A miniature Mexican wrestler might not be the obvious choice for a Canadian cell phone company's spokesman. But when Bent Image Lab Director Rob Shaw discovered just such a character in Toronto-based TAXI 2's script for the latest Koodo Mobile campaign, he immediately saw the connection.
"When I first saw the script, I thought, 'I have to do this job!'
"The whole concept was so creative and different," recalls Shaw, the self-described "huge Mexican wrestling fan" who TAXI 2 chose to direct the three-spot El Tabador campaign. "In Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling) culture and films, wrestlers are more than just tough guys. They are detectives, ladies' men, and defenders of justice. They also wear rad masks."
The campaign's star, a four-inch-tall CG animated wrestler known as "El Tabador," is no exception. As he bids farewell to his small Mexican village in the launch spot, El Tabador passionately explains that his destiny is to save customers from the injustice of hidden fees and long-term cell phone contracts. The next two commercials, "Compact" and "Couch," follow the wrestler as he continues his "fight for phone freedom." Like all legendary luchadores, the hero finds plenty of time for romance and adventure along the way.
El Tabador's name is a play on Koodo's no fixed-term contract "Tab" feature. Although El Tabador is animated, the world in which he exists is purely live-action.
"We always hoped the character would be fun and charming, but it was the fantastic work that BENT did that really took things to the next level" says Lance Martin, ECD of TAXI 2 Toronto.
The BENT team collaborated closely with the agency to create the spots, the latest of which hit the Canadian airwaves April 12. Animation production, including an in-depth character design process, took place in house at BENT's studio in Portland, Oregon. The live-action plate shoots were split between a Toronto stage and BENT's studio. BENT's art department built three full-size live-action sets for the in-house shoot. Drawing on their expertise in stop-motion, the team also constructed and shot the miniature Mexican village featured in the launch spot.
"The whole project was a blast, but I have to say character development was my favorite part," Shaw says. "I've always been a huge fan of Mexican wrestling. I love the Luchador Santo and his movies, and I grew up in the golden era of WWF.
"It was a lot of fun trying to cram all the stuff I love about both cultures into this four-inch-tall wrestler. He's a larger-than-life character in everyday, almost mundane situations. That contrast is perfect for a luchador character."
Drawing on this cross-border knowledge, Shaw and character designer Huy Vu created a wide range of initial character sketches. Working with TAXI 2, they narrowed down the options to arrive at the main look for Tabador. From there, Shaw and the BENT CG team developed a computer-generated character with the big, theatrical physical performance of a pro wrestler and the heroic, suave personality of a classic Luchador.
Beyond the three spots, BENT's CG department created character models and animation for the Koodo Mobile's YouTube channel, which includes an interactive YouTube video game, and "Behind the Mask," a viral mockumentary featuring Bret "The Hitman" Hart. The BENT team also created character poses of El Tabador for a series of billboards, TSAs, wild postings and a variety of other out-of-home media.
TD Fred Ruff and the CG team modeled and animated all the CG elements in 3D Studio Max 2010 and rendered them in V-Ray. The studio's compositing team, led by Brian Kinkley, used Adobe After Effects to bring the spots' live action and CG together in post.