This Amazing Stop-Motion Diorama Unboxes 70 Years of Adidas History

Run-DMC, Stan Smith, Muhammed Ali and more

Shoebox dioramas (remember those from third grade?) and sneaker-head unboxing videos collide in a colorful stop-motion campaign that captures highlights from 70 years of Adidas history. 

At first, the blue-and-white Adidas Classics box looks pretty ordinary. Then the lid pops off, and the camera glides inside, through intricate representations of basketball courts, tennis arenas and hip-hop clubs, for a visually vibrant tour of the brand's evolving identity in sports and popular culture.

There's much to see, including famous folks associated with Adidas shoes, such as boxing icon Muhammed Ali, tennis champion Stan Smith, rappers Run-DMC, fashion and footwear designer Stella McCartney and skateboarder Nora Vasconcellos. 

An Homage to our Classics that Transcended Sport

Yep, he's the greatest ever. Muhammed Ali, not Stan Smith—though one of Adidas' most iconic shoes bears his name, and he looks super-spy in mini-model form, slicing a winner over the net. 

And if you were wondering—yes, the spot was shot on a real, amazingly elaborate diorama built by ad agency Opinionated and production company House Special. 

"It's actually huge—it can fill a decent-sized room," agency founder and creative director Mark Fitzloff tells Muse, adding that the agency is planning to display it at Adidas' North American headquarters in Portland, Ore. 

The filming technique is called "no-motion," because "the objects don't actually move," Fitzloff explains. "But it’s still shot in stop-motion, meaning a series of stills, one after the other." 

Click to see a gallery of stills from the video: 

Set construction took a month, "but prior to building, we developed a full animatic to determine the overall pacing and, most importantly, how we wanted to maneuver the [camera] crane," says Nick Larkin, management supervisor at Opinionated. 

Each scene was filmed separately, "then melded together to make it look like one single, continual camera move," Larkin says. "We threaded overlapping elements to make it seem like an endless world within a shoebox. There are hints of the upcoming scene in each set—like the tennis ball hanging off behind the b-boys [breakdance] scene, or Muhammad Ali's opponent coming through the brick wall behind Run-DMC." 

The crew took pains to ensure that the model retained enough "humble aspects of a homemade diorama" to be recognizable as such, while also looking fly enough to hold viewers' attention and encompass lots of cool details. (Note the VHS-grainy footage of '80s breakdancer Crazy Legs on the b-boys' TV set.) 

Dioramas have been used in ads before to impressive effect. JWT's history of the U.S Marines, which dropped in 2017, is one example, along with Halo's groundbreaking and much-lauded "Believe" from a dozen years ago.

Adidas' effort doesn't pack as much emotional punch as those efforts, largely because the subject matter isn't the stuff of immediate life and death. Regardless, it ranks as an artistic triumph, providing a wealth of compelling content for viewers to discover as they mull the ever-changing landscape of sports, music and fashion as viewed through the lens of a transcendent global brand. 

"One of the most challenging but least sexy aspects was licensing every single reference or mention in the spot, and getting them to buy off on an idea and rough animatic," Larkin recalls. "It was vital that we had each piece secured, approved and fully built prior to shooting. This came together as one elaborate puzzle."

With so many Easter eggs and cultural allusions to savor, you'll want to unbox this gem more than once.

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.