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From Animal to Gym Bro: Peperami’s Back and Meatier than Ever

We get our teeth into each stage of the craft that went into reinventing the spicy sausage for 2019

From Animal to Gym Bro: Peperami’s Back and Meatier than Ever

Perhaps your memories of Peperami are as a regular lunchbox staple, the miniature sausages a welcome treat on the playground. Or, perhaps you grabbed them en route to meetings, the chewy snack a good way to fend off the dreaded three o'clock slump. Or, and far more likely, your memories of Peperami are as the manically insane character who spent ad time grating his own head and chomping at his own arms and legs with bulging eyes and a screechy, gravelly voice. 

Peperami’s '90s ‘Animal’ campaign would come to be much more than a slogan, it was the birth of a story that would identify the brand for decades to come. Now, Peperami’s back, with two new flavours, a slick new campaign and the same deliciously irreverent cheek. 

To learn more about the comeback, we spoke with the people who reinvented Animal and created his new pals. From directors Rick & Mario of animation studio Red Knuckles, represented by Partizan EP, Duncan Gaman, to creative partner at Atomic, Dave Henderson, producer at Heads Up, Tim Page, sound designer at Jungle Studios, Dominic Dew, head of production and senior music producer at Native Music, Fred Ashworth and colourist at CHEAT, Jack McGinity, we sought to find out exactly how the spicy sausage evolved….


The Animation Production


Having animated the famous '90s Peperami ads, directing duo Rick & Mario had a lot of fun updating the ads for 2019. The pair chew the fat with EP at Partizan, Duncan Gaman... 

Q> So, what was the brief for the new characters? 

Duncan Gaman> The brief evolved over a period of a few months - from the research stage to seeing the final script for the main film featuring the trio of characters. The starting brief from Atomic was to introduce the two new characters, Chicken and Beef in an impactful and subversive way to Animal's established Peperami world.  Whilst being as true to the long animation history of the Peperami brand. Old meets new, in many respects. 

Rick & Mario> The two new flavours were based on a few factors. For instance, beef was supposed to be beefy: high protein levels, very cool and totally on top of his game. At one point, we even had the famous '70s picture of Burt Reynolds as a reference for beef’s type of coolness. For chicken, we used the obvious, twitchy, skinny behaviours of chickens and then looked at their real life counterparts. For chicken, we were thinking Tires from Spaced and Lee Evans. Oh, and of course, Kevin Bacon in Footloose. 

Duncan Gaman> The character development phase was such a key part to final films, with the team exploring how each character's personality fitted perfectly within a simple sausage body, with two arms and legs - the characters really exude attitude - totally bonkers really!

Q> Was there a new brief for the beloved ‘Animal’ Peperami as well?

Rick & Mario> The Peperami character is a classic, we’ve always loved him. He’s a major reference in the animation world, particularly in the UK, so we wanted to preserve his personality and style as much as we could. We made sure he was the best looking and highest quality incarnation of the character to date. 

Q> There are multiple homages to classic movies - which ones were chosen and why?

Rick & Mario> There are many Easter eggs spread around the entire film, from the shoot’s conceptualisation, to elements within the shots. We encourage you to go looking for them! 

But, to cite a few: Footloose, Flashdance, Mission: Impossible, Fatboy Slim 'Weapon of Choice', Pumping Iron, Taken, Beastie Boys 'Sabotage'. 

Q> What were you trying to achieve visually?

Rick & Mario> We wanted to make them look damn yummy. Delicious really. These characters needed to be irresistible to watch, without wanting to take a bite out of them, something the characters realise about themselves. The textures and the rendering were pointing in the direction of physicality and realness. We wanted to capture the juicy meat and the thickness of the product, the right amount of oils and freshness. 

We had to nail the colours, the volumes, the internal thickness of the product, the way they move should also represent its consistency - not too jelly, not too hard. Their attitude counted for a lot too as they move and interact with the camera, always showing their best angles off. 

Q> What were the biggest challenges in this project from a production point of view?

Duncan Gaman> Having previously worked on a couple of TV spots with Atomic on Peperami we had a good animation workflow in place. But had to scale up for a full CG animation production with the two new characters in. 

Q> How long did the characters take to create? 

Rick & Mario> We kept developing the characters from the moment we read the first brief until the moment we delivered the film. We’ve been working with the characters for the past 12 months and many of their features were taken from ourselves. We won’t tell you which ones, but they’re there!

Q> You’re repped by Partizan as directors but did you produce the animation at your own studios, Red Knuckles?

