Viewers tuned to ABC, NBC or CBS on March 4 were no doubt stunned to see a rare animal on U.S. TV -- an epic three-and-one-half-minute commercial for Cartier that took two years and $5.3 million to produce.
"Odyssee de Cartier," made by Publicis agency Marcel, is an allegory of Cartier's history made for the brand's 165th anniversary, told via the mythical, round-the-world journey of a panther, its longstanding emblem. (Note: While Cartier's "panther" can be used to describe any number of large cats, it appears to be a leopard that stars in this spot.) The commercial boasts depictions of iconic locations (St. Petersburg, the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal among them), spectacular visual effects, a sumptuous original score (played by an 84-piece orchestra) and priceless Cartier jewelry.
"The idea of doing the film on an epic scale is linked to how we craft a Cartier jewel with the same attention to detail," said Emmanuel Perrin, president-CEO of Cartier North America.
"Cartier wanted something very big," said director Bruno Aveillan, who insisted from the start on real cats: "I may have been a little bit crazy."
Mr. Aveillan (who is represented by Quad Productions in France and Believe Media in the U.S.) said he was concerned that if all the creatures in the film were computer-generated, "it would almost be like a trailer for a video game, and that 's not what I was aiming for. I wanted something that would touch people emotionally, and using a real panther was necessary for that ."
Using live animals posed challenges, particularly when locations included snowy mountains and the desert. The crew "crossed our fingers," he said, when the panthers were placed in snow for the first time in their lives. Turns out they loved it.
The crew was also restricted in terms of location, as many countries don't allow the animals in. Although the film needed to depict exotic locations such as China, Russia and India, all the filming took place in Italy, France, Spain and Belgium. Shooting was done in two weeks, with five months of postproduction (the entire project took two years from initial conception to completion). Complex visual effects, created out of Wizz and Digital District, were also involved.