Mirada Studios Creates Holiday Magic for Lexus
December 3, 2014

Mirada Studios Creates Holiday Magic for Lexus

LOS ANGELES – Kicking off the season with its annual “December to Remember” event, Lexus and Team One partnered with Mirada to create a trilogy of holiday “tall tales.”

Each film in the campaign shares an imaginative story that draws back the curtain on Santa’s gift-giving magic – unlocking the secret of how he delivers Lexus vehicles to the driveways of three different families on Christmas morning. 

To create the three Lexus-inspired spins on the magic of the season, Mirada infused each spot with a rich cinematic scale. In each, Mirada’s artists worked to strike a balance between high-end visual effects and the tone of a modern-day fable. “Each story had to work on two levels,” explained Creative Director Jonathan Wu. “You had these incredible worlds of ‘tall tale’ magical realism in the first half. Then, in the second, you move to a more grounded reality with the beautiful cars in the driveways, and the warmth of the family interactions around it. And we wanted each half to elevate the other.”  

The first spot, “Christmas Train,” (http://youtu.be/a9rkwrNbK-o) opens on a train winding through snow-capped mountains to deliver a new Lexus IS F SPORT sedan. Aside from the live-action elves that guide the vehicle to its new home, Mirada artists designed, crafted, and animated every element in CG – from the storybook landscape, to the iconic red train. Detail was key to capturing the story’s impressive scale. “There was no room for shortcuts,” said VFX Supervisor Zach Tucker, “We built in as much depth as possible – creating a snowy CG forest mountain landscape reaching as far as the eye could see, building the actual town, surrounding neighborhood, and adjacent streets the train weaves through. Audiences don’t necessarily catch it all on a first viewing, but texturally it adds up to something that feels idealized while still looking photo-real.”

In “Magic Box,” (http://youtu.be/qbXDVmlcl-s) we see Santa himself place a tiny gift box on a driveway. Then, the box opens – magically transforming into a full-sized Lexus ES sedan. As in “Christmas Train,” CG artists built the environment, along with the story’s magical centerpiece, from scratch. CG Supervisor Michael Shelton describes the process: “We knew we had to end on a beautiful Lexus ES. The challenge was working backward from that; our design and animation used real CAD data, but the steps to get us there needed to feel like a well-crafted watch. We wanted each component to be faithful to the real vehicle as it clicked into place – only falling back on the ‘magic’ in how quick things happen.”

With “Teleporter,” the third spot (http://youtu.be/WZQeDdApIm0)   we witness a Lexus RX luxury crossover navigating a nighttime forest, through a magical teleportation machine – and right onto a family’s driveway. Like the other films, Mirada artists designed the world and all its signature elements from the ground up. This included everything from the entire winter wonderland, to the incredible teleporter, and even the exterior of the house behind the Lexus RX in the driveway. In creating the fantastical-yet-believable teleporter, the design team worked to give it a realistic, sculptural form carved from ice – then FX animators adding a pulsing energy effect to give it life, making it appear magically lit from within. Likewise, to give the environment a vivid storybook feel, the team photographed live-action plates of animals on set, and then composited them into the picturesque landscape in post to ensure the Lexus RX really felt connected to the scene.

A digital component was integrated with this TV campaign – created as a holiday “greeting card” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQVBVBlNd74&list=UUEDHfFp2GZonrhuAaz7VjPw) for Lexus dealers. When one of Santa's most inventive gift-giving methods, a teleporter, is operated by amateurs, a Lexus RX ends up about as far as you can get from a garage.  The spot was directed by Mirada director/creative director, Jonathan Wu. 

Capturing the ambitious scope of all these different stories on a tight deadline required the full force of the Mirada’s creative and technical might – but the result is three spots that draw viewers in with big visual storytelling, and leave them inspired by the Lexus holiday magic.