Ad animal antics

What with high expectations and tight turnarounds, getting a commercial to air on time and on budget can be a real challenge. And that's without adding children or wildlife to the equation.

What with high expectations and tight turnarounds, getting a commercial to air on time and on budget can be a real challenge. And that’s without adding children or wildlife to the equation.

We figured that with the plethora of spokescritters out there, there must be

some interesting behind-the-scenes tales. Here are a few of those stories about inhuman thespians…

Rodential potential

For the 1-800-GOT-JUNK shoot, not only did the rats have a wrangler, they had their own wardrobe person. And thank god, because their little coats didn’t fit on our favourite rat. But we were soon ready. For our first shot we needed three rats to run across the lawn. The wrangler told us: ‘Rats do not go from point A to point B, they go from point B to point A.’ An uncomfortable pause followed this unexpected, Zen-like rat wisdom. But he was right. He put the cage where we wanted them to go, dragged them (gently) from the cage to their start point, and sure enough, they went straight for it. He could have just said ‘Rats will go to their cage’ but I guess that’s not as cool.

Bryan Collins, writer; Rob Sweetman, AD, Rethink

Consumers loved lascivious lizard

I’ll never forget attending a screening for our Telus Christmas campaign in 2004. I had been presented the cuts and everything looked great. But then, I noticed something was up. The team wanted to show me another spot but were unsure how I’d react. Next thing I knew, I was watching a chameleon getting romantic with a phone to the song ‘Let’s get it on.’ The pay-off line was: ‘Once you find love, hold onto it.’ I loved it. On set, the chameleon had spontaneously become enthralled with the phone and couldn’t control its affections. You couldn’t have scripted it better. No post work. No fancy editing. Turned out to be one of my favourite Telus spots of all time. Consumers loved it. And to think, it happened by pure fluke.

Zak Mroueh, VP/ECD, Taxi Canada

Good concept, bad functionality

The script said: ‘Cut to mother bear; she hands out Rice Krispies squares to her three baby bears. They all pick up their treats, eat and enjoy.’ I’d never directed bears. Oddly enough, locating a trained mother bear and three cubs was not so easy. We found a male teen bear who was comparable in size to an adult female and his younger cub-size sister from Nebraska and two boy cubs from Montana. Their owners drove them to the studio in Toronto (bears don’t like to fly). We built an expensive set to resemble the fairy tale home of The Three Bears. The agency and clients flew in from Chicago. After a week on the road, the bears arrived. It was only at this point that the Grizzly Adams-type trainer finally read the script. ‘Y’all know that bears don’t have opposable digits like chimps?’

‘No. I didn’t know that, but so what?’

‘So, that part in the script when the bears pick up and eat the Rice Krispies squares…well that ain’t gonna happen.’

Martin Shewchuk, EVP/ECD, JWT Toronto

When you wear a tux, you travel in style

We’d ordered some penguins for a Telus shoot and they flew in (coach) to Vancouver from Edmonton. They had their own suite at the posh Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel where I’m told they ran up quite a room service tab. On set, they were like dogs, following their trainers everywhere – even to the ladies’ room. They were Rock Hoppers so they had sharp claws suitable to their native terrain but our boards called for them to slide, as if on ice. ‘No problem,’ said Gillian, the head trainer. ‘As long as one of us is at the bottom of the slide, our guys will be fine.’ (Every other trainer had told me this was impossible – against the Rock Hoppers’ very nature.) I began coming up with Plan B strategies.

On shoot day we set up a ramp with one trainer ‘pitching’ from above and the other ‘catching’ at the bottom. We had provided the catcher with a fencing mask just in case. To my wild surprise, the penguins did it right. First take. Seemed to like it, actually. Did it again and again. And it looked perfect in the edit, almost like they were surfing. Upon their return home, they were the toast of Edmonton, and I hear they’re still dining out on stories of their B.C. experience.

David Orr, director, Sparks Productions