Posted by Darren Brooker, 17 August 2012 1:23 pm
The scenario's a familiar one: the young boy jumps into bed on his father's bedtime instruction, the light switch is flicked off, and as the bedroom door closes the lights of the boys trainset flicker to life, sparking all the other toys to join the magical bedtime scene that unfolds in the bedroom. Done perhaps most famously in Toy Story, the magical scenario is so captivating because of our own emotional connection to toys and (for boys maybe more so) toy trains in particular. What makes the way this familiar story unfolds in City of Possibilities is the sheer epic scale of the world that The Mill NYC has managed to create.
This magical world of make-believe belies a serious political message, which aims to position Norfolk Southern as a force for economic growth in America. This message is beautifully and subtly delivered via a huge cast of characters who set about constructing a city (of possibilities) that the train helps bring to life. The cast of over 40 - from dinosaurs and dolls to stuffed animals and a particuarly nice octopus - emerge from their hiding places, and set about constructing a whole city; replete with skyscrapers, factories, highways and a port.
The spot is truly a visual delight and The Mill - notable for their making of videos - have revealed quite how many possibilities this campaign offered. The City of Possibilities Access All Areas video shows the incredible lengths that the creative team went to at the concept stage and exactly how much free reign they had in the character and production design. With brand name toys off limits, the biggest challenge was creating and designing the toy cast of characters. Mill Artists let loose their imagination to come up with cool, impressive toys, complemented by a beautiful landscape that emerges from pop-up books.
"Our cast of characters is a contemporary ensemble of timeless and modern toys that includes robots, action figures, stuffed toys, dumper trucks, cranes, diggers, etc. Between the charm of the character designs, the fun, surprising ways they all collaborate to build a city, and the fact that they all act rather human, each toy, whether it's high or low-tech, has an expression, a personality, and a purpose," explains Kneale. The Access All Areas video shows how Maya played a pivotal role in bringing these characters to life and how much personality they have even at the early stages of production, way before the project hit the Flame suite for finishing.
Also helping to bring to life this epic vision was veteran Director of Photography, Bill Pope, whose extensive VFX knowledge gained on the ground-breaking The Matrix trilogy and his expertise in shooting miniatures on Team America, was invaluable. "I am incredibly proud of the final result. I think we have created something really special," says Kneale...and rightly so, this is nothing short of a truly magical, truly delightful one-minute epic.
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