The Creation of an Icon: MTV
A Taste of Things to Come
Dale Pon, who had just started his own advertising agency specializing in radio stations, had a client in San Francisco. This particular spot involved two DJs, Frank and Mike, and it was Dale's idea that we make them into celebrities. He wanted to have them in tuxedos, exiting a limousine, waving to a crowd of chanting fans, and entering a theater where they would be sipping champagne with famous singers. Now the last shot, Frank and Mike with the celebrities, wasn't a big deal. It could be shot very simply against a limbo background with the celebrity making the most interesting performance. But the crowds? The limo? There were plenty of 16mm archive houses around with footage of Hollywood openings, but if we were to go the traditional route and try to mat them in, it would have been weeks of testing in the lab and then trying to match the DJ's in a similar lighting and perspective. I'd been aching to try a new machine that Xerox was touting. One could bring 16mm film and they would continuously print it on paper. The machine was used for microfilm. So, we cut together a 16mm workprint with four or five shots of different film openings, different perspectives of crowds and theaters, day, night... It didn't matter since it would all be re-treated. We then took Xerox the footage.
Dale was going to California to shoot the DJs and I gave him a couple of drawings of positions that I needed the guys to walk in. He had a still photographer shoot them for me. They were shot without a motorized camera which gives it an even funkier look. Buzz got an okay from his uncle, and I went over to Potamkin Cadillac to shoot both the exterior and interior of a Cadillac limousine. Then we played with it. To fool the viewer into thinking that the crowds were all part of the same scene, we used marker and colored pencils to destroy any extraneous information and to use the palette to flatten the live and unite it. We Xeroxed the two dozen or so photos of the DJs on cel and painted them to separate them more clearly from the crowds and backgrounds. All that patchke added excitement to the piece. Everyone was delighted with the results and it was done in a very quick turn around time. Part of the challenge of the job did indeed come from time and budget constraints, but had I not seen other animated pieces using this Xerox technology, notably from NYU students, I don't think I would have used archival footage.
The Top of the Hour
This spot caught the attention of Fred Seibert who then contacted Buzz to do the "Top of the Hour" for his new Music Television network. He liked the hand drawn quality of the KNBR spot and needed that for the NASA chromes. He definitely wanted his audience to understand that this was not a puff piece for astronauts. He wanted irreverent, eye catching, funky and fast! So began a relationship between Buzzco Productions, MTV and Dale Pon. Buzz had just formed Buzzco Productions, taking Vincent Cafarelli and myself as his creative team. Fred Seibert and Alan Goodman left MTV and formed their own company Fred/Alan, who shared the 28th floor with us above the Omni Park Central Hotel. Dale continued to bring us radio advertising and Fred/Alan and Buzzco produced a show for The Playboy Channel called Hot Rocks. It was an exciting time working with both companies since they wanted stuff that didn't look like anything else. The conditions were such that encouraged experimentation and play. Naturally, I was full of ideas I wanted to play with: collage, retiming live, changing palettes. Cable television was beginning to define what it was and used animation to separate itself from the networks.
"I Want My MTV!"
Sometime in 1983, Dale Pon, then a partner at LPG/PON, landed the MTV national advertising account. In the beginning of 1984, he came up with the "I Want My MTV" campaign. Nancy Podbilniak was the writer and George Lois the creative director. The idea was to take rock and roll icons and have them demand MTV from their cable service while interacting with the MTV logo, which had the ability to change into anything. We were going to film the stars delivering their line, "I Want My MTV," but what would happen afterwards was still to be determined. I remember sitting in a car going out to Queens for the first New York shoot, with Hall and Oates, Tom Freston, then the head of advertising at MTV, and Leslie Fenn, the account executive. Tom asked me what it was all going to look like. I was armed with some MTV logos I had blown up on cels and cut out to be used as props with Hall and Oates. This was a gag written by George Lois, that the rock partners would be arguing over whose MTV it was and inadvertently tear it. I knew we were going to use the live footage. I knew we were going to animate the `M.' I knew we didn't want to use Xerox on the rock stars because we wanted too enhance their looks. Plus, I wasn't sure if we were going to layer effects onto the live-action or replace it. I could only say, "It's not going to be like anything else you've seen before," which seemed to satisfy him.
A Taste of Things to Come