Press release from Gravity:
New York, NY – Gravity  was tapped by Microsoft Advertising and Y&R New York to create and produce the CG-animated “Samurai,” an original, two-minute web video promoting Microsoft.
The Gravity-produced content piece, which has just launched on the Internet, was commissioned by Microsoft Advertising to appeal to CMOs and media buying agencies, so that they will consider using the innovative advertising tools available from Microsoft. These tools, including the MSN portal, Windows Mobile, Skype and Xbox, can be utilized as media outlets to reach millions of Internet users.
Y&R’s team, headed by ECD Kerry Keenan and HODP Nathy Aviram took the project in an unexpected direction to evolve a potentially dry informational piece into an entertaining ride. They came up with a quirky and humorous script set as a video game in Samurai-era Japan.
Gravity’s Director/CD Yuval Levy worked with his team to come up with the visual style, character development and design, story action, choreography, art direction. Gravity had two of its offices, New York and Tel Aviv, engaged in the piece to address the 10 - week production schedule.
Levy stated, “It’s a bit of ‘Crouching Tiger’ meets ‘Kurosawa’ meets ‘God of War.’ We couldn’t believe the script and how it blended these disparate ideas together. It was fresh from the first read to the last render.”
“We needed to establish this ancient Samurai world quickly,” said Levy. “We used iconic Japanese animation and prints with a palette of pinks and reds to create an environment and story the audience could quickly pick up. We relied heavily on anime-style design and of course, did a lot of research in video games, action and martial arts films.”
Levy also expressed his appreciation to the Y&R team supporting him to explore ways to address some of the dichotomies in the script. “The dragon needed to be threatening, but not enough to be scary. We enveloped him in cherry blossom flowers by using two simulations of hair and particles in Maya. The cheery blossoms ended up influencing the entire palette of pastels.”
“The character design exploration was prepared as sketches. We got archive portraits of actual Japanese martial arts fighters as our base. We did the final modeling of the characters in Z Brush. Our digital matte paintings were influenced by Japanese landscape prints,” Levy concluded.
As the piece begins, we see an elaborate scroll slowly opening to reveal an ancient map of Japan, as we hear the VO announcer speaking in Japanese. The English subtext reads, “War has broken out in the region. The pollen dragon dynasty has launched an offensive and the brave Samurai take refuge in the surrounding forests.” We next see in full animation a number of dragons flying over a Japanese town, when one of them confronts a Master Samurai warrior and his student. The dragon spits a huge spew of pollen from his mouth, as the Master warrior begins to sneeze and hides behind his shield. Leaping from rooftop to rooftop, the Master warrior ultimately slays the beast, after his student warrior falls to the ground.
Exhausted, the Master warrior, on his knees, says, “I have shamed us—my condition has left me unable to defeat our enemy. I am a dishonor to my family.” Just as the elder man is about to commit suicide by sword, his student comes to his aid, and says, “Oh, wise one…you are suffering from allergies. There is no shame in this master! I suggest visiting the allergy solution center at MSN.com. It is both entertaining and informative.” At this point, a large, MSN.com web page appears, featuring a number of ways to “Better Understanding Your Allergies.” The student explains to his master that the MSN experience was built upon an end to end publishing platform that utilizes Windows so it is scalable and can be quickly deployed across all of Microsoft’s media platforms.
Now enlighted, the Master accompanies his student through a forest, climbing tall trees, eluding another dragon, and resting upon a cliff where another MSN.com webpage appears. The student says, “Master, you may want to check the pollen
count today through Bing maps, or use the self assessment tool developed with MSN help to better manage your allergies. You can learn about medications like Zyrtec. It is a dynamic platform to support additional data sites for lifetimes to come.” The elder man replies, “This Zyrtec allergy medicine…it is good.” The two men then continue on in their fight against a flying pollen dragon, leaping from mountaintop to mountaintop. Finally discovering the location of the pollen dragon’s nest, the men again confront a dragon, leap upon his back, and continue in their efforts to tame him.
Said Eldar, “It is a very exciting time for us at Gravity as we are being asked more frequently to create branded content that will be shared in social media outlets by various target audiences. For Y&R, we wanted to create a highly visual environment for Microsoft Advertising that would emphasize the versatility of MSN.com in an informative way, while also being something that media planners, buyers and marketers would find worthy of sharing.”
Samuel said, “This piece represents a brilliant new way to show a case history. The agency came up with a very different take to illustrate Johnson & Johnson's great success story for Zyrtec, using the channels of Microsoft in a highly innovative and creative manner, set against the storyline of a Japanese Samurai Warrior and his eager student.”