John Lewis, #BusterTheBoxer



MPC, adam&eveDDB and Blink’s Dougal Wilson reunite for landmark John Lewis Christmas animated film

In the magical hush of a suburban garden, it’s the night before Christmas – an ordinary family tucked up in bed – when an urban fox emerges from snowy undergrowth. Hesitantly, he climbs onto a trampoline, assembled hours before by an exasperated dad as a gift for his little girl. The fox is joined by a charming cast of CG animals who perform virtuoso leaps and jumps together to Vaults’ cover of Randy Crawford’s 1980 track ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’, in a two-minute spot that truly sets the bar for CG creature work.

Directed by Blink’s Dougal Wilson and conceived by adam&eveDDB, the film is an extraordinary animation feat that sends a heartfelt message about the shared joy of play. Our VFX team spent over four months skillfully bringing the cast of animals to life for John Lewis, whose seasonal epic requires an exceptional level of craft. With six creatures to create, this unprecedented animation challenge is the holy grail of CG.

The film pushed the team further technically and creatively than ever before. Photo realistic animals and creatures are one of CG’s ultimate challenges, and our artists had to create six of them, before putting them all on a CG trampoline, affectionately referred to as the seventh creature because of its complexity. The attention to detail, from animation and fur to lighting and fx detail had to be immense as the slightest slip-up would break the illusion of reality, and the magic of the film. 

In addition to the animated film, our in-house content production studio MPC Creative developed a groundbreaking interactive VR experience. Click here to see the work.

Film craft  

With limited references to work with – unsurprisingly there’s not much existing footage of animals on trampolines – our artistry comes into its own. Working closely with Dougal, the team built a ‘bible’ of images and footage before honing a cast of enchanting – and completely believable – suburban creatures.

Our challenge was to create playful interaction between the creature cast based on what real animals do – key to Dougal’s vision. Emotively nuanced facial expressions, which crucially do not stray into the realms of human characteristics, deliver that pull-at-the-heartstrings warmth we expect from the John Lewis Christmas spot.

Buster the Boxer, the ad’s digital-double hero, posed the biggest creature challenge for the team, who had to master his muscle, skin, fat and fur with pinpoint accuracy. Because people are used to seeing dogs all the time, the characterisation needed to be spot-on. To achieve such a level of realism, particularly with Buster, the team shot lots of reference footage of the real dog from every angle, before crafting the texture – from the wrinkles to the hair direction – of the real animal.

With six creatures to animate and plenty of extreme close-ups and slow-mos, the creative and technical scale of this film is unparalleled; animation tests started before the shoot even begun. We built our most advanced rigs yet – five in total – and developed bespoke software to perfect the animals’ skin sliding so that every jump, twist and bounce is rendered completely authentic. Alongside this, the biggest technical challenge in the spot was building the CG trampoline, because the surface is very fluid, moving around and changing shape depending on the weight of each animal. This hotly anticipated film is graded by our Global Creative Director of Colour, Jean-Clément Soret. 

Credits

Agency

adam&eveDDB

Production Company

Blink

Director

Dougal Wilson

Executive Creative Directors

Rick Brim & Ben Tollett

Copywriter

Ben Stilitz

Art Director

Colin Booth

Agency Producer

Panos Louca

Production Company Producer

Nick Goldsmith

DoP

Joost Van Gelder

Editor

Rick Russell @ Final Cut

VFX

MPC

VFX Executive Producer

Julie Evans

VFX Producer

Hannah Ruddleston

VFX Line Producer

Sandra Eklund

VFX Supervisor (CG)

Diarmid Harrison-Murray

Shoot Supervisors

Tom Harding & Tito Fernandes

CG Supervisor

Fabian Frank

VFX Supervisor (2D)

Tom Harding

Animation Supervisor

Tim van Hussen

Grade

MPC

Colourist

Jean-Clément Soret

Bangalore Line Producer

Goutham Hampankatta

2D VFX Team

Grant White, David Filipe, Andreas Feix, Alex Snookes, Venkatesh Rajagopal, Ginesh Gandhi, Jonathan Box, Amresh Kumar, Padma Priya, Prasanth Palaparthi, Rajesh Kumar, Shalwin Shaiju, Yasasvini. V, R Vignesh, S. Samson Samuel & Shalwin Shaiju

3D VFX Team

Chloe Dawe, Anthony Bloor, Ben Thomas, Graham Cristie, Jessie Amadio, Julien Labussiere, Luca Maccarelli, Matthew Gifford, Radu Ciubotariu, Tito Fernandes, Tushar Kewlani, Vincent Ullman, Will Laban, Hanna Binswanger, Max Mallmann, Jessica Groom, Ankit Dheraj Toppo, Earnest Victor, Ganesh Kumar S., Bibin Balan P, Gayatri Patel, Jyoti Prakash Panda, Manjunath Ramakrishnaiah, Inigo Vimal Roy, Ria Banerjee & Gayatri Patel

Animation Team

David Bryan, Boris Cailly, India Barnardo, Martyn Smith, Lou Thomas & Cynthia Collins

DMP Artist

Gerard Dunleavy

Sound Design

Anthony Moore @ Factory