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Todd Jacobsen Redd's Wicked Apple Ale Miller Coors

NATIONAL SPOTS (TBS, Comedy Central, ESPN, FX, YouTube, XBox One, et al) FOR MILLER/COORS


  • Client: Sister/Mekanism (creative), MillerCoors

  • Work Performed: Animation (Photoshop)

  • Project Date: 2018


In January 2018 I received a call from David "Pez" Hoffman, an old colleague of mine, asking if I'd be interested in helping to create a series of commercials for Redd's Wicked Ales, a malt beverage manufactured and distributed by MillerCoors. I was doing a bit of freelance on "Mary Poppins Returns," but not being the type to turn down any sort of inquiry, I wanted to find out more. On a conference call with Sister Studios (a creative studio based in San Francisco owned by Mekanism, an ad agency with offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and NYC), we found out these ads would be developed and designed by illustrator Stephen Bliss, noted for his work in video games (“Grand Theft Auto”) and advertising (1800 Tequila, Mountain Dew, et al). These would be national spots shown on TBS, Comedy Central, ESPN, FX and YouTube, as well as XBox One (an unprecedented market for an alcohol ad). There had been a series of previous spots created for Redd’s Wicked Apple; these were mostly puppet-style animation commercials done in After Effects, and MillerCoors wanted this new series to be a hybrid of puppet and traditional hand-drawn animation to help introduce two new flavors: Watermelon and Black Cherry. So of course, I jumped at the opportunity. There would be a lot of work involved — nearly 45 seconds of animation to be done in 40 days — but I really wanted the challenge.

Thankfully, Stephen had done fairly detailed illustrations for all the shots in each spot, so we had a good jumping-off point. The first one out of the gate was “UFOMG,” an effects-heavy alien abduction scenario. All of the effects work (on all three spots) and the majority of the puppet work would be handled by Sister’s in-house crew, and we were tasked with animating the trio in “UFOMG” in scenes 2, 3, 4, and 5. Pez took the two characters on the left, and I took the third one on the far right.

Redd's Wicked Watermelon "UFOMG"

We asked Sister if we could bring on another artist to help with the final line duties on all three characters, as I was asked if I could jump off this spot and help re-design (as well as animate) the snake in “Tattoo.” Stephen’s initial tattoo design had the snake wrapped in a circular fashion all the way around the driver’s arm from wrist to shoulder, and the client asked if we could change it to a design that looked a bit more like a “sleeve” that filled the entire arm. I was given a couple of examples of tattoos they liked, one additional design had a number of vines and flowers to fill any negative space not covered by the snake, and I simplified these ideas to create the final design.

Redd's Wicked Apple "Tattoo" 

This one took quite a bit of time. The detail of the snake would be difficult (in any case) to consistently animate, but my first animation pass culminated in a major re-think. The length of the snake in the approved tattoo design ended up being much longer than the length of the snake in Stephen’s (approved) final resting pose, so I initially animated the snake coming off the arm toward camera and twisting backward behind the driver’s arm to “cheat” the difference in the two lengths. The client decided, after seeing this first pass, the audience should see all the uncoiling and recoiling, so I had to find another way to reconcile the two lengths entirely in front of the camera. Thankfully, all parties were happy with the final product. (See if you can tell where the cheat happens!)

I was fortunate to be able to have the final line artist’s help with cleaning up and painting the snake animation, and Pez animated the characters in scenes 1 and 2 (with the exception of the character on the right holding the can; I animated him ).

Pez was helping to design the necessary camera functions for the “Inception”-styled “Upside So Down” while I was finishing up the previous spot, so once “Tattoo” was finished, we raced to complete the last of the three. We lost our final line artist two weeks before the scheduled completion date, so Pez and I had to do this one virtually ourselves. Thankfully, the majority of the animation consisted of clothing and hair movement, so besides the characters turning to match the “right-side-up” final layout, we were able to keep the characters fairly still throughout.

Redd's Wicked Apple "Upside So Down"

As with virtually every project, there are things in these spots I wish I could go back into. However, if the client’s happy and we’re delivering somewhat on schedule, I’m ok with letting some things go. And I was always happy to hear my phone ringing with the occasional friend telling me they saw these commercials!


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