Bob Ross, it's been said, is the perfect quarantine companion.
Over the past year, as folks in lockdown have looked for things to do, as well as ways to ease their anxiety, the late painter's TV tutorials offered both—a chance to learn a skill, and to do so in a way that's exceedingly mellow.
Now, Mtn Dew and its agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, have taken Bob Ross obsession to another level with a weird and endearing tribute. On Saturday, following an earlier teaser, the PepsiCo soda posted a 42-minute "lost episode" of The Joy of Painting, the painter's show that aired on PBS from 1983 to 1994.
It's vintage Bob, but with a major twist. After crafting a lovely winter scene, deepfake Bob spends the final third of the show plopping in a honking bottle of Mtn Dew, replete with "happy little droplets" of condensation.
TBWA\Chiat\Day NY used a body double in prosthetics and a wig, then added in CGI and face-mapping technology to create the Bob deepfake. The painting itself was done by an artist approved by The Bob Ross Company, which worked with PepsiCo on the campaign.
The painting will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to charity. Mtn Dew is also creating limited-edition Bob Ross Paint Kits that will be given away in social media via a TikTok influencer campaign.
There's been some blowback about commercializing Ross in this way. In a moment that certainly feels borderline, the 15-second spot released last week showed deepfake Bob taking a huge swig of Mtn Dew and declaring, "Shoot, that's good!" Still, to us it feels like a loving homage that extends Ross's legacy rather than trampling on it.
"Bob Ross is a legend and a cultural icon, not just for those who grew up watching him live but with a new generation of people who have come to appreciate his creativity, his democratic approach to art, his focus on love of self and the natural world, and his ability to spread joy even amidst chaos," says Nicole Portwood, vp of marketing at the brand. "It's an absolute honor for Dew to make this 'lost episode' for all to enjoy and try their hand a creating a masterpiece with Mr. Ross's guidance."
It's been an eventful week for Ross fans. On Thursday, the artist Banksy posted a video on Instagram documenting the making of a new work on the side of a disused prison in England—in which Bob, and his narration, made a cameo.
And of course, parodying the laid-back Ross has been a tactic of marketers for a long time—perhaps most notably the Deadpool video from a few years back.
It’s been a pleasure partnering with @mountaindew to bring Bob Ross back to the small screen in a new ‘Lost Episode’ that’ll inspire fans - new and old - to pick up a paint brush, and do as Bob loved to do. pic.twitter.com/ZmZiwaXHKb— Bob Ross Official (@BobRossOfficial) March 4, 2021