That’s the premise of a 30-second CGI-inspired holiday spot, produced and directed by Xenon, a New York-based commercial production company, and developed through Brushfire, Inc. (Cedar Knolls, New Jersey, and New York City). The spot debuted November 26
on all cable systems across New Jersey as well as CBS-owned and -operated stations in the New York and Philadelphia markets.
Employing a seamless mix of computer-generated animation, matte painting, practical elements and live-action footage, this fantasy follows a young couple as they stroll, hand-in-hand, into a snowy “Winter MoneyLand.”
Elaborate gates, festooned with gilded dollar signs, open magically as the couple begins their wide-eyed exploration of this fabulous environment in which everything is possible and every dream can come true. Soon they are experiencing the whimsical world that builds around them. Outside the gate the world is as it was but they have entered MoneyLand in which the columns, Christmas trees, snow flakes, deer, lampposts, a sledding duo (George Washington and Abe Lincoln barreling down a hill like school boys), a wise owl, gliding swans and a castle are all created of folding money, which animates across the terrain.
View the spot at:http://xenonmktg.com/michael/nj_lottery-winter_wonderland.html
Xenon Director/Creative Director Michael Wiehart developed the story and created detailed images for the storyboards and style boards so that the technical R&D could begin prior to the shoot. “It was important to me to develop a coherent storyline that draws the viewer into the wonderland and lets them make an emotional connection with the spot’s characters. As there was no MoneyLand in which to shoot, we had to construct our hyper-real environment,” explained Wiehart. “The foreground elements were built with CGI. Matte painting created the grandiose scale. The lighting of the scenes was inspired by the landscape paintings of Old Dutch Masters. The gravel
walkway, including the snow framing it, was shot practical and integrated in post. We then
populated the scenes with the money objects including gilded signs on the gate and lampposts. Creatures were added to MoneyLand which were character animated and rigged so they move and really show their bones and muscles. We keyed into the scene the live-action, shot green screen, and finally, the camera movements from the shoot were tracked and integrated with the 3D camera and
an artful composite combined all the elements and added shadow, light bounces, flares and snow flakes into a seamless fantastical money wonderland,
” he concluded.
Wiehart worked closely with Harry Dorrington, creative director of Gravity, to execute the animation. “Our early style frames captured the scale of the romantic ‘MoneyLand’ fantasy world, with its many inventive twists. Michael’s storyboard provided clues that helped us create the time of day, with its magical light and atmosphere. Later that light would be replicated at the green screen shoot. Our pre-visualization of all the scenes allowed us to line up the lighting to the direction of the setting sun, which was important in creating the spot’s atmosphere. Michael’s board was complicated, with numerous inventive twists. The CG actors – including Abe and George, the owl, the deer – were all created of densely layered dollar bills, and had to have articulation, facial expressions, eye blinks, wing flaps, and the like. We spent a lot of time modeling those so that you can read the layers of information and see the spot’s visual gags. The skies were also very important. We were dealing with snow, but not just white snow, we wanted some color in there, so the style frames provided an important guide for us.”
On his collaboration with Xenon, Brushfire senior vice president/creative director/copywriter Ken Musto said: “W
e wanted this spot to be special – ‘MoneyLand’ is a new departure for a Lottery ad and it will air for a number of years going forward. It’s not just about buying some tickets and winning a hundred grand. We wanted to create a deep, detailed Christmas tale, rich with creativity and detail, an invitation to not only be ‘in the money,’ but to escape the real world and immerse yourself in this wonderful place called Winter MoneyLand. Xenon understood the scope and depth of our concept. Michael has a great sense of story, and from working with Xenon previously we knew that they would understand the concept and how to bring it to life with CGI. We’re very proud of the results.”
Brushfire Producer Liz Pollard added: “Since the spot is going to be around for a few years, we wanted people to see something new every time they view it and the level of detail they created was crazy. We got amazing value for our budget and everyone was thrilled with the spot.”
All effects and post were handled by the artists at Gravity (New York, NY) under the direction of Harry Dorrington, and included Head of Production/Executive Producer Karen Bianca, Lead CG Artist Ivan Pribicevic, Offline and Online Editor Mark Steinberg, VFX Producer Raena Singh and Assistant VFX Producer Lisa Starace and Head of Art and Design Department/Gravity Tel Aviv Israel Breslev.
Brushfire also created radio, billboards, bus advertising, in-store materials and Internet banner heads that support the campaign theme.