Imagine, if you will, a job in which agency creatives come to a directing collective and post house with two 15-second spots without storyboards, a fun, celebrity-endorsed brand, and the following brief: do whatever you want to do. While it wasn't completely carte blanche, it was essentially what happened to Motion Theory co-directors Grady Hall and Matthew Cullen when they were hired to work for Japanese agency Hakuhodo on a pair of spots for Pino brand bonbons. Teaming up with illustration power-couple (and Creativity's May cover artists) Kozyndan, animators and effects artists created an overwhelming visual world with nearly 50 effects in each spot, featuring the simple tagline "Hello friends." The spots are essentially post-effects color explosions with very simple storylines. "Street" shows Japanese boy band Arashi in a city where a woman walks her sneakers on a leash, a boy instantly grows blue and pink hair, and buildings inflate to become hot air balloons. In "Party," Arashi chill among visible music with break-dancing robots and floating dancers in a room that spins like a record. "[Kozyndan] were in our office a heck of a lot, just drawing as many crazy ideas as possible," says Hall. "It's not often that you get a chance to just think of any ludicrous thing that you can and be playful. The goal was to capture fun and silliness. Why else would you eat a bonbon?" Kozyndan's Dan Kitchens said that he and his partner Kozy were given a blank slate. "They just wanted us to do our thing," he says. "They knew they wanted to fill the worlds of the two spots with all kinds of weird and funny things. Sometimes they would give us specific objects that they wanted to use in a funny way and sometimes they asked for specific characters for which we would draw up some variations. There are so many details that no one is ever going to possibly notice." The two-day shoot took place in a Tokyo studio that Akira Kurosawa built for Ran ("I wonder how he feels about this from the grave," Hall wonders out loud) with select set pieces on a green screen, while Kozyndan and Motion Theory designers worked in the company's Venice-based offices turning the illustrators' pencil drawings into 3-D elements created in Maya. When Hall and Cullen returned from Japan, they worked on matching up shots, erasing the cables and harnesses that allowed dancers to be suspended in air, and making the animated elements interact with the live actors.
"All our ideas tend to exist within one specific moment," writes Dan, "so it's fun to see these things play out and imagine how things actually move and get a better sense of our characters' personalities. It was nice to see one of our robot characters coming to life and doing what I always imagine him doing-putting the moves on a girl and sweeping her off her feet."