AT&T's Best Mashup of Film Genres Yet Is a Hell of a Ride for All Ages

Dougal Wilson directs BBDO's epic train spot

All aboard for some rip-roaring', rootin'-tootin' Wild West action. But you probably won't guess where this train is headed. 

The 90-second spot below is the latest installment of BBDO's cinema-ad series for AT&T Unlimited Plans that blends movie genres in unexpected ways. Dougal Wilson, of "Monty the Penguin" and "We're the Superhumans" fame, directed, with (mild spoiler alert) animation led by Paul Harrod, the production designer on Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs. 

Our story begins with live-action, as some old-timey train robbers dynamite a railway line. Their plan veers off track, however, as does the spot itself... 

Train | AT&T

Everybody sing as we chug along! Choo-choo!

This is the fourth installment of the series, after rom-com/horror, suspense/musical and sports/sci-fi mashups. It's a worthy sequel, with the Sergio Leone-style first half as charming and evocative as the lighter fare that follows. Dagnabbit, the looks on the bad guys' faces as they behold their trains-formation is priceless! 
 
"For this round, we wanted to try a more ambitious mashup that blended not only film genres, but styles as well," says BBDO creative director Kevin Mulroy. "We knew that animating in stop-motion would not only be beautifully crafted and give us the fullest 180-degree flip from the live-action piece, but it also allowed us to create a more seamless transition, since the train cars were still tangible objects." 

The gritty frontier footage was shot at the Northern Nevada Railway museum.   

"Dougal's team did a terrific job making sure every element read as authentic to the time period," says agency executive creative director David Cuccinello. "This included the train itself, which was the oldest working steam-powered locomotive in the U.S., from the turn of the century. The plan was always to add buttes and other elements to the landscape. One thing, however, couldn't be planned for—an unexpected blizzard dumped eight inches of snow on the ground just before the shoot. Then another snowstorm rolled through for our third day." 

Method Studios enhanced the footage, removing the snow and "filling out the landscape to give it the Monument Valley feel," Cuccinello says. "In addition, working with Dougal, they created a CGI modeled train for the crash sequence, placing it on the live action plates." 

Overall, the campaign strives to portray AT&T as an entertainment giant in the wake of its Time Warner acquisition.

"I think that element of surprise is what works so well with this campaign," says BBDO group ECD Matt MacDonald. "Not only do we shock people by suddenly switching genres halfway through the story, but even the AT&T logo at the end is the last thing most people expect. Our hope is that they come away knowing this is a brand delivering way more than phone service. They're delivering entertainment on the same level as everything else you'd see on the big screen during the summer blockbuster season."

CREDITS

AT&T
NCM Cinema
"Train" :90

Creative Agency: BBDO
Chief Creative Officer BBDO Worldwide: David Lubars
Chief Creative Officer BBDO New York: Greg Hahn    
Group Executive Creative Director: Matt Macdonald    
Executive Creative Directors: David Povill, David Cuccinello
Creative Directors: Kevin Mulroy, Dan Kenneally
Director of Integrated Production: David Rolfe
Group Executive Producer: Julie Collins
Executive Producer: Jessica Coccaro
Business Manager: Meg Foley
Managing Director: Rachel Nairn
Senior Director: David McKenzie
Account Director: Allie Knill
Director of Project Management: Colin Vidika 
Communications Planning Director: Mac Russell

Media Agency: Hearts & Science
President, Hearts BBDO Team, AT&T: Ralph Pardo
Hearts & Science, Group Director, OOH Investment: Vanessa Hartley
Hearts & Science, Supervisor, OOH Investment: Kat Hamilton
Hearts & Science, Sr. Media Director: Alina Kulesza
Hearts & Science, Media Director: Chantal Villain

AT&T Clients:
SVP, Advertising & Marketing Communications: Valarie Vargas
VP, Advertising & Social Media: Marc Burns
Director, Advertising: Dave Brown
Lead Manager, Advertising: Tara Poosti

Production Company: Furlined
Director: Dougal Wilson
President: Diane Mccarter    
Vice President: Benjamin Davies    
Senior Executive Producer: David Thorne
Line Producer: Karen O'brien            
Director of Photography: Joost Van Gelder
Production Designer: Jahmin Assa
Composer: Dougal Wilson

Editorial Company: Final Cut
Executive Producer: Suzy Ramirez
Producer: Ana Orrach / Jamie Lynn Perritt
Editor: Joe Guest
Assistant Editor: Zoe Schack

Color: MPC LA and London
Color Supervision: Jean Clement Soret
Colorists: Ricky Gausis & Matthieu Toullet
Color Producer: Leianna Campbell 
Executive Producers:    Meghan Lang & Ellora Chowdhury

Visual Effects Company: Method Studios            
Senior VFX Supervisor: Benjamin Walsh
Senior Producer: Pip Malone
CG Supervisor: Rus Brutsche
Comp Supervisor: Toma Bowen
Lead Flame: Ian Holland
Lead Animator: Tim Ranck
Lead FX: Vladislav Tushevskiy
Coordinator: Josephin Peichl

Stop Motion Animation Company: House Special
Executive Producer: Lourri Hammack
Creative Director: Kirk Kelley
Animation Director: Paul Harrod
Animation DP: John Nolan
Senior Producer: Rebecca Bowen
Project Coordinator: Casey Follen

Music Company: JSM Music
CEO/CCO: Joel Simon
Executive Producer: Jeff Fiorello                
Composers: Nathan Kil/Joel Simon

Audio Finishing: Formosa
Mixer/Sound Designer: John Bolen
Executive Producer: Lauren Cascio

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.