The Mill Helps Mrs Claus Take the Reins in New M&S Christmas Ad
The Mill worked with RKCR/Y&R and Director Tom Hooper of Smuggler London, to create Marks & Spencer’s magical Christmas campaign ‘Christmas with Love from Mrs Claus’.
The spot invites viewers into the home of the modern day Mr and Mrs Claus, following the glamorous Mrs Claus character closely as she is seen helping young people at Christmas time whilst her husband, Santa Claus, is none the wiser. It is a humorous situation that also pulls on the heart-strings as you watch the storyline develop and learn about the life of the little boy who has called upon her for help.
The Mill’s 2D and 3D teams worked collaboratively to ensure a seamless winter experience was created, from CG snowfall elements to the augmentation of Mrs. Claus’ skidoo.
Andrew ‘Barnsley’ Wood, The Mill’s Creative Director, explains working on the project across three months: “The spot;s more technical elements were filmed over three days at Pinewood studios followed by a further two days and one evening in Islington.
Shooting in the evening was one of the most interesting parts of this project, especially capturing the segments of the helicopter in the park. In total we used three different helicopter models, meaning that part of the finished piece is actually featuring a helicopter that we built in CG.
One of the biggest but expected challenges was the unfortunate weather, and having to shoot a winter spot outside of season. This resulted in some clever but timely editing work - editing out leaves on trees, and the addition of our own CG snow and frost. However, it was all worth it for the end result. With the practical set as a guide in Pinewood studios, it was down to us to build the exterior, arctic-like scene on the outset, that looked realistic but also had that air of Christmas magic to it.
For part of this project Rob (Holmes) and myself had to travel to Iceland to get the shots of the ice tunnels that are used in the scene where Mrs. Claus travels to her helicopter. A lot of this was shot for real, hence our presence on set, but we used augmentation to create the illusion of her travelling through the tunnel via skidoo.
The main bulk of the work for us all lay in the building and extending of the set at Pinewood Studios, to create Mr. and Mrs. Claus’ house in a frozen wonderland; particularly with the addition of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer. We added some real reindeers and also developed some in CG to make up Santa’s full twelve; again a challenge but one with a fantastic outcome.”
Rob Holmes, Head of 3D, further explains the magic of behind the project; “It's not everyday you read a script for a Christmas advert that is packed with helicopters, skidoo's, secret tunnels, ice caves and the introduction of an often overlooked Christmas icon; all under the direction of an Academy Award winner.
Tom Hooper has an incredible eye for detail and how it serves the narrative, keeping us at the top of our game from the first meeting through to the final grade. It was a pleasure and great experience working alongside Tom at The Mill during the post process, and on location in Iceland, and then London on-location and at the legendary Pinewood Studios.
This spot required us to use practically all the tools and skills of our trade. We completed over 50 VFX shots, ranging from clean up and beauty work to full CG environments and creatures. For the CG reindeer we used our in-house rigging and fur grooming tools; whilst the helicopters utilised our bespoke shaders, which emulate vehicular paintwork. As well as these in-house solutions we used traditional modelling and texturing techniques on the Claus' house, matte painting for set extensions and Houdini for the snow simulations and Ice Cave creation. Not to mention a plethora of 2D tricks and fixes to piece it all together.
We are extremely proud of our contribution to this great film. The team relished the challenge of working on such a wide variety of VFX work under the guidance of such a talented and discerning director. We look forward to the reaction this film gets in the run up to Christmas and hope the audience enjoys it as much as we did working on it.”
Creative Director: Jon Burley
Creative Agency: RKCR/Y&R
Creative: Psembi Kinstan, Alice Burton
Production Assistant: Carmela Vitale
Producer: Danielle Sandler
Editor: Paul Watts
Edit Company: The Quarry
Edit Assistant: Samuel Marr
Post Production / VFX
Shoot Supervisor: Andrew 'Barnsley' Wood, Robert Holmes
Executive Producer: Chris Batten
Colourist: Seamus O'Kane
Producer: Clare Melia
Post Production House: The Mill
Motion Graphics: Will Denning, Ivo Sousa
Matte Painting: Can Y. Sanalan
3D Lead Artist: Robert Holmes
3D Artists: Nathan Powell, Anthony Northman, Vaclav Cizkovsky
3D Artist: Giacomo Cavalletti, Thomas Bourret, Sergio Xisto, Peter Agg
3D Artists (cont.): Antonio Filippin, Jack Harris, Dan Yargici, Luca Cantani, Jiyoung Lee
2D Lead Artists: Andrew 'Barnsley' Wood
2D Artists: James MacLachlan, Paul Wratten
2D Artist: Ahmed El-Azma, Georgina Ford, James Pratt
DOP: Justin Brown
Director: Tom Hooper
Production Company: Smuggler London
Producer: Molly Pope
Category: Retail and restaurants , Supermarkets
Genre: Visual VFX