Novel Approach Drives Great Western Railway To Top Of Quarterly VFX Chart
Great Western Railway's "Five and the Missing Jewels"
Pete Candeland of Friends Electric directs animated spot featuring The Famous Five for adam&eveDDB, London

Pete Candeland of Friends Electric directed this animation spot for Great Western Railway featuring The Famous Five, a group of adventurous young children and their dog Timmy from the series of novels by English author Enid Blyton. 

Titled “Five and the Missing Jewels, this ad out of agency adam&eveDDB, London, has the Famous Five chasing a scoundrel. They’re able to stay in hot pursuit of him thanks to the Great Western Railway transit system. And the spot itself was able to ascend to the number one slot in this quarter’s Top Ten VFX/Animation Chart.

Friends Electric in L.A. worked in tandem with sister VFX/animation/post shop Electric Theatre Collective in London on the commercial, which is the second for the Great Western Railway that Candeland directed starring The Famous Five. Once again, Candeland meticulously crafts classic painterly images true to Blyton’s series of novels, realized with an adept use of CG.

Book learning
For Candeland, a prime challenge was to do justice to Blyton’s characters—the Five comprised of kids Julian, Dick, Anne and Georgina, accompanied by their dog Timmy. To get the proper look, Candeland explained that the characters’ bodies are CG, with 2D drawn over it. “We draw over the top of their faces. A 2D animator draws over the top to get the facial expressions and to help capture the character performances we want. Then to get the book cover look, we print out every frame of the commercial on paper. We then scan it back in to get a nice kind of grain. It gives us an authentic look, helping to make CG not look like CG.”

Candeland added, “We’re always keeping a close eye on the imagery in the books, which have their own sensibilities and a period feel. You have to be true to that because the audience knows those characters from the books and if you’re not true to that look, you’ve lost your audience.”

Towards that end, Candeland felt the benefit of having worked on a prior Great Western Railway spot featuring The Famous Five. “We learned a lot that first time around about how to make those books come alive. The first one was a lot of fun and by the end of the process we figured out a lot. But that doesn’t mean you get the look consistently all the way through. I think with this second spot, we got closer to the spirit and look of the books throughout.”

And like any book, you need a good story to tell—and it has to be driven by a sense of adventure as well as good humor. “The trickiest part is to be able to tell that story in a minute,” said Candeland. “The script on page was great but it’s only a lead as to where you have to go. At the beginning you wish you had a little more time—like 90 seconds instead of 60. But as you get into the process, things start to flow. You don’t want something too montage-y. You want filmic storytelling which means there’s a lot to the edit, sifting through a lot of imagery, subtracting here and there. It’s a long process to get where you want to be.”

Electric Theatre Collective’s 2D animation ensemble included Daryl Graham, Tim Sanpher and Eleonora Quario. The CG team consisted of Sergio Morales Paz, Steve Beck, Paul Templeman, Annie Rowland, Joffrey Zeitouni, Lou Thomas, Paco Rocha, Stephane Renaldi, Borja Massa, Dana DiGioia, Joao Pires, Ashley Anderson, Gregory Martin, Daniel Rico, Hillary McCarthy, and Kimon Matara, Compositors were Taran Spear, Alex Prod’homme, Courtney Pryce, Max van Leeuwen and Tom Humphrey. The software toolbox for “Five and the Missing Jewels” included Maya, Houdini and TVPaint.

See the October 2018 Top Ten VFX Chart here.


Client Great Western Railway Agency adam&eveDDB, London Ben Tollett, group executive creative director; Matt Woolner, Steve Wioland, creatives; Louise Richardson, TV producer. Production Friends Electric, Los Angeles Pete Candeland, director; Neil Riley, TD; Ryan Goodwin-Smith, Belinda Blacklock, exec producer; Sian Jenkins, Adriana Wong, producers; Kristian Antonelli, character design; Yohann Auroux, storyboard artist; Brian Raess, editor. Painting Practice Billy Stockwell, art direction & DMP. VFX/Animation Electric Theatre Collective, London Daryl Graham, Tim Sanpher, Eleonora Quario, 2D animation; Taran Spear, Alex Prod’Homme, Courtney Pryce, Max van Leeuwen, Tom Humphrey, compositors; Sergio Morales Paz, Steve Beck, Paul Templeman, Annie Rowland, Joffrey Zeitouni, Lou Thomas, Paco Rocha, Stephane Renaldi, Borja Massa, Dana DiGioia, Joao Pires, Ashley Anderson, Gregory Martin, Daniel Rico, Hillary McCarthy, and Kimon Matara, CG team. Modeling Interference Pattern (Toolbox: Maya, Houdini, TVPaint) Audio 750MPH, London Sam Ashwell, Mark Hellaby, sound design & mix; Mary-Ann D’Cruz, audio producer. Music Supervision Company Theodore Tom Stanford, music supervisor. Licensor Enid Blyton Entertainment, Hachette Karen Lawler, head of licensed content.

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