Vision Q&A: A Hole in the Head

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In Leo Burnett, Chicago's "Blowhole Bob," for the new chocolate-dipped Altoids, we meet Bob as he's manning a reception desk, drinking a cup of coffee . . . and blowing said coffee out the back of his head, spraying the glass wall behind him and leaving a disturbing mocha-hued ooze trailing down the back of his shirt. Flame artist Glen Noren at Chicago's Optimus talks about giving Bob his beloved blowhole.

What did you think of the idea when you first heard about Blowhole Bob?
Glen Noren: When I saw the rough cut, I thought it was nuts. It's definitely a weird spot. Anyone who happened to wander into the room when I was working on it would be like, "What?! What?!" What were some of your goals for how it would look?
The first thing we did was meet with the art director, and the key concept was, "Make it look disgusting." It was great to work on a project with that idea in mind, so that's what we tried to do. The more glop and other stuff we could put on there, the better.

How were the effects handled?
Well, they shot really great elements. Stan Winston did the models for the back of the head, and they actually built a squirting model. Initially, we thought we'd have to add a lot more squirts, but everything they shot we used. They actually constructed a whole fake head for Bob; at first we thought that might be a bit of overkill, but it wasn't. So then it was just a matter of layering all the stuff together and getting the fake head to track with the real guy's head. We used a little bit of Flame and a little bit of EQ, which is a new box that we're having some fun with. It lends itself well to a lot of painting and a lot of rotoscoping, so I thought it would work out well for this spot.

What was the most challenging aspect of the job?
I guess just getting everything to line up and look as disgusting as we wanted it to. There was a little painting and other stuff that we had to do, but other than that it went together pretty easily, because they shot such great stuff.

Why the back and not the top of the head?
I'd guess so his spurts are blasted onto the glass wall, which gets all dirty, and the shirt got all stained, too - so that worked out well.

Was there a temptation to make it more gratuitously drippy?
Yeah, definitely. There were some takes where the shirt wasn't stained enough, so we added some more stain to it. It was a lot of fun making it look pretty gross.
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