A bored child finds a shopping trip with mum takes an unexpected turn
as he finds himself caught in simian battle-of-the-bands amidst the clothing racks. We catch up with the organ grinders behind the behind the three performing monkeys from the latest – and rather musical – addition to the Jammie Dodgers campaign.
Roderick Fenske, director
The campaign sees three cheeky monkeys, representing the three types of ‘Dodger’ channel a different musical genre. How did you go about developing their distinct musical characters?
Right from the get-go I wanted to give them their own personalities. Jammie had the power ballad, which made sense because in the original campaign that I worked on last year, Jammie was a bit hypnotic with the ladies. In this spot he feels a little 80s. And Jammie has more sophisticated animatronics than the other two, he has more mouth control and is more facially expressive. There’s a great low angle shot where his lips are actually quivering. He’s really going for it with maximum sincerity, as if he’s looking out of a window with a little tear running down his cheek.
With Toffee we wanted him to be different from Jammie – new but not as new as Choccy, who is the newest and had the most modern music. So we had Toffee be jazz. It has its own distinct visual style and I was sort of inspired by the Blue Note lighting style. I wanted it to feel a little like early Miles Davis footage but with a bit more energy. We built an entire set in balck and white and grey tones, so it was easy to create the switch where the monkeys go from monochrome to colour in post. That was really fun.
For Choccie, we looked at dubstep videos, where they do this pop ‘n’ lock style of dancing. The limbs look like they are made of rubber. We wanted to achieve that with Choccie so we replaced his arms with rubber arms and made his head spin 360 degrees. We wanted to do dub step, but also take it further.
Why did you choose to use puppets rather than create the monkeys in CGI?
That’s my ethos, I try to avoid CGI as much as possible. No matter how good it is it still has that computer generated feel. With puppets, because they’re operated by humans, they feel more human. That’s what makes animals so funny, it’s when they do something that’s almost human.
A lot of projects I do involve little furry animals, and people always ask me if I’m going to use CGI or animatronics. I always choose animatronics because it allows you improvise on set. You direct puppeteers just as if they were actors. There’s more warmth and humanity.
But the monkeys pull off some serious moves – what sort of challenges did working with puppets create in that respect when you were shooting in Kiev?
Choccie had a big jump across the table at the end of his section. We needed four people operating the puppet with rods attached to his arms and a guy with a remote control operating his face, so that was five people. We had to break the shot down and shoot the different elements. We shot the puppet against green screen so that the puppeteers had enough room to move then matched the angles and lighting of the shot of the set.
The music is a central part of the campaign, in the 40 second TV spot as well as the longer videos for each monkey. In the TV spot, despite the sharp genre changes, there’s a real feeling of coherence. How did you achieve that?
It was a really important decision. There were some budgetary restraints with the project and they were asking me to use stock music, and I thought that would be a huge mistake. Music is at least 50 per cent of this project, if not more. I got together with a composer friend of mine and we came up with a track that really got the timing right. It was enormous fun to play with the genres.
It sounds like you had a lot of fun with this project!
My own personal experience is that if you have a lot of fun when making comedy it shows on film. If its laboured then it can be really hard to get things to feel right in the edit, but if you laugh on set it usually translates.
So which is your favourite monkey? Jammie, Toffee or Choccie?
In my early teens I was a bit of a New Romantic so it would have to be Jammie. We go way back anyway, and he’s a great performer, a Shakespearean actor y’know?
Jason Watts, VFX and co-founder of Finish
We’ve spoken to Roderick about the warmth and tangibility of using puppets, but this must have created some challenges in terms of post-production. How did you cope with the painstaking process of de-rigging the puppets’ rods from the shots?
The post process can be made easier, but this usually means restricting the creative process and therefore limiting the director's freedom to gain performance. With careful planning and the presence of Finish staff on set, Roderick was able to have moving cameras, extreme lighting changes and dynamic backgrounds and still ensure the post process wasn't affected negatively. These ads are technically challenging but due to the mutual respect between the creative and post process the best possible outcome was achieved.
Director: Roderick Fenske
Production Company: Hungry Man
Producer: Veronica Saez
Agency Producer: Larissa Miola
Creative Director: Craig Miller
Creatives: Rob Ganguly and Andy Aradipiotis
Editor: Julian Tranquille and James Rose (Cut and Run)
VFX: Jason Watts
Lead Flame: Steve Murgatroyd
Flame: Judy Roberts
Post Producer: Justine White
Audio: Grand Central