For its new brand campaign, the French DIY store Castorama has brought back its iconic brand mascot – the beaver. This time, Mister Beaver is joined by his companion and together they highlight the brand’s ecological commitment, while reaffirming their family values the brands’ signature, “Change makes us move forward”.
For this film, which was directed by James Rouse and produced by Wanda productions, the mascots had to be realistic and funny, without falling into hyperrealism and caricature. The subtlety of the beaver style was entrusted to The Mill Paris studio.
Shot in the south of France in Marseille, the film tells the story of Cédric, a Castorama employee, who is always available every day for his customers to advise them. Despite his professionalism, his attitude is sometimes surprising, especially when he sniffs the wood or nibbles the pencils.
Once the day is over, as every other worker, he goes home and takes off his uniform before joining his family by the river. But surprise, it is not a simple tie that he takes off but a whole human disguise. Under the appearance of this model employee, a beaver is hidden who is delighted to tell his wife that customers are starting to change their habits and go green.
Our team created the two beavers in full CG, taking care to differentiate the female from the male despite the absence of notable differences in their natural state. The design work for the mascots was delicate but very exciting because it required a lot of in depth research to produce a realistic result. The appearance of the beavers was enhanced to make them more endearing and cuter, with a dry and soft coat, unlike the real thing where these semi-aquatic animals are often wet and dry in their natural habitat. Our creators did a lot of work on the fur and the character animation to give life to these endearing mascots. The film was enriched with lighting technics on the environment to bring more life and contrast to the characters. The final layer of realism was brought by compositing work on the landscapes with the addition of natural elements such as birds in the sky or mountains in the background.
VFX Supervisor Damien Canameras states “As VFX supervisor on the project, I went to the shoot in Marseille, in the south of France. I anticipated the post-production work by taking measurements and HDRIs on location to capture the natural light and reproduce it in 3D. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Castorama’s CSR commitments were also respected during this “made in France” shooting, with particular attention paid to energy saving and the use of generators in a natural environment. From the beginning of the project, I knew that with the director James Rouse (Wanda), the creative team at Cédric Moutaud et Jean-Christophe Royer and our studios at The Mill, we had the same vision for this film. I would like to congratulate the whole team as we worked in a climate of trust from start to finish and produced a film that was true to the original creative idea.”
“I had the chance to follow the project from its beginning to its completion. First, for the beavers, we searched for references. The challenge was to find references of these semi-aquatic animals with dry hair, which rarely occurs in the wild, and then to find an element of differentiation between males and females. After many hours of watching documentaries on beavers, I finally found a differentiating element in the coat of the females of a species of beaver with white cheeks. From then on, we changed the shading of the hair, its appearance and texture, so that the female was a little lighter than the male. I then used Substance to work on the details of the beavers' eyes, nose and paws. The work on the eyes and facial mimics was essential to give the mascots a personality and allow the audience to get attached to them. Once animated on Maya, the anthropomorphic beavers were sublimated by a lighting job that brought back contrast and polishes their coats. The project ended with the compositing phase on Nuke to bring all the different elements together and finalize the film by adding life to the shots such as butterflies or birds in the sky. It is thanks to the sharing of ideas and talent that we managed to produce a film that we like. ”
“We had a fairly tight deadline to create the beavers, which had to be both realistic and endearing. Beavers usually have a wet, rough coat, but the agency wanted a dry, soft coat.
To achieve the desired result, I first created the general length and direction of the hair all over the body with the help of "Guides Curves", then I went into the details of the hairstyle by giving more or less density to the fur, length to certain hairs, by making the strands thicker or thinner, with hairs going in all directions or slightly curling in certain areas of the body.
Once these steps had been completed on the male beaver, a realistic variation had to be found to differentiate the male from the female. However, in nature there is no sexual dimorphism in between beavers. It was therefore necessary to feminize one of the two beavers, without distorting the animal's physical criteria and risking creating an unidentifiable rodent.
Thanks to the collaboration with Mathias Barday, Richard Rampaly and the agency, we managed to find a golden mean for the female, notably with a lighter, silkier-looking fur. I worked on the fur on Houdini by adding movement in the hair to bring a little more realism to our mascots. I am very happy with the result, as is the rest of the team, our beavers are realistic, touching and cute as hoped. ”