Framestore’s Los Angeles office partnered with long-term collaborator, Marc Forster of Tool of North America to bring to life character animation and VFX work for the new NRMA Insurance holiday campaign out of Australian agency The Monkeys.
The first spot in NRMA’s Christmas campaign, ‘Don’t Drive Naughty, Drive Nice’ tells the story of a young girl and her stuffed animal, who work together to protect her father from distracted driving. Forster and Framestore worked together to bring the beloved stuffed toy to life, as well as to develop on-set solutions that allowed the team to create a dynamic and engaging film, while working within the limitations of the set’s space.
As the hero of the film, it was crucial to develop the look of the stuffed toy early in the process, and together with character designer Michael Kutsche, a pink denim bunny was developed and concepted. At the start of production, Forster and VFX supervisor Michael Ralla meticulously planned the animated movements of the bunny by blocking out basic choreography with a generic stuffed toy. The bunny was then created as a practical prop, and Forster filmed the puppeteered toy in each shot to demonstrate the movements for the animation team. Forster and Framestore perfected this approach in the film ‘Christopher Robin,’ which resulted in a similarly realistic, high-end look for this commercial - despite the drastically compressed timeline.
A moving car is generally a difficult environment to film in, especially for an emotional story that relies heavily on close-ups, so it was important for the team to devise a way that allowed for maximum flexibility when filming. Close collaboration between DP Ginny Loane and Framestore ensured that Forster was able to capture the desired look and feel of the spot, while still having the ability to move the camera relatively freely within the vehicle. An additional challenge was to convincingly portray the fast movement of the car, as a classic process trailer was time prohibitive, limiting, and inefficient, and a traditional blue screen approach could not provide the necessary natural look and feel during the shoot.
With the help of the Framestore team, production developed a solution that allowed the environment to move around the car, rather than moving the car itself: The production team built the first LED wall for moving picture purposes in Australia to surround most of the car while it sat on a soundstage. This served both as the moving backdrop and the main lighting source for the car interior and talent. The team then captured 360-degree driving footage of the desired locations, and stitched the environment together so it could be displayed on the LED wall during filming. This process ensured that the moving reflections and light outside of the car windows were perfectly in sync with the action inside of the car. Additionally, it created a realistic environment for the talent to act in, which enabled their authentic performances.
The combination of both practical and highly technical solutions result in a touching, and emotional spot that is so seamless, that if not for the the actions of the quick-thinking, stuffed bunny, it would be impossible to tell what is real, and what is not.