Behind The Work: Adidas "Hello Tomorrow"

By Ms Published on .

TBWA/Chiat/Day San Francisco ECD Chuck McBride, director Spike Jonze, Sea Level VFX supervisor Ben Gibbs and Squeak E. Clean composer Sam Spiegel-the team that earlier brought us the superb "Crazy Legs," for Levi's-are back with a dreamy, effects-fueled tour de force for adidas, sure to be seen on the awards circuit this summer. "Hello Tomorrow" touts "the world's first intelligent shoe," as a super tells us. It's a sneaker with a microchip embedded in the arch that adjusts to owner snd terrain-though this chip angle isn't mentioned in the spot. Instead, we're in a dream world that's completely customizable and controlled by the adidas wearer, who has the luxury of moving in a world that's entirely his own. "No product has existed like this before," says McBride. "From there, I had the idea of someone waking up in pitch black, in a floating bed, and having them take their first steps again."

When the protagonist opens his eyes in a bed surrounded by darkness, the shoes tumble magically to his feet, and as he moves the black of night gives way to a surreal light. After discovering that he can create doors and control his environment, he goes for a jog through city and forest, escaping a bear and a truck with a variety of gravity-defying moves. When he lies down to touch his feet and create a low-headroom sidewalk for a ceiling, it's a claustrophobically topsy-turvy scene that calls to mind Jonze's feature Being John Malkovich. That is, until he hits his head on a fire hydrant and finds himself back in bed. "Instead of a special effects running spot, I wanted it to be something where you felt the character, and what he was thinking in a silent movie kind of way," says Jonze of his first American spot since the Grand Prix-winning "Lamp" for Ikea. "The other thing I wanted him to do was run through his own dream showing dream-logic of his reactions. For example, when he sees the bear, he doesn't really panic realistically; it's more of a dream panic." Contributing to the dream as well are effects from Sea Level, which include lighting, the illumination effect and many changes in orientation, among the tumbling sneakers and other visual touches. "Ben comes at it from a place of imagination and feeling instead of technique," says Jonze. "The effects could have gone anywhere, and we did a lot of tests and tried to figure out how to light everything and how the lighting would interact with the effects." Gibbs says, "The best part of the job for me was molding the light. I enjoy it when someone sees images they like but can't tell exactly what it is."

The dreamy mood and hip innocence are scored by Spiegel, who worked with Karen O (said to be Jonze's companion) of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who's of course known for her raucous onstage antics and garish costumes. In "Hello Tomorrow," she sings softly, almost spookily, and the effect is raw and touching. "She is so sweet when she wants to be, and so versatile," Spiegel says of the spot's decidedly lo-fi approach. "Spike was very clear that he wanted it to be simple, like someone sitting there and singing," says Spiegel, who is, in fact, Jonze's brother. "Instead of using real drums, we took two sticks and clicked them together. We also used a glockenspiel." However, the most striking part of the soundtrack (literally) is the hydrant collision, thanks to of a lack of sound effects-just an emphatic vocal note. "In that part Karen just used her voice and made it like a dream where everything shifts back to quiet time." Plans are in the works to turn a full-length version of the song into a single.

Notable, too, is the absence of the athlete endorser, a ubiquitous feature of adidas' "Impossible is Nothing" campaign. According to Jonze, they cast extensively for a charming person with an openness who could also perform the physical wire work necessary for effects, while McBride says they chose not to go the celebrity route in order to emphasize an Everyman philosophy. "In looking at an intelligent product, it's about personalization and the individual," he says. "And one of the best ways to express yourself as an individual is through creativity."

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