Calabash Animates Brand Icon Charlie For StarKist
March 4, 2016

Calabash Animates Brand Icon Charlie For StarKist

CHICAGO – Forget ‘Sorry Charlie.’ The classic brand icon for StarKist Tuna has never looked better thanks in large part to Calabash (, the 3D animation studio led by creative director Wayne Brejcha and executive producer Sean Henry, here. The studio partnered with director Steve “Spaz” Williams to create the new ad Modern Charlie, which boasts the heart-healthy benefits to StarKist’s Tuna and Salmon Creations products.
The new ad isn’t the first time Calabash has been trusted with the brand icon (they were the animation masterminds behind the classic 2005 MasterCard Super Bowl ad Icons), but for Henry it was important to stay true to the original look of Charlie.

“Charlie’s basic design has hardly changed since he was first introduced in the early 60’s, but he has been interpreted in slightly different ways over the years,” Henry says. “We felt obligated to stay as true as possible to the official look, but there were a lot of elements to the design that needed to be thought out carefully. Charlie's design is pretty abstract, like a comic strip character. It works well as a drawing, but it is a real challenge to sculpt in 3D since it is only designed to be seen from one or two angles.”

Brejcha found the recent Peanuts Movie from Blue Sky Animation inspiring in its adaptation of quirky 2D characters into 3D. 

0630 Starkist "Modern Charlie" from Calabash Animation on Vimeo.

“Charlie’s 3D spatial coherence is playful,” Brejcha notes. “Sean rigged our CG Charlie to be able to do what the handdrawn cartoons can do. He’s not a strictly jointed armature – he’s more of a series of liquid forms, and we kept a sharp eye on the resulting 2D shapes you see as the final result to gauge how well we were capturing Charlie’s personality.”

Modern Charlie” (:15) pays homage to a classic ad from the 1960s featuring his sidekick known as the Octopus in which we see Charlie playing the harp and “putting his heart into it” when the flute-playing Octopus reminds him that StarKist “doesn’t want tuna with heart, they want tuna that’s good for the heart.”

“From the very beginning, it was clear that everyone shared a similar vision for the project and it was a great collaboration,” Henry says. “It was an honor for us to work with Spaz.”