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Bent Image Lab’s Rankin/Bass Style Christmas for Bing

It wouldn’t be the holidays without flipping on your TV and seeing the charmingly animated misfits of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” warming the television landscape. So when Bent Image Lab got the call from the folks at Bing to produce some “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” themed spots showcasing the video, travel and local search talents of the Bing search engine, they rolled up their sleeves and went right to work. Directed by Ken Lidster, these four spots follow Bumble, Hermey, Rudolph and several other familiar faces on their quests for Internet information. Co-writing the project with Bing, Bent Image Lab’s long relationship with these famous characters of yesteryear made these spots a treat to produce.

“This project came to Bent because of the long history we have with the ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ franchise,” says Lidster. “I think they phoned up and said ‘I understand you have a reindeer in the closet and a Santa’s workshop down the hall?’”

With some basic concepts but no pre-written scripts, these particular Rankin/Bass spots were unique to Bent. Prepared with the creative ideas from his team, Bing’s Sean Carver road tripped it from Redmond, Washington based Microsoft to Bent’s Portland, Oregon studio where a brainstorming session ensued. The group quickly came up with concepts for the Internet intended spots.

“We ended up fleshing out a couple of the original Bing team’s ideas and came up with some brand new humorous scenarios to put into contention,” says Ray Di Carlo, Bent’s Executive Producer/Partner. “Ken pitched one script that did not seem that funny to us until he acted it out for the group. Then we all thought it was hilarious.” That idea later became “You Won’t Believe This”, in which Hermey the Misfit Elf shares a video of Santa and Mrs. Claus playing with copious amounts of bubble wrap. “It was great to be a part of the creative process,” says Di Carlo.

“Working directly with Bing allowed for a lot of creative conversation back and forth. Even the script writing process was collaborative,” says Bent’s Senior Producer Kara Place. “Because of the accessibility to the clients we were able to come up with jokes mid way through shooting, which in animation is not common.”

The concepts generated included “Bumble-Less” in which the Abominable Snowman utilizes Bing to educate himself on the art of the scare; “Hot Yoga” where Hermey finds his friend Cornelius a local yoga class to help his aching back; “Social Search” in which Cornelius, Bumble and Hermey turn to Bing’s travel search to find the perfect place for vacation; and of course Lidster’s “You Won’t Believe This”.

“The goal of the campaign was to generate awareness and favorability for Bing, break-through the advertising clutter of the holiday season, and encourage people to visit Bing.com,” says Microsoft’s Lisa Gurry. “We are thrilled we had the opportunity to extend the storyline of the characters to include Bing in contextual and timely ways.”

With the ideas fleshed out, Bent’s art department’s pushed its gears to full throttle in order to meet the short production window. Art Director Greg Arden had the fun task of fleshing out the interior of Cornelius’s cabin in “Social Search”. Referencing the color palette of the original “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Arden and his crew fashioned and created Cornelius’s décor including a diamond tucked lavender velvet fainting couch with pink lace pillow, and added some heretofore unseen details like wainscoting and a “mahogany” wood grain floor.

Bent’s puppet builders recreated Rudolph, Bumble and of course Hermey in which they used real Alpaca hair from a local farm for Hermey’s wig. Washing the sticks and dirt out of the hair, the crew would then card it, dye it and iron it until it was just what they needed for the Hermey puppet. The Cornelius puppet also employed interesting details such as working shoe laces in his shoes and tiny, functioning buckles on his backpack.

“It’s those little things that capture the nuances of a character,” says Arden. “The little things that a child might have noticed is what makes them heartfelt. It hits a note for people, especially of my generation who have seen Rankin/Bass specials our whole lives.”

Creating the animation style of the 1960’s also proved challenging. Advancements in animation techniques have created such a smooth, fluidity in stop motion that it can almost appear CG. Going back and reproducing the Rankin/Bass clunky style of animation went against the instincts of modern animators. “You have to make it stop looking so slick,” says Lidster. “When you are actually doing the animation it goes against everything you have learned how to do for years and years and years.”

