Brand

New York Lottery

Agency

McCann New York

Production Company

The Mill

Director

Ben Smith

Capabilities

VFX / Direction

Brief

We were approached by McCann to create a heartwarming, yet dynamic relay-race story of a park ranger being reunited with her lost ticket in the form of a 60-second ad for New York Lottery. A story brimming with magical realism and embodying the holiday spirit, the film had to be set in a NY state park, using a cast of NY native animals working together to get the job done.

Approach

Creatively, we wanted to create a highly cinematic film, infused with magic, but grounded in reality. We worked from our extensive library of animated characters and designed scenarios that would motivate the animal handovers in a believable way.

Impact

A magical 60-second Holiday ad that captured hearts and imaginations across the US over TV and online during the 2019 Holiday season. The ad was also covered extensively within the media, with features including Creativity, The Drum and Shoot.

The creative challenge of this project was creating a series of high fidelity photo-real creatures within a short timeframe, requiring a highly collaborative approach. Working across both New York and LA, our VFX teams recruited a series of creative tricks to optimize time and resources.

Given the limited timeframe, our approach was to previs the animal scenes prior to the shoot. The previs heavily informed the final edit, allowing the animation teams to begin work before the shoot, effectively doubling their time to craft and finesse the final animated sequences.

“We optimized the time we had by working closely with Director Ben Smith and Editor Ryan McKenna to create a solid previs that was able to inform the shoot,” comments Lead Animator Katie Yancey. “Since we had already nailed down what each shot was going to look like, we were able to progress into animation straight from previs while the shoot was still occurring. This well-planned pre-production allowed us the time we needed to refine the animation to the level of realism the project required.”

The shoot took place in woodlands in upstate NY over two days, both with incredible contrasting weather conditions. This provided a creative challenge for the team, who had to ensure through light balance and the addition of matte paintings that the footage captured felt consistent with the dark and whimsical tone of the film.

It was then up to the animation and 2D teams to seamlessly integrating both live-action and CG footage to bring a Rabbit, Bird, Turtle, Deer, and Raccoon to life.

Ed Boldero, lead CG artist comments, “Using a combination of Maya and Houdini, we paired both real and CG creatures, matching them to appear to exist in the same world. The ultimate goal was to use our craft to give a sense of magic to the story whilst also maintaining hyperrealism. ”

Using The Mill’s extensive library of CGI animal assets, the VFX team expertly animated a fully CGI Bird and Deer, whilst augmenting live-action footage with animated CGI elements for the rabbit, turtle, and raccoon. The result is a photoreal menagerie of woodland creatures who work together to ensure our hero character’s New York Lottery ticket is safely returned.