Monday, July 16, 2018
  • Friday, Mar. 24, 2017
The Mill Takes "Hero’s Journey" To Top Of Quarterly VFX/Animation Chart
Tom Graham
Matthijs Van Heijningen directs Kia Super Bowl spot featuring eco-warrior Melissa McCarthy

A breaching whale. A falling tree. Melting icecaps. A charging rhinoceros. These are just some of the extreme challenges Melissa McCarthy faces in Kia Motors’ hilarious Super Bowl ad for the all-new 2017 Niro crossover out of agency David&Goliath. Titled "Hero’s Journey," the :60 aired during the third quarter of the Big Game with McCarthy on a mission to save the environment. The spot topped SHOOT's quarterly VFX & Animation Top Ten Chart.

McCarthy learns it can be perilous trying to save the trees, the whales, the icecaps or the rhinos. Each time she gets the worst end of the exchange, including when a surging whale emerges from the sea and dives back down onto her small motorboat, catapulting McCarthy towards the side of a distant ship with a thud. Clearly trying to be a savior carries its pitfalls—albeit in this case McCarthy experiences a harmless strain of cartoon-like violence which has her up and running in no time to take on the next challenge, in this case more mishaps centered on a falling tree, breaking icecaps, and then a hard charging rhino.

Luckily, McCarthy drives a Kia Niro, the vehicle that’s up for any adventure, underscoring that "it’s hard to be an eco-warrior but it’s easy to drive like one."
Matthijs Van Heijningen of MJZ directed the spot with visual effects by The Mill.

The Mill
The Mill LA primarily worked on "Hero’s Journey" with its London office also contributing. The commercial posed assorted creative challenges, some of which were articulated by The Mill’s Tom Graham who served as VFX shoot supervisor and 3D lead artist on the piece.

Graham shared, "Everyone was in agreement that the CG had to be completely seamless. With full CG ocean shots with a whale and a digital double, a tree falling off a cliff, icebergs crumbling, and a rhino, we knew it would be tight in the amount of time we had. The clients were mainly concerned with keeping the story clear to the viewers with so much happening."

Additionally, continued Graham, "It was also a challenge to complete a massive job like this in the midst of Super Bowl season! We had some heavy rendering to do with large Houdini sims. Therefore, we had to manage our render time and set priorities for each sequence in the commercial. For example, we set high priorities on certain shots for water simulation and ice breaking to get the heavy rendering in a good place that kept us on schedule."

Helping the process was The Mill’s track record of collaboration with director Van Heijningen. And those collaborations included past Super Bowl commercials such as 2015’s "The Perfect Getaway Vehicle" for Kia and 2012’s "Vampire Party" for Audi. The Mill also turned out effects for Van Heijningen-directed fare that included DirecTV’s "Ice," "Tree," "Landing" and "Clap," Verizon’s "A Lot Can Happen in 48 Hours," Gatorade’s "Lightning Bolt," Heineken’s "Crack The Case," Rexona’s "Over-Engineered," "Futurisk" and "Unbeaten Protection," PlayStation’s "Perfect Day," Brand Jordan’s "Rise Above," and Arca Ex’s "Birds."

The Mill team deployed varied software on "Hero’s Journey." On the 3D front, all assets were modeled in Maya/Zbrush, and textured in Substance Painter (except for the whale which was textured in Mari/Zbrush). The Mill team rendered the rhino, tree and ship in Maya using Arnold. The whale, water and ice were rendered in Houdini using Mantra. 2D tools deployed included Flame and Nuke.

Jono Griffith of Work Editorial cut "Hero’s Journey."

The creative ensemble at David&Goliath included founder/chairman David Angelo, chief creative officers Bobby Pearce and Colin Jeffery, executive creative director Gustavo Sarkis, ECD/writer Ben Purcell, writer Mark Montiero, creative director John O’Hea, associate creative directors Courtney Pulver and Robert Casillas, and executive broadcast producer Curt O’Brien.

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Kia Motors Agency David&Goliath, LA David Angelo, founder & chairman; Bobby Pearce, Colin Jeffery, chief creative officers; Gustavo Sarkis, executive creative director; Ben Purcell, executive creative director/writer; Mark Montiero, writer; John O’Hea, creative director; Courtney Pulver, Robert Casillas, associate creative directors; Curt O’Brien, executive broadcast producer. Production MJZ Matthijs Van Heijningen, director; Joost Van Gelder, DP; David Zander, president; Eriks Krumins, exec producer; Donald Taylor, producer. Editorial Work Editorial Jono Griffith, editor; Keith Hamm, Ben Foushee, assistant editors; Marlo Baird, exec producer; Lynne Mannino, producer. VFX The Mill Peter King, EP; Anastasia Von Rahl, sr. producer; Karina Slater, associate producer; Robert Sethi, VFX shoot supervisor, creative dir; Chris Knight, VFX shoot supervisor, creative dir, 2D lead artist; Tom Graham, VFX shoot supervisor, 3D lead artist; Michael Lori, tracking lead; Daniel Stern, FX lead; Michael Comly, ltg lead; Jacob Bergman, Jeffrey Lee, animation leads; Scott Wilson, Dag Ivarsoy, Jason Bergman, Yukiko Ishiwata, Daniel Thuresson, Andy Dill, Tom Robbins, 2D artists; Erik Zimmermann, Berk Hakguder, Daniel Soo, Robert Spaniolo, 3D artists; Juan Zavala, Mike Di Nocco, Katie Yancey, animators; Ziye Liu, Robert Chapman, Patrik Lindkvist, Shaun Comly, lighters; Krystal Sae Eua, Sharlene Lin, Cory Cosper, modelers; Chris Goodrich, Samantha Pedegron, textures; Nole Murphy, Ahmed Elmatarawi, riggers; Rasha Shalaby, Itai Muller, matte painting; Bradley Rhone, Emily Ann Morton, art dept; Danny Garcia, Freddy Parra, Steven Olson, Monique Espinoza, Alice Panek, Michael Archambault, tracking; Gary Marschka, Dylan Streiff, 2D assists; Cath Pryer, Thatcher Peterson, color EPs; Dan Kreeger, Diane Valera, color producers; Lucy Mason, Robert Cohen, production coordinators;  David Ludlam, colorist; Brendan Buckingham, Thomas Mangham, Gemma Parr, Logan Highlen, color assist; Alex Gregory, Dan Levy, Megan Le, TK data lab. (Toolbox: Flame, Nuke, Maya, Houdini, Zbrush, Mari, Substance Painter) Music Editing/Sound Design stimmung Rory Doggett, creative director; Ceinwyn Clark, exec producer; Gus Koven, sound designer. Audio Post Margarita Mix, Santa Monica Nathan Dubin, sound engineer; Whitney Warren, exec producer. Licensed Music “Holding Out for A Hero” performed by Bonnie Taylor. Celebrity Talent Acquisition The Marketing Arm Chalcea Park, managing director