The Syndicate has completed production on the first of a multi-spot commercial and branding package, "You Are Here," for Six Flags, the world's largest theme park company. The ad campaign broadens Six Flags' brand focus on family entertainment.
In a creative partnership with The Zimmerman Agency, The Syndicate's managing director Kenny Solomon and The Syndicate's director Ben Grossmann, developed the concept of an ordinary suburban neighborhood transformed into a theme park in an eruption of roller coasters, thrill rides, superheroes and costumed performers.
For The Syndicate, the opportunity to produce a total branding package, from concept and design through live-action production and visual effects, as it had done previously for ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast package, was rich with creative possibilities. Solomon credits the highly collaborative relationship between The Syndicate and Zimmerman's creative team, Jordan Lipton and Andrew Goldstein, for the innovation underlying the "You Are Here" theme.
How to convey the excitement of the Six Flags experience in mere seconds eventually became the inspiration for the campaign, translating into sheer visual overload with stunning visual effects and animated characters. "We tried to come up with things that couldn't be done, almost on a dare, but now they're in the spot," said Goldstein. "This is absolutely next level," added Lipton. "Apparently, The Syndicate can do everything."
World-renowned comic book artist Dan Fraga (KID SUPREME, SPIDER-MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA) produced the action-filled storyboards, while Grossmann, who was both director and visual effects supervisor on "You Are Here," guided the creative intent throughout. Grossmann was responsible for casting, live-action direction at Six Flags Mexico and on a Los Angeles sound stage and back lot, still photography at Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, and visual effects design and supervision. Grossmann, who was a semi-pro skateboarder in his youth, even appears in a cameo in the spot's finale, an homage to the Beatles' iconic SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND album cover art.
"You Are Here" opens in a suburban neighborhood at dusk as a group of young teenagers are transfixed by an impending storm. Suddenly, the framework of a roller coaster erupts from the street and, in a shot reminiscent of the tripods in WAR OF THE WORLDS, an enormous steel support thunders down next to the kids. The quiet street undergoes a chaotic and mesmerizing transformation into a wildly animated amusement park, where roller coasters and rides quickly replicate themselves in the neon glow of lights and signs. Before the alien invasion becomes too visceral, the kids find themselves amidst the joyous energy of the Main Street parade with such familiar DC Comics superheroes as Flash, Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman, and Looney Tunes characters Taz, Bugs Bunny and Tweety. They are joined by an enormous cast of performers, including a Chinese dragon, stiltwalkers, a firebreather, a sword swallower, tightrope artists, urban ninjas, breakdancers, a BMX trick rider, ballerinas and an all-girl rock band. Twenty-five crowd extras were duplicated to produce 200 virtual onlookers and 2,000 digital extras populate other park areas.
"We wanted to create a visual metaphor to represent a total escape from the everyday into a shared adventure of wonder and discovery," explained Grossmann, who appreciated the immediacy of the practical shoot in contrast to the micro-decisions that characterize visual effects production. He found real world parallels for his digital artists and animators in the shoot's gaffers, props people, makeup artists and actors; their functions often very similar, just set on a different stage.
The suburban neighborhood is an entirely CG environment. Ride elements were shot in Mexico City and made into 3D models by The Syndicate's digital artists and animators so that they appear to create and build themselves in the transformation scenes. The Syndicate's digital pipeline for the project included LightWave, 3ds Max, modo, Fusion, After Effects and Flame, with editing done on Avid and Final Cut. Shot on an ARRI 35mm camera on Kodak 5217 film stock, the spot was photographed in broad daylight and color corrected for night by The Syndicate's director of telecine Beau Leon.
The Syndicate (www.syndicate.tv) is a creative design, branding services and digital production studio specializing in direction, visual effects, animation, motion graphics and telecine for commercials, television and music videos. A division of Santa Maria-based CafeFX, an award-winning feature film visual effects facility, The Syndicate has worked with top agencies, networks and studios on commercials, television programs and music videos that have been seen around the world.