Completing production of the spots on a tight schedule, Bent’s vast experience producing Rankin/Bass sets and characters paid off. “The biggest challenge of producing these spots in such a short amount of time was making sure we were creating the highest quality puppets, sets, and animation ON SPEC with the style and appeal of previous Rudolph-esque spots,” says Place.

“Bent’s the best production company for this job because they have a history with this style and these particular characters,” says Lidster. “There is no way you can get them made at the type of quality, in that amount of time, correctly in character and clear it through all of the different channels. It just wouldn’t be able to happen without having that experience.”

Bing released all four commercials online November 18th but ended up changing their original “online only” distribution plan. Starting on November 24th, both “Bumble-less” and “Social Search” aired on television during holiday programming such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “South Park Christmas” and many others. “Bumble-less” even got the nod for cinemas and aired in front of highly anticipated movies, “Arthur Christmas”, “The Muppets”, and “Happy Feet Two.”

“Bent Image Lab has been an amazing partner – they quickly embraced our goals, brand, and objectives for this campaign,” says Gurry. “We are delighted with the creative production, the quality of the campaign, and how quickly they executed the campaign on our behalf.”

Check out the spots below:


“Social Search”

“You Won’t Believe This”

“Hot Yoga”

The Creds:

Bing Team
Sean Carver
Aaron Lilly
Sam Reich
Lisa Gurry

Liquid Thread North America
Brent Poer, President
Vanessa Adamo, Content Director

Voice Talent
Bumble – Ken Lidster

“Hot Yoga”
Hermey – Ken Lidster
Cornelius – Ron Peterson
Charlie in the Box – Thomas Colby

“Social Search”
Bumble – Ken Lidster
Hermey – Ken Lidster
Cornelius – Dave Manuel

“You Won’t Believe This”
Hermey – Ken Lidster
Mr. Claus – Stephen Stanton
Mrs. Claus – Melissa Hutchison


Bent Image Lab Crew
Director – Ken Lidster
Executive Producer – Ray Di Carlo
Executive Producer – Tsui Ling Toomer
Senior Producer – Kara Place
Production Coordinator – Keith Rice
Assistant Director – Octavia Hunter
Director of Photography – Dan Ackerman
Animator – Jerold Howard
Animator – Joe Mello
Art Director – Greg Arden
Art Coordinator – Evan Stewart
Puppet Lead – Matt McKenna
Puppet Fabrication – Kimi Kaplowitz
Puppet Fabrication – Marty Easterday
Puppet Fabrication – Brandy Cochrane
Puppet Fabrication – Hazel Malone
Jr. Puppet Fabrication – Samala Coffey
Jr. Puppet Fabrication – Maeve Callahan
Puppet Costumer Lead – Kate Fenker
Puppet Costumer – Sarah Frechette
Armaturist – Gary McRobert
Storyboard Artist – Sam Niemann
2D Artist – Abbey Paccia
2D Artist – Stephen Bodin
2D Artist – Traci Cook
Models – Brian Peitrowski
Model Maker – Perci Harding
Model Maker – Mich Conklin
Sculptor – Tony Candelaria
Set Fabrication – Keenan Keeley
Set Fabrication – Loren Candela
Set Dresser – John Kirkley
Set Fab PA – Jeremiah Brooks
Scenic Lead – Christina Owen
Art PA – Becky Steele
Art PA – Mattie Bowden
Art PA – Derek Bourcier
Art PA – Renee Staeck
Art PA – Jesse McManis
Art PA – Katlin Kennedy
Art PA – Stephanie Loftis
Production Assistant – Lane Clark
Grip – Charlie James
Grip – Doug Zajaczkowski
Gaffer – Matt Hazelrig
Gaffer – Jean Margaret Thomas
Data Wrangler – Jenny Souza
Runner – Kally Kahn
Runner – Lee Luker
Art Intern – Danie West

Compositor(s) – Orland Nutt
Colorist – Orland Nutt
Editor – Brent Heise
Sound Design Company – Lance Limbocker Studios

Published on Jan 09, 2012, by hollyp.

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