Chipotle is going back to the start—following up its most famous ad, made 10 years ago, with a sequel that uses a similar formula to help family farms in their fight against industrialization and toward a more sustainable food future.
The original stop-motion spot, titled "Back to the Start," a haunting critique of factory farming, was created by CAA Marketing and Nexus Studios in 2011 and featured Willie Nelson singing Coldplay's "The Scientist." It was widely celebrated and won the Grand Clio in Film at the 2012 Clio Awards.
The new video, released this morning and titled "A Future Begins," was made by Observatory (the now-independent incarnation of what was formerly CAA Marketing). Like the original, it was directed by Johnny Kelly at Nexus Studios and also features a cover of a Coldplay song—this time, Kacey Musgraves performing "Fix You."
It features the same left-to-right panning motion as the original, but the story has now evolved. This time it follows a farmer's son who leaves the family business for a young professional's life in the city—until he begins to have second thoughts.
In addition to running online, the 2:20 film will also air in its entirety during the Raiders-Cowboys game on CBS on Thanksgiving Day. (This is reminiscent of "Back to the Start" airing in full on the Grammy Awards in 2012, six months after its release online.) As befits the times, "A Future Begins" is also part of a larger content-centric campaign. Assets include a behind-the-scenes "making of the song" video in social; the release of Musgraves' "Fix You" on Spotify, Apple Music and other DSPs; and QR codes on Chipotle bags through which consumers can watch the film.
Chipotle is also committing $5 million over the next five years to support the future of family farming.
The spot features one fluid camera move across 10 sets with 38 animated characters and 33 animals. "It was a production challenge, to put it mildly," says Kelly. "I'm delighted with the performance our animators, Gary Cureton and Matthew Cooper, poured into those tiny resin puppets."
"I was delighted to be able to get the band back together for a sequel," Kelly adds. "We started out by having lots of conversations with Chipotle and Observatory where they briefed us on the current state of the agricultural industry. I read, watched and listened to anything I could get my hands on. One thing that really drew me in was how farm kids were now, more than ever, reluctant to take over their parents' operations. I felt like this tension, and the emotional relationship between father and son could form the heart of our story."
"When [Chipotle CMO] Chris Brandt called Observatory and said 'we want to go back to the start' we knew exactly what he meant: that it is time to restate Chipotle's commitment to Cultivate A Better World," says Jae Goodman, founder and CEO at Observatory. "Of course, he did not mean that Chipotle wants to look backward, but rather press forward with their continued commitment to America's family farmers and a more sustainable food future for us all. So, 'A Future Begins.' "
Muse spoke further about the piece with three key players at Observatory.
What a treat to do a sequel. How nostalgic did it feel?
Carly Allen, head of production and executive producer: It felt as though we had really come full circle, both with the narrative of the film itself as well as with our partnership with Chipotle. The story we told a decade ago was about a single farmer who realizes that sustainability and integrity were key to cultivating a better world through real food and real farming. This time around, we were tasked with telling a more complicated story, about the challenges facing the next generation of family farmers.
It was pretty magical to tell this new story using the same world, the same characters, and the same stop-motion animation. We loved being able to expand our narrative to include new characters and illustrate how community plays a role in the future of farming.
We also wouldn’t have dreamt of doing this with anyone other than Nexus Studios and our director Johnny Kelly, who was instrumental in bringing the first film to life as well as continuing the story for the latest film
How did Kacey get involved, and how did the discussions around the song choice go?
Peter Skrumbis, senior copywriter: To us, the music was always as important to the storytelling as the animation itself.
The story of the film is one generation passing the torch to another. And given Willie Nelson’s involvement with the first film, we saw this as a great opportunity to partner with an artist who represents the next generation of country music star. Kacey brought a passionate fanbase, incredible craft and a level of authenticity given her friendship with Willie and connection to farming.
We did an extensive search but kept coming back to the idea of using another Coldplay track to build on the beauty of the last film’s soundtrack. When we put “Fix You” to picture, it just lined up perfectly, hitting every emotional moment and really bringing the story to life.
And once the song and artist were locked in, Kacey crushed it—creating an incredible track that really amplified the storytelling.
This piece enters a very different branded entertainment landscape than 10 years ago. How did that influence the shape and scope of this campaign?
Linda Knight, chief creative officer: A decade ago, it was pretty much a branded piece of content released to the world. Now, we’ve had an opportunity to build a fully integrated campaign that brings the story to life through a content-centric campaign.
