Dallas' D7 Studios creates first-ever anime short film for Coca-Cola

Feb 24th 2005
Dallas' D7 Studios Creates First-Ever Anime Spot for Coca-Cola®
The 60-second spot debuts in theaters nationwide and during the Daytona 500 February 20

DALLAS, TEXAS-February 18, 2005-D7 Studios, [www.d7studios.com] a new animation studio and services company, in Dallas, Texas, created an original, 60-second spot for Coca-Cola called “Fantastic Four” that debuts this weekend in 10,000 theaters nationwide and during the Superbowl of stock car races, The Daytona 500, February 20, 2005, on FOX. The anime-styled spot is a new look for Coca-Cola and the only one of its kind in its “Make It Real”™ campaign, that depicts four of NASCAR's top stock car drivers in its Coca-Cola Racing Family: Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, Kyle Petty, and Tony Stewart. They are shown as super heroes in four fantastical situations on land, air, and sea, with Coca-Cola fueling the excitement and adrenaline just in time for the big race.

Japanese anime has been around since the 1950's and in the U.S. since 1963. It is a very hot artform that is receiving more and more mainstream attention from The Cartoon Network, animated features films, anime conventions, and the Internet. Japanese anime is characterized by an extreme, high detail of realism and is usually only done by anime artists in Japan. Ad Agency Berlin Cameron/Red Cell in New York, part of the Red Cell unit of the WPP Group, did not have to go to Japan to find anime artists but found D7 Studios' web site and immediately called them.

D7 was sent an initial script and within four days sent character designs and a schedule back to the agency. Within two weeks, D7, and its team led by former Humancode animator and Creative Director Arik Renée Avila, and Producers Tony Hobdy and Steve Fellows, delivered full scale, black and white animatics that showed depth, lines, distance, perspective, and all the elements for the spot which they took to New York. “At first we were nervous using a company that had never done commercials before, but as soon as we got started the guys at D7 were incredible to work with. They were really devoted to making the spot the best it could be and put in many nights and weekends getting us here. They also understood the importance of our timeframe and quickly adapted to the approval process at the agency and client levels. Everyone is really impressed with the results!” Berlin Cameron Producer Leigh Fuchs said.

For the pre-production and planning phases, Avila, who is as passionate about animation as NASCAR fans are about the drivers, immersed himself in NASCAR culture from watching races to reading sports magazines and researching the driver's to studying the driver's actual fire suits and stock cars. He even visited local Wal-Marts to observe fans purchasing NASCAR apparel.

D7 Studios's vision was not to make a commercial but create a short film that includes full characterizations, plot line, climax, and resolution in very high detail. Such attention was given to getting the details right that more than two months was spent in pre-production and storyboards and one month was spent in production. D7 Studios, is equally adept at commercial spots and features and already has a full-scale, animated film project of their own in pre-production.

One of the first challenges was to create a style that was sketchy, crisp, and simple, while at the same time incorporating heavy, dark lines, dark shadows, and dark faces to give it the overall edginess desired. Avila's ability to visualize verbal concepts from the agency's directives and translate them into high-quality animatics was key to delivering the project on time and on budget. In addition, D7 created a password-protected site on the client's web site so that Berlin Cameron could see and approve of all edits.

The next biggest challenge was communicating speed and adrenaline in a mostly 2D animated spot where the stock cars are not moving. For that, D7's team scattered motion little by little and made depth ratios more subtle, for instance, having the gauges and dials move in Bobby Labonte's jet. It was also accomplished through quick zooms that switched between different camera angles of perspective. The effect was executed so well that the client actually thought the cars were moving.

The spot features a distinct and memorable “Coca-Cola moment,” “NASCAR driver moment,” and “NASCAR stock car moment” that resonate in the viewer's mind after seeing the spot. The “Coca-Cola moment” is when Tony Stewart is in his fire suit and reaches into a futuristic vending machine with a Coca-Cola logo at the track and puts his hand around a floating can of Coca-Cola in a close-up shot. Each NASCAR driver has a moment when their faces are shown in close-ups as they are acting out their alter egos in each of their extreme hobbies. These shots were planned from the beginning with emphasis, for example the shot on the driver's eye towards the end when the word “Adrenaline” is flashed onto the screen. The viewer is zoomed onto a close-up of Tony Stewart's eye where his dashboard gauge is reflected onto his facemask and then zoomed out onto an aerial shot of the rest of the cars driving side-by-side on the track.

The secret to the innate power and realism of the spot lies in the details that have been incorporated but that viewers may miss. Such as the 15,000 individual fans, meticulously drawn into a portion of the stadium to give the feeling of excitement at the actual race. Also the stadium, stock cars and driver's fire suits were animated to scale. Not a single detail was ignored from sponsor logos to headlight stickers, the car's dashboard gauges with moving dials, the 20 to 30 banners drawn on the race track, the driver's facial features, and the position and moving dials of the watches on each of the driver's wrists.

What is most surprising about the production of the spot is that 90 percent of it was created on Avila's home computer in Plano, Texas. Avila, a self-taught animator from Houston, Texas, has been designing for ten years now for clients such as Motorola's exhibit at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center, and has such an eye for detail and an incredible sense of control that he is able to manipulate all design functions with his mouse only. Avila created the characters and Gabriel Valles helped him animate them in Macromedia Flash and the backgrounds and matte paintings in Adobe Photoshop 5.5. The compositing and animation of 2D, 3D and lighting was done in Adobe After Effects and all 3D was created in Lightwave by Avila and Sergio Rosas with some
Particle Illusion being used for the rain.

“This genre used for the spot will help do for stock car racing what Tony Hawk's video games have done for skateboarding and extreme sports. Not only will NASCAR fans be excited by the visuals and seeing their favorite drivers as super heroes but a lot of kids will have new superheroes before the weekend is over,” Avila said. You might see NASCAR anime trading cards and comic books popping up after this ad or a teenager dressed up as one of Kyle Petty's or Bobby Labonte's alter egos at the next NASCAR race, anime convention or for Halloween.

D7 Studios, Inc. is a new animation studio and services company founded in Austin, Texas, in 2002 and moved to Dallas in June of 2004. Their primary purpose is to make quality, animated science fiction/fantasy, feature films and video gaming cinematics for American and worldwide audiences based on American culture and philosophies. In addition, the studio and its team offer a full range of commercial 2D and 3D animation services to advertising agencies and corporations that are of the highest quality and delivered on time and on budget.

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