Strip away the layers of dreary quarantine reality and what will you find? Pokémon! What else?
In this lively :30 promoting the virtual Pokémon GO Fest later this month, Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson trades droids and Wookiees for Pikachu and friends, who lurk behind walls and beneath lawns, ready to delight us with their cuteness:
Maybe those folks in the ad should call an exterminator … to catch 'em all! Kidding, of course. Who wouldn't want a house and backyard full of Pokémon?
"With this commercial, we wanted to portray the joy of stepping around a corner to find a new Pokémon waiting to be caught, or walking in the park to take your favorite Pokémon into battle against a friend," says Veronica Saron, Pokémon GO product marketing manager at game developer Niantic. "The idea first started out with a family tearing down the walls of a house to reveal Pokémon, but it was director Rian Johnson who brought the creative take of peeling back a layer of the real world to reveal the Pokémon, and we thought that was just perfect."
Last year, hundreds of thousands of players attended Pokémon GO Fest events in cities around the world. This year, a virtual version of the festival will take place July 25-26. So far, more than 600,000 tickets have been sold (at $14.99 a pop) in 110 countries.
"Shared experiences in games are more important today than ever before," owing to forced isolation brought on by Covid-19, Saron says. "For a lot of people around the world, Pokémon GO has served as a social connector, and it continues to remain a bright spot in players' lives—from friends taking a socially distanced walk together outside, to parents and their kids venturing off in a backyard to catch Pokémon."
The spot, titled "Look Closer," and Pokémon Fest 2020 coincide with the franchise's fourth anniversary. While hunting and collecting the cuddly critters has lost some steam since the augmented reality sensation's 2016 heyday, video games in general—notably, Animal Crossing—have provided much-needed public distraction and brand boosting as the pandemic drags on.
"Originally, we wanted to do it practically, and have people literally pulling down wallpaper, and busting through walls," recalls John Matejczyk, co-founder and creative chief at Muh-tay-zik Hof-fer, which helped develop the spot. "When we had our creative call with Rian, however, he liked the wallpaper bit and proposed that we turn all the scenes into a visual effect of wallpaper, inside and outside."
Matejczyk adds: "We were careful to portray not a fantasy world but simply a heightened reality. That's the essence of Pokémon GO. The Pokémon live in our world, we just have to look for them. Each scene also shows features that people may not be familiar with if they haven't played for a while—the buddy who gives you gifts, battles, and finally, the virtual Pokémon GO Fest."
Shooting took place last month New Zealand, with Johnson, an avowed Pokémon fan, leading the effort from Los Angeles, with visual effects added in Australia and aspects of editing handled in the U.S., Germany and Japan.
"We knew early on that this was going to be a very different kind of shoot, in that it would largely be done remotely and with many teams participating from across the globe," says Andrew Schnorr, product marketing manager at The Pokémon Company International, which guides brand management for the franchise.
"Location scouting was done by the production studio based in New Zealand, which helped us find several amazing spots, including a beautiful open field, an area by a lake, and a local house," Schnorr says. "While we didn't use an actual studio, we were able to bring in set décor and equipment to help achieve the shots we needed, especially for outdoor scenes, despite filming in New Zealand's winter."
He adds: "Aside from the production staff and actors in New Zealand, everyone was able to work from home by viewing what could be seen from the onsite camera using specialized software, as well as collaborating via multiple simultaneous video calls on multiple devices. In effect, every team member's own home became a miniature production studio."
Client: The Pokémon Company International
Andrew Schnorr, Product Marketing Manager
David Cheung, Product Marketing Manager - Digital and Mobile
Mike Quigley, CMO
Kento Suga, Director of Marketing
Veronica Saron, Product Marketing Manager
Philip Marz, Product Marketing Manager EMEA
Agency: MUH-TAY-ZIK / HOF-FER
John Matejczyk, CCO/Co-Founder
Matt Hofherr, CSO/Co-Founder
Greggy Adriano, Art Director
Johann Lopez, Copywriter
Brendan Robertson, CSO/SF
Jessica Bedussi, Associate Social Strategy Director
Tanya LeSieur, Head of Production/Assoc. Ptr.
Austin Kim, Executive Producer
Meghan Cermack, Account Director
Jane Han, Account Supervisor
Cara Orlowski, Director of Business Affairs
Katy Aquino, Director of Creative Operations
Caviar - Production Company
Rian Johnson, Director
Steve Yedlin, ASC
Stephan Mohammed, Producer
Michael Sagol, Executive Producer / Managing Director
Kim Dellera, Executive Producer / Partner
Casey Wooden, Executive Producer / Head of Production
Big Picture Co - NZ Service Company
William Grieve, Executive Producer
Luke Robinson, 1st Assistant Director
Nigel Bluck, NZ Director of Photography
Adrian Dentice, Casting
Rows of Numbers - Color Grading
Steve Yedlin, ASC
Exile - Post Production/Off-line
Michael Miller/Sr Producer
Rex Lowry/Assistant Editor
Alt VFX & Animation & Finish
Jay Hawkins, VFX Supervisor
Chris Fieldhouse, Executive Producer
Jayce Attewell, VFX Producer
Jordan McInnes, CG Supervisor
Matt Chance, 2D Supervisor
Chris Gardner, FX TD
Martin Kindl, Lookdev/Lighting Artist
Murray Smallwood, Senior Compositor
Mitchell Kehn, Compositor
Kerrie Moss, Animator
Josh Kell, Flame Artist
Harry Gale, VFX Assistant
Beacon Street Studios Music and SFX
Andrew Feltenstein, Composer
John Nau, Composer
Danny Dunlap, Composer
Leslie DiLullo, EP/Head of Production
Rommel Molina, Sound Designer
Kate Vadnais, Senior Mix/Sound Design Producer
Eleven - Sound/Mix
Jeff Payne, Sound Mixer
Jordan Meltzer, Assistant Sound Mixer
Melissa Elston, Executive Producer