Head Gear Animation

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After literally and figuratively turning "Heads" with an Ikea spot featuring live-action heads with clay-animated bodies, Toronto's Head Gear Animation continues to produce work that lays further claim to the name. Animators reversed the Ikea process for Wrigley's Excel gum, featuring characters with clay heads and live-action bodies, in its typical offbeat but light and friendly style. The :30, from Leo Burnett/Toronto, features a young executive preparing for a meeting, contentedly concluding by popping a piece of gum, when she's snatched up by a King Kong clone who quite abruptly eats her whole. He takes a breath, and realizes that the mint is strong enough to freshen his breath as well. The concept and technique required a big leap of faith on behalf of the client, but the gamble paid off, according to those working on the project. "They liked the idea of really expressive faces," says director/animator and Head Gear co-founder Steve Angel. "They also liked the idea of a stylized, absurd, fantastic sensibility." Mixing clay animation with cel, live action, and 2-D set pieces in a 3-D environment, the entire process took about two months. After actors recorded their dialogue and gestures on greenscreen during a one-day shoot, animator Drew Lightfoot manipulated eight-inch clay heads to composite onto the actors' bodies.

Then the team "actually planted the heads on the bodies and we did things like giving her a scarf so that you never see the seams," Angel explains. The action was shot against a downtown cityscape environment, made from "Photoshopped, collage-stylized set pieces mounted on foamcore and placed in a 3-D space," he adds. A sure sign of success: a follow-up spot is likely in the works.

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