Rick & Mario> Yes all the animation was created at Red Knuckles, all the artists in the studio were so excited about it that even though they were working on other projects they wanted to pitch in and help out the core team. In terms of the character development, alongside Duncan at Partizan, we have developed an amazing creative relationship with Dave and Guy from Atomic and we designed these characters at Red Knuckles together with them. When we started to produce the film, we were joined by the Atomic Twins, Matt and Simon, where we were able to add the characters personas to the films and vice versa.

The Creative


Speaking of Atomic, we also spoke with agency creative partner and ECD Dave Henderson about how Peperami kept its cool two-decades after the original animal graced our screens.

Q> Peperami’s irreverence is infamous, how has their approach changed from previous campaigns?

Dave> Our big challenge was choosing what we kept from the ‘Animal’ that first appeared 25 years ago. Most of the ads we all love and remember featured largely the same concept of Peperami chopping himself to bits or eating himself. It became clear when we talked with Peperami that those character traits he was famous for just didn’t cut it with today’s audiences anymore. The joke had worn out. 

What we could see, is that we had to retain and build on the irreverence and the naughty attitude - we just had to figure out new ways to bring it out on screen. This was even more important when we introduced the two new characters too. Peperami is made only from prime cuts of pork shoulder, but we would never talk about it in the ads - we really don’t want anyone to grow up, if anything we want it to be even more stupid. Right now the world needs more stupid. 

For agency producer Tim Page of Heads Up Production, the challenge was looking at how to maximise budgets and creative capabilities…

Q> How do animation productions differ from live action and how do you make sure every penny is put to good use?

Tim Page> There’s no magical number-crunching formula really - the key to maximising output when you have great scripts and more challenged budgets is to enlist people who are on-board with the intentions and to use people you have a great relationship with, because you know you have each other's backs. 

Rick & Mario had been part of a previous Peperami project so naturally it was right to work with them as they are such talented directors and animators. For other disciplines we needed flexible partners of the highest quality. Native, Jungle and CHEAT are thorough professionals.

As far as animation vs. live action goes, it’s an incredibly different process and the approvals are far more rigid. It’s of the utmost importance to have an open and detailed relationship with all parties, because the whole grey-scale to animation and lighting can be quite a leap. 

The Sound

Sound wise, Jungle Studios’ Dominic Dew was tasked with designing an audio landscape that supported the newly positioned protein-snack with cinematic styles and the first visual fart in a UK TV commercial...

Q> What was the agency brief like for this project?

Dom> The main brief was to make the character seem athletic - more like sports stars. There are some focal points in the ad, such as the leap over the helicopter and the knee slide, that they wanted to make sure were completely spot on. There’s a cinematic style we used some deep low frequency sound design for and big atmos beds for the Mission: Impossible style pork at the beginning. 

The fart was a pivotal moment in the ad and we had gone through just about every sound effect we could find, but none seemed quite right. I won’t say how we achieved the end result… 

Q> The new campaign is quite different from the 90’s style ‘aggressive’ Peperami ads. How did you make sure it felt different audio-wise?

Dom> It was very much about getting the voices right - they needed to sound real, but still with the characteristics of each character. Jason Canning did a fantastic job of giving us hundreds of options and then we had to find a middle ground where they still sounded unusual, but without being too gravelly and bonkers and aggressive.

Similarly, Native Music’s Fred Ashworth needed to create a coherent soundscape across three diverse story lines, ensuring the ad’s audio fluidity. Choosing to hold the spot together with subtly similar elements, Fred explained his process to us:

Q> Were there any interesting techniques or challenges overcome to create the final music? 

Fred> The big challenge for us on this one was to essentially create three quite different pieces of music – one for each scene – that also work together as a whole. The way we did this was by using the same palette of sounds and instruments across the whole piece, so when the scene changes and a new mood/instrument/pace etc. is introduced, there are still elements from the previous scene present to keep it familiar and hopefully tie the whole thing together. We also made sure from the very beginning of the project that we had a single tempo that could work across all scenes, which again really helps the flow from one section to another. 

The Grade

Finally, for colour house CHEAT, Jack McGinity worked to make sure the grade followed the new mandate - finding a common thread to hold together each character’s story…

Jack> It was great to work with Rick & Mario. Mario and I follow each other on Instagram and have a mutual appreciation, so it was a real honour when they requested me to work on the advert. The agency were also very receptive to Rick & Mario’s creative input for colour, so it was a very fun and relaxed session. 

To be honest, the animation was at such a good standard that my job was made much easier, we looked at each section separately before then finding a common thread to run through the entire spot through contrast and saturation. 

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Category: Food , Savoury Snacks

Genre: Animation , Music & Sound Design , Visual VFX