Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Microsoft Met the Walrus

Josh Raskin-Inspired Microsoft Ads

I recently saw a slew of Microsoft's “People Ready/It's Everybody's Business” commercials - which are aimed at the business community and mix audio interviews with executives of leading companies with collage-style animation to show how MS' technology solves business problems - on the Groove Tube. You know the ones I'm talking about, like the ad featuring Quiksilver President and CEO Bob McKnight talking about "the economic tsunami" and its impact on business (as shown below):

Then there's the spot with Katie Bayne, chief marketing officer at Coca Cola, talking about how important it is to get the right information rather than a lot of information (as shown below):

They're great ads, but they seemed too familiar to me. Slowly, it dawned on me that I had seen this animation style before - in an Oscar-nominated short film by Canadian animator Josh Raskin. Yuo see, in February of 2008, I blogged about "The 2007 Academy Award Nominated Animated Short Films" program at the Landmark Theatre, where I saw Josh Raskin's "I Am the Walrus," a short that so impressed me I contacted the director and asked if I could get a copy of his film (which, unfortunately, did not win the Oscar) so I could screen it as part of one of our monthly film programs at the Enoch Pratt Free Library. He obliged and I screened the imaginative short, which is shown below.


(directed by Josh Raskin, Canada, 5 minutes, English, 2D Animation)
Official Web Site: www.imetthewalrus.com

As I said at the time:
Animators looking for ideas, take heart: this is a prime example of how to make something out of nothing. In 1969, 14-year-old Jerry Levitan (pictured left) snuck into John Lennon's hotel room in Toronto with his tape recorder and persuaded him to do an interview. This was during John and Yoko's "Bed-In" to promote world peace phase. Levitan got 5 minutes worth of conversation about various topics, including war and peace, music and, unfortunately, his dislike of George Harrison (what's his problem? George was my fave of the Fab Four!). It all wouldn't have amounted to much, except for Josh Raskin's imagination and skill as an animator and director 38 years later. He uses a stream-of-consciousness technique to illustrate basically every word that comes out of Lennon's mouth. More specifically, he employs James Braithwaite's pen sketches and Alex Kurina's digital illustrations to create what the film's official web site quite rightly calls "a spell-binding vessel for Lennon’s boundless wit, and timeless message."

The look of the animation reminded me of both Terry Gilliam's Monty Python work (which of course harkens back to the cut-up collage techniques of Stan Vanderbeek) and Frank and Caroline Mouris' FRANK FILM (1973), especially in regards to the latter's pacing and thematic synching of images with narration.

It may be Everybody's Business, but it's Josh Raskin's idea

Whatever my take on it, Raskin's film short clearly inspired and influenced Microsoft's "Everybody’s Business" campaign, which (according to online site theinspirationroom )was developed at New York's JWT ad agency by chief creative officer Ty Montague, executive creative director Walt Connelly, creative director/art director Tim Galles, creative director/copywriter Stuart Mickle, agency producers Holly Otto, Robin Feldman, Alex Lind-Spahr and Arrow Kruse. The animation was developed by director Michelle Dougherty via Imaginary Forces, with editing by Catherine Bull and Dahkil Hausif at Spotwelders, and sound design by Marshall Grupp of Sound Lounge.

Too bad there's no Josh Raskin acknowledgement. He didn't get the Oscar and he didn't get any of that sweet Microsoft money.


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