Alongside Tobias Fouracre, who gave us Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Corpse Bride, e-bike brand VanMoof released "Hard Times for Super Thieves." In this stop-motion work, a collective of super-troped superthieves air their frustrations while contemplating a jet-black VanMoof, which they just can't steal.
The ad, shot mockumentary-style, stars a Master Lockpicker who can't understand VanMoof's keyless locking system, an International Art Thief who's upset about the anti-theft tracking system, and a Cyber Security "Specialist," who tries cracking its lock code.
They all seem very charming … but we suspect if they'd been enlisted for something like the Italian Job, that would have been a very short movie.
"The concept sprung out of us wanting to talk about safety and security around biking—one of the biggest deterrents for people who want to bike on a regular basis," explains VanMoof's creative director Colin Cornwell. "Of course, it's not a particularly fun subject to talk about—no one likes getting their bike stolen. But we've found that when we want to talk about the innovations involved in protecting riders' bikes, it can quite quickly stray into being too severe and techy."
The tactile, gently imperfect stop-motion approach looked like the way in, a contrast to "the rigorous testing we put our bikes through," Cornwell says.
The creative was a collaborative effort. "When many people think of stop motion, they might think it's one lonely person in a dark room who builds little puppets and little sets and animates them like some sort of alchemist. But it's not like that at all—there's a whole team, just like live action," says Fouracre.
In addition to puppet-makers, sculptors, armature-builders and fabric designers, people worked together to conceive the identities of each master thief.
"They're all very different from one another, so that was good," Fouracre says. "I had some ideas about the Master Lockpicker straight away: I knew he should look like a cross between Terry Thomas and Salvador Dalí. I wasn't so sure with the International Art Thief, but the VanMoof team had ideas for her straight away. So this whole characterization was quite a collaboration between us all."
Fouracre acted out each scene in advance, using the footage as a model for the puppets' movements. Each puppet is around a foot tall (the Master Lockpicker measures 14 inches) and composed of different materials: "There are plasticine sections for the eyes and mouths, but the rest of the heads are made out of resin. The hands are silicone, clothes made from real fabrics, and they all have ball and socket armatures inside them," Fouracre says. The miniature VanMoof bike was 3-D printed, with hand-built spokes, then spray-painted.
The shoot took five days.
"Hard Times for Super Thieves" is a promotion for VanMoof's anti-theft tech and Peace of Mind coverage, which kicks in if a wily thief does happen to jailbreak your metal steed. Currently, people who buy a VanMoof S3 or X3 from Jan. 26 to March 31 get a year of Peace of Mind theft and maintenance coverage for free.
"Real deterrents are needed to keep your VanMoof safe. Bringing these features to life in a vivid way was the film's goal," says Cornwell. "We couldn't be happier with the way it's turned out. We love the characters, and we love the stop-motion approach. It makes for a truly unique and playful way to talk about a tricky subject."
Production Company: Rowdy
Director: Tobias Fouracre
Producer: Daisy Garside
CMO: Andrew Smith (VanMoof)
Creative Director: Colin Cornwell (VanMoof)
Producer: Kim Buttery (VanMoof)