- Friday, May. 25, 2001
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In "Smashing," the viewer first sees an engraved stone logo, which reads "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider." The image spins away to reveal superhero Croft on her motorbike, knocking down CG stone soldiers who try to attack her as she whizzes past them. The motorbike leaps across an abyss, and she grabs a vine and somersaults onto her feet in front of another engraved stone. But the live-action Croft is surrounded by a menacing CG stone Brahmin (a multi-headed and -armed statue) as well as another group of CG stone soldiers. There is a sudden silence as a can of Wild Cherry Pepsi tumbles out of Croft's backpack and down a flight of steps behind her. The stone soldiers decide to pursue the soda, but in their haste to reach the can, they bump into each other and break into pieces. Meanwhile, the ever-resourceful Croft does a back flip off of a balcony, and falls on her feet in front of the Wild Cherry Pepsi. She spins the can in her hand before replacing it in her holster. Whew. A voiceover announces, "See Tomb Raider in theaters this summer. Wild Cherry Pepsi: more to go wild for," as we see the silhouetted star of the upcoming Tomb Raider movie take a slug of soda. Ahh.
Tomb Raider, opening June 15, is the story of Croft (with actress Angelina Jolie in the movie's lead role). Based on the computer game fare of the same name, Tomb Raider follows Croft through life-threatening adventures. "Smashing" promotes the Pepsi/Paramount Pictures/Sony Computer Entertainment America tie-in, specifically the Raid the Pepsi, Search for PlayStation contest, in which Pepsi drinkers can win prizes from Sony PlayStation.
BBDO New York's Chien Hwang and Johnny Tan were the art directors/copywriters on "Smashing." The pair (who collaborated with copywriter Justin Racz) was inspired by the movie. Hwang explained: "We were on the set and we met the art people, set designers and illustrators. They gave us [a course in] Tomb Raider 101." Tan offered, "Tomb Raider has a lot of martial arts, fighting, motorcycles, cars ... We wanted to stay true to the spirit of the movie and represent [all the action elements] in the spot."
Atypically, the product doesn't make an appearance until late in the commercial. This was part of the strategy, according to Tan: "We wanted to build this crescendo," he said. "When Lara is trapped and her backpack is slashed, then the can shows up—it all builds up to this big reveal."
Hwang added, "In a strange way, Wild Cherry Pepsi becomes Lara's buddy and sort of saves her. The stone monsters are distracted by the Wild Cherry Pepsi and decide to go after that instead of her, and end up destroying each other." As Tan pointed out, "Lara Croft is very much a James Bond character—she has lots of gadgets and weapons. In the spot, Wild Cherry Pepsi happens to be ammo in her arsenal."
Director Simon Crane came recommended by Paramount execs based on his work as the second unit director/stunt coordinator on Tomb Raider. Crane, who had never helmed a spot before, has since signed with Top Dog, a Los Angeles-headquartered shop specializing in repping feature directors for commercials. (Top Dog is a division of bicoastal RSA USA and London-based RSA Films). Crane's stunt savvy made him a natural choice, said Tan: "The scene where Lara jumps off the second floor of the temple was breathtaking, and only a stunt coordinator/stuntman/director like Simon could pull that off." Crane's stunt expertise also helped to focus attention on the main character without making it too obvious that the Croft of "Smashing" was not Angelina Jolie, the Croft of Tomb Raider.
"Smashing" was shot in Pinewood Studios' "Tomb of the Dancing Light" set, which Crane described as "huge…but we had been filming for five weeks there prior to doing the commercial, so I knew it like the back of my hand."
Sabrina Huffman, an editor at the New York office of bicoastal Crew Cuts, had two weeks to cut the live-action footage. Editing the spot without seeing the animated soldiers in action was challenging. "It was difficult to cut with these blank plates [standing in for the characters]," Huffman recalled. Timing was another major concern in "Smashing," with its fast-paced action.
Hitesh Patel, visual effects supervisor at The Mill, London, oversaw the creation of the CG characters. Mill Film, the company's feature arm, created effects on Tomb Raider, but Patel himself didn't work on the movie and the teams even used different software programs. Patel said that first his team "recorded the camera movements [of each shot], so that we could match it with our 3-D model." After the physical models of the characters were scanned into the computer, the team animated the characters using a wire frame scan and a 'skeleton.' The skeleton was a computer model of bones and joints that the artists manipulated as needed. Then The Mill worked on the texture so, as Patel explained, "the characters look clean and crisp. Inferno artists completed the project by adding motion blur and dust [for when the stone soldiers break into pieces] to the characters." As the CG work was created, The Mill sent each piece of animation to BBDO New York and Huffman. After the creatives' suggestions had been incorporated, Huffman added the new material to the cut.
Stephen Dewey, president/ sound designer at Machine Head, Venice, Calif., said he used "all kinds of sublayers to make the big-chested beasts rumble nicely and resonate, and I'd overlay it with a choice little stone scrape sound. There's a lot of action, all of which seems to want a sound because all the moments are big moments."