Cartoon Network and Sony
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation Promo
LIVE ACTION MOTION DESIGN EDITORIAL COMPOSITE
LIVE ACTION MOTION DESIGN EDITORIAL COMPOSITE
When Cartoon Network and Sony Pictures Entertainment approached us to make a music video with kids dancing alongside characters from Hotel Transylvania 3, we were stoked. We love music, we love animation, and we love working with talented kids. There was, however, one slight snag: we did not have final animation assets of the characters’ choreographed dance. Meaning, we’d have to shoot footage of dancers to match animated characters without a complete reference. In the world of production, that’s more frightening than Frankenstein’s monster… or whatever type of creature Blobby is.
For a producer, there’s nothing scarier than the unknown, and one of the goals of pre-production is to eliminate those unknowns, ensuring the shooting and post process go as smoothly as possible. So how do you pull it off? By preparing for everything.
The first step for success was picking the right talent, as this spot would sink or swim depending on the strength of the dancers. We immediately thought of Lil Dee Dee, an amazingly talented performer that we’ve had the pleasure of working with in the past. Dee Dee connected us with his choreographer, who worked on the spot and provided additional talent recommendations. We also reached out to local dance studios, like Dance 411, to send in submissions.
After a rigorous audition process, we had our team! Sony had provided a rough animatic, so our dancers needed to learn the moves off a sample video that featured cuts from character to character, rather than the full individual dances. Luckily, our brilliant choreographer was able to break down the video into teachable dance moves.
During pre production, we carved out time for two in-person rehearsals and encouraged the kids to rehearse at home and share progress videos. All of this ended up being a little bit of overkill, since the kids had the routine down about 5 minutes into the first rehearsal. Still, better to err on the side of being over-prepared.
Another aspect we put a lot of thought into was wardrobe. We wanted each kid wearing an outfit that nodded to Drac, Mavis, and Blobby, respectively, all while still looking fresh. This ended up having a small effect on the shoot, as we had to shoot on a blue instead of green screen to accommodate for the green Blobby wardrobe.
Once shoot day rolled around, our talent was ready. The final animation assets were not; however, we were prepared.
We decided to shoot in 6K, which might appear a bit much for a project that finished in 1080p; however, shooting in 6K was key since we didn’t have the final assets. The massive resolution gave us wiggle room to scale the footage to match character placement in post, no matter what assets we ended up with in the end. One downside to 6K is that the files are huge and cumbersome. This meant very large working files and heavier renders, but completely worth it.
We also relied heavily on the talent of our choreographer and dancers. The choreographer reviewed the sample video on-set to make sure the pacing of our dancer’s performances matched as closely as possible. We all knew that inconsistencies in the performances would be unforgiving, as the performances would be cut together in split screen with the animated characters. Everything needed to be perfectly aligned, and luckily, they nailed it.
This spot is a testament to the benefits of good preparation. The choices you make at the beginning of your project will ripple out to the finished product. For example, one strength of this spot is in the concept. Usually, on-air movie promotions are challenging to repurpose in international markets, as they are limited by language. Fortunately, our spot relied on the universal language of dance! We dubbed the intro for Spanish and Portuguese, swapped the logos and written graphics respectively for each language, and delivered international spots for Turner’s use. We love being able to spread our work around the globe.
All in all, we were able to pull together a super fun spot through rigorous preparation, smart production choices, and finding the most amazingly talented kids. Having a big unknown factor like unfinished dance animations might have seemed scary at first, but just like the monsters of Hotel Transylvania, sometimes something scary can end up being downright delightful.
Production Company: Elevation
Creative Direction: Stephen Cocks
Executive Producer: Stephanie Carson
Line Producer: Alina Klopach
On-Set Producer: Jaime Povirk
Design & Animation: David Hendrix, Sean Kiley, Kito Kondowe
Choreographer: Groove 2 Musik
Director of Photography: Paul Hood
Client: Cartoon Network