganesh S., Inigo Vimal Roy, Debalina Dasgupta, Amlan Manna, Ankan Sanyal, Allwyn Lopes, Debashish Raha, Jacob Oommen, Elangovan Ganeshan, Ganesh Kumar S., D. Venkatesan, Dheeraj Hebbar, Amresh Kumar, Raj Kumar R., S Rajesh, Shalwin Shaiju, Vikram Kumar Singh, Sachin Suresharo Dhapudkar, Swarup Kumar Panigrahi, Rajkumar C., S. Sundaramoorthy, Vinoth Ku