A wise, pointed payoff awaits viewers at the end of Channel 4's three-minute Paralympics promo, which drops today ahead of the Tokyo Games.
Created by the U.K. broadcaster's 4Creative team, with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young directing, the film charts fresh territory for the acclaimed "Superhumans" advertising series by emphasizing the blood, sweat and sacrifice Paralympians make in their quest for glory.
"The previous campaigns presented disabled people as superheroes, which felt like the right thing to do at the time," 4creative ECD Eoin McLaughlin tells Muse. "Our job was to produce something that shifted the conversation forward in 2021. The previous films were inspirational, but they didn't tell the full story."
"Paralympians achieve incredible things, but they face all the same pressures and anxieties as everybody else," he says. "They're flawed and vulnerable, just like you and I."
We open inside the intense dreams of 2016 Rio Paralympics gold medalist Kadeena Cox, whose neon-tunnel visions vanish as a new day of discipline and struggle dawns.
Scenes with British competitors Ali Jawad, David Smith, Ellie Simmonds, Jody Cundy and Jordanne Whiley follow. There's a mix of at-home moments, high-octane workout and practice footage, plus fanciful animation.
There's some humor sprinkled in, too. "Among all the visceral, uncomfortable imagery, we wanted make people laugh, as well as making them wince," McLaughlin says.
It's all set to the bouncy beat of Bugsy Malone's "So You Want to Be a Boxer," performed by Jay Prince, which lends the proceedings a jaunty, indomitable vibe.
Like all elite athletes, these folks shrug off the pain, both physical and emotional, as they push themselves to the limit. Around the two-minute mark, we return to Cox's subconscious, as she outpaces a bronze medal on the sprinting track. Placing third, after all, would be a huge comedown, compared to her previous achievements.
"To be a Paralympian, there's got to be something wrong with you," we're told near the end, as the word "Super" shatters like glass, leaving "Human" to stand on its own. That's a potent reminder that succeeding at anything takes hard work and dedication—not some otherworldly superpowers.
"It's another missed party, ignoring your doctor's advice to quit, risking re-injuring an injury," says Young, the film's director. "To do the same thing over and over with the same result. Until we see them cross that finish line on the biggest stage in the world. And then we come as close as we can to understanding what it means and takes to be a Paralympian."
"I hope we've made something that feels unexpected and at times confrontational," adds McLaughlin says. "It celebrates them for their extreme ability and mindset. That's what sets them apart—not their disability."
There's a universal message here, too. Most of us won't win gold. Anywhere or ever. Still, we can follow the Paralympians' example. It won't be painless or quick. Setbacks loom large. But with guts, perseverance and a well-hewn plan, we just might transcend our path-of-least-resistance selves to become brighter, better humans.
Channel 4 plans to broadcast 300 hours of Tokyo Paralympic coverage, marking its biggest commitment yet to the Games. Wheelchair basketball star Ade Adepitan will anchor the network's daily highlights show from Japan.
Production Company: Serial Pictures x Somesuch
Executive Creative Director: Lynsey Atkin
Deputy Executive Creative Director: Eoin McLaughlin
Creative team: Scott Taylor and Andy Shrubsole
Head of Production: James Turnham/Miketta Lane
Executive Producer: Shananne Lane
Campaign Producer: Louise Oliver
Designer: Sarah Jones
Production Manager: Will Breeden
Production Assistant: Sam Baker
CMO: Zaid Al-Qassab
Head of Marketing: Penny Brough, Nic Moran, Laura Ward-Smith, James Walker
Marketing Lead: Laura Woodcock
Victoria Cheng: Marketing Executive
Maya Padhya: Marketing Executive
Business Director: Jane English
Senior Planner: James Hamilton
Media Agency: OMD
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Serial Pictures x Somesuch
Director: Bradford Young, ASC
Executive Producer / Managing Director (Somesuch): Seth Wilson
Executive Producer (Serial Pictures): Violaine Etienne
Producer: Elena (Elly) Camisa
Director Of Photography: Rina Yang
Production Designer: Nathan Von Parker
Costume Designer: Jessica Fell
Hair & Make Up Artist: Natasha Lawes
Sound Recordist: Mike Palmer
Casting Director: Kharmel Cochrane
Athlete Casting: Shananne Lane and Louise Oliver
1st Assistant Director: Jez Oakley
Production Manager: Fatima Zaman
Directors Assistant: Saman Aminzadeh
Location Manager: Scout Productions
2nd Unit Director: Dan Emmerson
Camera Operator (2nd Unit): Fraser Rigg
OFFLINE EDIT: Final Cut
Editor : Amanda James @ Final Cut
Asst Editor : Leah Burton/James Stubbs
Producer: Nikki Porter
MUSIC: Leland Music
Music Supervision & Production: Leland Music
Music Supervisors: Abi Leland, Toby Williams
Music Assistant: Letizia Pacchioni
Arranger / Producer: Guy Farley
Vocalist: Jay Prince
Backing vocalists: Lawrence Johnson, Travis Cole, Wayne Hernandez, Shaun Samonini
Drums: Chris Draper
Percussion: Dan Ellis
Bass: Nick Walsh
Piano: Ben Dawson
Banjo: Adam Goldsmith
Guitar: Jamie McCredie
Trumpet: Jay Phelps
Alto Sax: Jamie Talbot
Baritone Sax: Claire McInerney
SOUND POST PRODUCTION: Factory
Sound Design/Mix: James Utting and Anthony Moore
Audio Producer: Lucy Spong
VFX and ONLINE: TIME BASED ARTS
VFX Supervisors: Sam Osborne, Bernardo Varela, Federico Vanone 2D LEAD: Leo Weston
2D TEAM: Ollie Ramsey, Bernardo Varela, Caroline Dalgato, Leandro Vazquez, Sarah Breakwell, Matt Jackson
3D TEAM: Guillaume Heussler, Jake Newton, Teodora Retegan, Zoe Sottiaux,
Sottiaux, James Mann
Colour Grading: Simone Grattarola
Producer: Sian Jenkins
EP: Tom Johnson
SIGNED AND SUBTITLING: REDBEE