If I Were A Toy
November 30, 2016

If I Were A Toy

Directed by Outsider’s Henry Littlechild and conceived by McCann Manchester, the animated CGI film from MPC brings toys in a Smyths toy store to life.

The story documents the journey through the imagination of a charming young boy, Oscar, who becomes enchanted by the toy store before him, using the lyrics of the Beyonce hit “If I Were a Boy” and changing it to “If I Were a Toy.” 

MPC produced character design, CGI, and animation across the piece.

“We wanted to bring the excitement of the toy store as seen through the eyes of a child to our customers,” says Sinead Byrne, joint head of marketing for Smyths Toys Superstores.

In the commercial, the boy – and some toys – get animated, as do the environments, from outer space and a Lego city to a disco and the aisles of a store.

According to Anthony Bloor, MPC’s head of 3D, turning a real boy into a CG version of himself was more than a technical consideration. “We already had an idea of what the boy in the spot might look like. But once an initial casting was done, we created caricatures of the shortlisted kids to see how they would look as an animated character,” he says.

For all animation, modeling, and lighting in the spot, MPC’s VFX artists used Autodesk’s Maya. Rendering was completed using Autodesk’s (formerly Solid Angle’s) Arnold, and compositing was done in The Foundry’s Nuke and Nuke Studio.

The crew used cloth simulation for the proper drape and movement of CG Oscar’s T-shirt simulated in each shot, albeit the artists kept the scale of it small to maintain his toy-like quality. They also used cloth sim for his dress, as he lands atop a castle balcony dressed as a princess. 

Most of the toys, however, were captured in camera. “With this kind of work, you’ve got to be faithful to the way real toys look and what they can do,” says Bloor. The castle was a large practical model about three meters tall, and most of the Lego models were filmed, too.

The Furbies, though, were an exception. The group needed thousands of them – too many for the shoot. So, they filmed 12 of them in different locations, cut them out, and used a custom tool in Nuke to reproduce them.

Some of the more difficult toys to re-create were the cars. “We could never get all the cars to race in perfect sync with the camera, so we reverse engineered the camera move into two parts, which were stitched together to create a seamless effect,” says Bloor

The biggest challenge for MPC occurred before the shoot even started. As Bloor explains, the detailed previs was an intricate process, working out what and how they would film, and making sure the right toys could be on set when they were needed.

Richard Aldiss, McCann Manchester managing partner, adds: “The brief was simple. Create a memorable campaign that captures the imaginations of kids and parents alike, while taking the Smyths Toys Superstores brand up a gear. With the run-up to Christmas, we wanted to create something truly magical, while remaining firmly focused on the commercial agenda.”