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December 1, 2001 - Boards Magazine
Special Feature: Best of Year

A tale of two creatures
Film lore asserts that sane directors should avoid working with children or animals. Kids averted, two of the top spots in our Best of Year list involve animals, and well, creatures. So, are the directors and creatives crazy? No, they've just tapped into high-tech and low-tech creature generation. Here we take a look at two very different approaches with similar results: Awards.

by Rae Ann Fera
page 48


Nothing says salmon like a standoff between man and bear...right? Well, it does according to the nature doc-cum-kung fu spot created for John West Salmon from Leo Burnett London, directed by Danny Kleinman of Spectre.

Awarded a Gold Lion at Cannes, as well as trophies from Kinsale, the D&AD's, Clio's and the One Show, John West "Bear" opens with a long shot on a tranquil scene of bears feeding on spawning salmon. A staid voiceover describes the situation in a style reminiscent of a public television nature special. Suddenly, a John West fisherman runs like a mad man from the riverbank and attacks a bear who has just pawed a fresh catch; an exchange that results in the bear landing a well-placed karate kick and receiving one in the, ahem, tender regions.

"It looks convincing until you get to that kung fu bit," says the spot's copywriter/art director Paul Silburn (now at TBWA London), noting that the idea of shooting it like a nature documentary was to initially dupe the viewer. "If you get close up to the bear, you wouldn't have been fooled because it doesn't look that realistic."

The spot was facilitated by the existence of an animatronic bear suit from Jim Henson's Creature Shop. A stunt man from Henson's, who incidentally specializes in playing animals, wore the seven-foot-tall suit and operated the animatronic head. Choreography between the bear and the fisherman was perfected in London to minimize the time spent inside the extremely heavy and hot costume.

Compositing was involved to achieve the final look of the commercial, though no real bears were used. In addition to playing the role of the lead bear, "Dave bear" (the fisherman was also named Dave) stood in for the other feeding grizzlies. "It's all Dave in the bear suit," remarks Silburn.

Silburn believes the success of the spot was just a matter of getting the balance right. "It could have been totally absurd and slapstick. But it starts off realistic and then gently drifts, so you originally think 'That guy must be mad,' and then you realize you've been had."

But the spot tapped a pop culture vein, rumored to by the most forwarded spot on the Internet last year

Leo Burnett>

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