Klondike Bear Commercials:                                                      QuickTime Player Required


The Klondike Ice Cream company recently  joined forces with Bent Image Lab, in Portland Oregon to create a new spokesperson (spokes bear?) for their new 98% Fat Free Ice Cream Bars.  Here is the result.

New Production Team:
The newly formed CG team was headed by veteran Director David Daniels, who had also directed a number of the famous M&M's commercials back when the characters were done in Lightwave 3D, at Will Vinton Studios.
My main responsibility was the creation and application of the CG fur (using Sasquatch), modeling and Element breakdown for compositing, but during the nearly 4 months of my tour at Bent, I got to do a bit of everything.

 During the design phase for the bear, I added a nose from one of my canine models & the teeth from an old model to help speed up production.  Those teeth were extensively reshaped to make them much less scary looking, for the client. 

I modeled and textured the wallet & made the holes in the original CG version of the ice cream bar.  And I tweaked the animation on the wallet shot and got to key frame the final scene animation for "Runners", where the bear gets to wiggle his toes as he lustfully anticipates the joys of his 98% Fat Free Klondike Bar.

FYI:  'Jill' is played by the warm & charming Madaline Smith & the voice of 'Slim-A-Bear' is performed by Jim Connor.  And the in-house code name for the final version of the bear's 3D geometry was 'Andy'.




The first commercial suffered from a number of technical issues.  Some of them easily solvable, some of them not so easily dealt with...  With the idea that we could do a lot better, we learned from some of our mistakes, pressed forward and came up with some new methods to get around these production issues.

Compositing Fur Elements:

One of the biggest technical problems for "Slim-A-Ball",  was how to composite the scarf OVER the fur, yet keep from having to do a lot of manual roto work with splines, on every frame where he self intersects.  Fur typically creates a very irregular, natural looking edge when you see it, and it just didn't look right when it was cut into by hand-- it was just too perfect.

After brainstorming late one night, one of the techniques that Christian Smith and I came up with, was knocking holes into the Alpha Channel of the body's RGB Fur Pass with Alpha Matte Objects.  This way, the Compositor could use the same RGB elements of the scarf either under the intersection areas, or on top if a soft, overlapping edge was desired.   The geometry of the body was rendered using Area Lights, with the Fur Pass later applied on top of the naked bear.

To help the scarf look more 'real' on close ups, barely visible red fibers were grown from the cloth to simulate the organic softness of yarn.  It worked quite well, although it did take more time to process.  BTW, the original texture of the scarf came from a sweater owned by
Pascal Champion.  Even in OpenGL, it looked quite convincing.

Exercise Ball Effector Rig for 'Andy':

I created a simple deformation Rig for the exercise ball,  using Polk's Poke Plugin and Lightwave's Follower, which allowed the ball to rotate while still keeping the 3 effector nulls horizontal as it rolled.  It was effective at simulating 'Slim's' weight on the object and was very quick to set up and animate.

The top effector simulated weight pressing down  where the bear was.  The middle effector was used to maintain volume, and the bottom one was used to fake interaction with the floor.

"Slim-A-Ball" looks far better than the first spot, thanks to teamwork and the desire to continually improve upon what was done before.



This was actually the **FIRST** Klondike Bear Commercial to be story boarded, but the **LAST** to actually be completed.  I think it's also by far the funniest of all the prior spots, making it especially disappointing when the price of Milk kept this clever  and original work from being broadcast...

Yes, milk.  Apparently ad budgets for Ice Cream Companies are tied to it, like a circulatory system is tied to blood; so when people turned to comfort foods with milk in them & the price shot way up;  there was no budget left to air this spot after it was finished.

After nearly 4 months of Klondike production, my time at Bent  Image Labs was nearing its end.  My contract was almost up and it was time for me to head back to LA.  But before I packed up the Beetle and left, I got to animate a couple of shots on this piece before saying "Good-bye" to Portland Oregon, and the great people at Bent.

Nothing is Written in Stone, Until You Deliver:

Of course, if you've worked in CG, you know nothing is set in stone until delivery (or sometimes, even after), so my work was modified a bit in my absence.   The top two pics on the right are from shots I originally animated, but the Bear's Shudder Scene was changed quite a bit from what I recall... 

Great Job Guys!

The final lighting was done by Galen Beals, since I had to leave before the spot delivered; I'm very impressed with how well it came off!  Nice rim lighting on the fur guys, it looks great!

Looking at the
Human Zoo...

Modified "Shudder"

Animation Link
The Final Commercial