Pepsi's Puppet Masters

By Ms Published on .

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After overdosing on effects from the gorgeous stylings of modern martial arts epics, little can surprise audiences hungry for spectacular fight scenes. But in Pepsi's "Can Fu," from London's Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and director Tom Carty, two warriors slice, chop and flip in an outrageously strange fight without the use of any CG elements-which is surprising and sometimes disturbing for attentive viewers. Featuring a nameless acrobatic group that performs human puppetry on a popular game show in Japan, Carty captured the bloodless, intricately choreographed fight completely in-camera, creating a major buzz on the viral scene as well as on TV. As two men chop, slap, kick and flip as they battle for a can of Pepsi Max, it becomes increasingly apparent that there are other forces at work, and some stunts reveal that the work comes from humans obscured by their dark surroundings, not from a computer. In the final reveal, one puppeteer removes her mask, causing many viewers to take a second (or fifth) look at how previous stunts were accomplished.

While a making-of documentary can be seen on Pepsi's U.K. website, Carty, who is repped by London's Gorgeous and by Anonymous Content in the U.S., divulged the visual secrets of the spot. "The only visual questions for me were how much I'd take the puppeteers out," he says. "I played around with it for awhile, and we kept on looking at different degrees of clarity, just to see. It seemed to work differently for different people." Two moments especially can be cause for pause-when one fighter appears to float in the air while hugging his legs and spinning, and when the other jumps onto a table, legs splayed spider-style. "What they did there is use false legs folded up, and they've got black pants on," says Carty. "There are lots of false legs in it. In the beginning, I wanted it to be smaller, and build to a big thing, and have it get more and more ridiculous. I think when the arm is projected across the room that there's a reveal for the audience, and it becomes a reward for the viewer."

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