This time around, we have a Snapchat filter that brings the world of the film to life through social media, two behind-the-scenes films, an editorial partnership with Rolling Stone, presence across dozens of Chipotle’s consumer touchpoints, and beyond. We even put the characters and a QR code that linked to the film on 5 million Chipotle bag in store and for delivery.
See the original "Back to the Start" video below:
Client Chipotle Mexican Grill
Title A Future Begins
Length 2 minute 23 seconds
Client Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chris Brandt CMO
Stephanie Perdue VP, Brand Marketing
Michael Kotick Sr. Director, Brand Marketing
Shelley Sheppard Creative Director
Bianca Pettinicchi Sr. Manager, Art Director.
NEXUS STUDIOS CREDITS
Production Company: Nexus Studios
Director: Johnny Kelly
Editor: Dave Slade
Senior Producer: Isobel Conroy
Production Manager: Nicole Lopez
Production Assistant: Delfina Maria
Art Director: Melanie Climent
Storyboards: Johnny Kelly
3D Previs: Mark Davies, Steve White
3D Previs Modeller: Fabien Glasse
Lead Compositor: Germán Diez
Compositors: Osman Baloglu, Dalvir Matharu, Gareth Tredrea
Studio Technical Lead: Mark Davies
DOP: Toby Howell
1st AD: Robert Thorpe
Moco Operator: James Gillett
Camera Assistant: Max Halstead
Gaffer: Aldo Camilleri
Best Boy: Genki McClure
Lead Animators: Gary Cureton, Matthew Cooper
Additional Animator: Tobias Fouracre
Animation Rigger: Robin Jackson
Puppet Makers: Joshua Flynn, Nathan Flynn @ Sculpt Double
Puppet Model Makers: Laura Tofarides, Rachel Brown @ Sculpt Double
Art Director: Gordon Allen
Assistant Art Director: Jasmine Nixon
Sculptor and Scenic painter: Araba Ocran
Modelmakers: Areeya Bass, Connor Chung
Laser cut prep: Collette Pidgeon
Laser cutting: Ewen Dickie
Standby Art dept/ Set Dressing: Rosie Tonkin, Brin Frost
Stage Construction: Ben Côté
Scenic and props painter: Richard Davidson
Studio Manager: Daisy Garside
BTS Cameraman: Thomas Heleta
BTS Editor: Dave Slade
Covid Officer / Medic: Paul Mortimer
Team Sustenance / Cleaner: Valerie
Catering: Konrad's Kitchen
Music by Kacey Musgraves
Produced by Ian Fitchuk, Daniel Tashian, Kacey Musgraves
Additional Production by The Elements Music
Recorded and mixed by Craig Alvin
Additional Mix by Source Sound Inc & The Elements Music
Sound Design: Fonic
Sound Supervisor: Barnaby Templer
Sound Designer and Dubbing Mixer: Christopher Swaine
Foley Recordist: Rory Hunter
Foley Artist: Sue Harding
Sound Assistant: Ryan Kelly
Audio Post Production Coordinator: Eugénie Dunster
Published by Universal Music – MGB Songs on behalf of Universal Music Publishing MGB Limited (ASCAP)
Written by Chris Martin
Written by Guy Berryman
Written by Will Champion
Written by Jonathan Buckland
Published By: Universal Music – MGB Songs
Produced by Kacey Musgraves
Produced by Ian Fitchuk
Produced by Daniel Tashian
Mixed by Craig Alvin
Vocals: Kacey Musgraves
Drums: Ian Fitchuk
Keyboards: Ian Fitchuk
Acoustic Guitar: Todd Lombardo
Programming: Daniel Tashian
Production Coordinator: Kristen Clark
Engineered by Craig Alvin
Additional Engineer: Josh Moore
Engineered by Zack Pancoast
Mastering Engineer: Greg Calbi
Mastering Engineer: Steve Fallone
Background Vocals: Daniel Tashian
Guitar: Daniel Tashian
Keyboards: Daniel Tashian
Programming: Ian Fitchuk
Cello: Nathaniel Smith
Cello: Vincent Pedulla
Drums: Vincent Pedulla
Guitar: Vincent Pedulla
Mandolin: Vincent Pedulla
Pedal Steel: Vincent Pedulla
Piano: Vincent Pedulla
Ukulele: Vincent Pedulla
Violin: Vincent Pedulla