Psyop for FedEx: The Making of “Enchanted Forest”

(Above: Behind-the-scenes video of a remote control helicopter used for a several shots in “Enchanted Forest,” piloted by Tabb Firchau of Freefly.)

The spot appears to be heavily based on folklore and fairy tales. From what did the designers draw inspiration from in conceptualizing the piece?

During our pitch phase, we were drawn to the darker tonality of “Grimms’ Fairy Tales” or Pan’s Labyrinth, with a forest that was quiet and calm, but beautiful and esoteric. Ultimately, the aesthetic became more merry and whimsical.

Great work on the character design! Who designed your family of characters?

A good portion of our time in design is working collaboratively, and this process was really key to coming up with the aesthetic of the FedEx characters. One designer would bring an interesting set of aesthetics to the table, and another would riff from that and come up with something new. This led us to a more eclectic set of characters whose clothing design draws from Victorian, to turn of the century, to 1960s jazz. Every character was given its own look and feel. The key to unifying them and making them feel a part of the same world was to make the proportions of all animals a little offbeat and unusual, at times making the proportions so traditionally wrong that they actually felt right for this spot: The bunny’s waist is impossibly small, or the mice are so fat they are basically ballsacks with small hands and feet.

Were there any technical challenges to this piece that were unique from any of the studio’s previous CG epics?

This project was challenging on every level. Our first challenge lay in the location. We wanted to shoot an area that would work as a foundation for our magical world. We were immediately drawn to Hoh Rainforest, which is one of the few rainforests that exists in the United States. It took us a long time to even find this place because it was a very, very remote location. We were questioning at the beginning if it would even be possible to shoot in this part of the forest.  Our producers had to constantly check weather for the sky to break minutes at a time. 

When we finally made it into the location, we needed to use remote-controllable helicopter cams, which cannot fly if there is a single drop of rain in the air, in order to maneuver between all the trees. The forest floor was extremely soft and uneven. So laying of dolly tracks was not an option and all the equipment had to be carried. Therefore, we were being limited to only two lights, but thanks to the great Fred Elmes we still were able to make it beautiful.

For the post there was a very short turnaround, a process that included CG fur, CG trees with leaf simulation, live action integration, tracking, etc. The team had to carefully plan every step of the process, because there was no room for errors. We needed to put all our experience from past projects together to create a pipeline that would incorporate all those factors. Fortunately we had an elite team of artists on the job that pulled it off and brought it to a place that was beyond everyone’s expectations.

“Enchanted Forest”
Client: FedEx

Agency: BBDO, New York
Chief Creative Officer: David Lubars
Executive Creative Directors: Greg Hahn, Mike Smith
Executive Producers: Amy Wertheimer, Diane Hill
Sr. Creative Director/Art Director: Nick Klinkert
Sr. Creative Director/Copywriter: Tom Kraemer
Creative Director/Copywriter: Chris Beresford-Hill
Executive Music Producer: Rani Vaz

Production Company: Psyop/Smuggler
Director: Psyop
Psyop Creative Directors: Marie Hyon, Marco Spier
Psyop Executive Producer: Lucia Grillo
Psyop Line Producer: Donald Taylor
Psyop Senior Producer: Crystal Campbell
Smuggler Executive Producer/Partner Patrick Milling Smith
Smuggler Executive Producer/Partner Brian Carmody
Smuggler Executive Producer/COO: Lisa Rich
Smuggler Executive Producers: Allison Kunzman, Laura Thoel
Smuggler Live Action Producer: Donald Taylor

Designers: Lauren Indovina, Jon Saunders and Naomi Chen
Editor: Cass Vanini
Director of Photography: Fredrick Elmes
Storyboard Artist: Ben Chan
Lead Technical Director: Alvin Bae
Lead Compositor: Nick Tanner
Lighting Pipeline Technical Director/Still Photographer: Jonah Friedman
Modeling: Helen Choi, Soo Hee Han, Dave Chen
Rigging: Zed Bennett, Amy Hay
Previz: Pat Porter, Kitty Lin, Chris Meek, Minor Gayton
Animation: Pat Porter, Amy Hay, Roman Kobryn, MinSeok Jeon and Stephanie Russell, Michael Shin
VFX Supervisor: Joerg Liebold
VFX: Dave Barosin, Miguel Salek
Lighting Team: Alvin Bae, Helen Choi, Soo Hee Han, Chris Wilson
Hair: Jonah Friedman, Andy Hara
Lead Tracking: Joerg Liebold
Tracking: Mark Lipsmeyer
Matte Painting: Denis Kozyrev
Lead Compositor: Nick Tanner
Compositors: Jason Conradt, Adam Flynn, Thomas Panayiotou and Jonathan Podwill
Flame: Nick Tanner
Roto: Trace

Footage Transfer: Katabatic

Music House: Human

Audio Mix: Sound Lounge
Mixer: Tom Jucarone