A Spaghetti Western becomes a cute cartoon in AT&T's latest cinema mashup

Dougal Wilson steps behind the camera for brand's latest 'More for Your Thing' ad from BBDO

Published On
May 24, 2019

Editor's Pick

AT&T has turned the dial up on its genre-mixing cinema campaign promoting its “More for Your Thing” platform: It spliced together a Spaghetti Western and a whimsical children’s animation.

The 90-second ad from BBDO, directed by Furlined’s Dougal Wilson, is perhaps the most extreme mashup of the series to date. The campaign, which aims to cement AT&T’s status as an entertainment player, debuted last summer with cinematic spots that unexpectedly morphed from one genre to another—a rom-com became a horror film while an actioner switched to a musical. It went on to feature a feel-good sports film that transformed into a sci-fi thriller.

The new ad will begin airing on May 24, ahead of big summer movies like “Aladdin." It starts off in a classic Western scenario, as a a gang of grizzled bandits blow up a steam train running through Arizona’s Monument Valley. But after the train derails and the smoke clears, we switch to the animated footage, featuring cute railroad cars signing a jaunty melody about how they “gotta get back on the track” as the bandits look on in astonishment, bewildered by their own physical transformation into cartoon figures.

For the latest spot, BBDO hired British director Dougal Wilson, known for his Christmas ads for John Lewis (including "The Long Wait" and "Monty the Penguin”) and more recently, Apple spots, like “Barbers” and "Unlock." 

“We wanted someone who could deliver genuine warmth and surprise—the kind you get from the best kids’ films,” says Matt MacDonald, Group Executive Creative Director, BBDO New York.  

Wilson says the storyline appealed to him as a fan of both Westerns and animation. “I grew up watching a lot of John Ford films and Sergio Leone movies, like ‘Once Upon a Time in the West,’” he says.

On his turn in the AT&T series, Wilson says he wanted to add an element of the self-referential. This is the first time in the campaign that the characters appear cognizant of the changeover. “I wanted to get that feeling into it of the characters being surprised and bewildered when it switched into a comedic genre.”

Western scenes were shot in the northern Nevada Northern Railway, a railroad museum. A heavy blizzard just before filming began threatened the production. Wilson, who’s used to having to create fake snow for his Christmas ad shoots, says it’s the first job he’s worked on where snow actually had to be painted out (by VFX house Method). The butte peaks from Monument Valley were also added in later (in case you were wondering, there’s no railroad in Monument Valley).

On the animation portion, Wilson worked with Paul Harrod, production designer on Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated film “Isle of Dogs” and Harrod’s Portland-based animation company, House Special. Previously known as Laika/House, its work includes movies like “Missing Link” and “ParaNorman.”

As well as classics like “Thomas the Tank Engine” and “The Little Engine That Could,” Wilson was inspired by the films of stop-motion pioneer Rankin Bass and aimed for a  “charming, naïve” quality to the train characters. The voice cast includes “Futurama” actor Jon Di Maggio, who played Bender in the series. 

The music was another crucial detail. Wilson himself wrote the spot’s opening tune as well as the song the engines sing as they’re climbing back on the track. “I just put it together on GarageBand at my mother’s house over Christmas,” he says.

 

 

Credits

Date
May 24, 2019
Client:
AT&T
Agency:
BBDO
Chief Creative Officer:
David Lubars
Chief Creative Officer:
Greg Hahn
Group Executive Creative Director:
Matt MacDonald
Executive Creative Director:
David Povill
Executive Creative Director:
David Cuccinello
Creative Director:
Kevin Mulroy
Creative Director:
Dan Kenneally
Director of Integrated Production:
David Rolfe
Group Executive Producer:
Julie Collins
Executive Producer:
Jessica Coccaro
Business Manager:
Meg Foley
Managing Director:
Rachel Nairn
Senior Director:
David McKenzie
Account Director:
Allie Knill
Director of Project Management:
Colin Vidika
Communications Planning Director:
Mac Russell
Media Agency:
Hearts & Science
President, Hearts BBDO Team, AT&T:
Ralph Pardo
Hearts & Science, Group Director, OOH Investment:
Vanessa Hartley
Hearts & Science, Supervisor, OOH Investment:
Kat Hamilton
Hearts & Science, Sr. Media Director:
Alina Kulesza
Hearts & Science, Media Director:
Chantal Villain
SVP, Advertising & Marketing Communications:
Valarie Vargas
VP, Advertising & Social Media:
Marc Burns
Director, Advertising:
Dave Brown
Lead Manager, Advertising:
Tara Poosti
Production Company:
Furlined
Director:
Dougal Wilson
President:
Diane Mccarter
Vice President:
Benjamin Davies
Senior Executive Producer:
David Thorne
Line Producer:
Karen O’Brien
Director of Photography:
Joost Van Gelder
Production Designer:
Jahmin Assa
Composer:
Dougal Wilson
Editorial Company:
Final Cut
Executive Producer:
Suzy Ramirez
Producer:
Ana Orrach
Producer:
Jamie Lynn Perritt
Editor:
People
Role
Assistant Editor:
Zoe Schack
Color:
MPC LA
Color:
London
Color Supervision:
Jean Clement Soret
Colorist:
Ricky Gausis
Colorist:
Matthieu Toullet
Executive Producer:
Meghan Lang
Executive Producer:
Ellora Chowdhury
Visual Effects Company:
Method Studios
Senior VFX Supervisor:
Benjamin Walsh
Senior Producer:
Pip Malone
CG Supervisor:
Rus Brutsche
Comp Supervisor:
Toma Bowen
Lead Flame:
Ian Holland
Lead Animator:
Tim Ranck
Lead FX:
Vladislav Tushevskiy
Coordinator:
Josephin Peichl
Stop Motion Animation Company:
House Special
Executive Producer:
Hammack
Creative Director:
Kirk Kelley
Animation Director:
Paul Harrod
Animation DP:
John Nolan
Senior Producer:
Rebecca Bowen
Project Coordinator:
Casey Follen
Music Company:
JSM Music
CEO/CCO:
Joel Simon
Executive Producer:
Jeff Fiorello
Composer:
Nathan Kil
Composer:
Joel Simon
Audio Finishing:
Formosa
Mixer/Sound Designer:
John Bolen
Executive Producer:
Lauren Cascio

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