GE Elephant Singing In The Rain
GE (General Electric) is receiving positive feedback on its ‘Ecomagination’ campaign, gaining high recognition for television advertisements such as ‘Singing In The Rain’. So what’s the fuss about? It’s a dancing elephant recreating Gene Kelly’s steps from the classic movie, “Singing In The Rain”. A string orchestra soars through the tones of ‘Singing in the Rain’ as rainforest animals enjoy the rain. A green lizard, a parrot, a chimpanzee, a toucan, two flamingoes are joined by a dancing baby elephant splashing through the puddles.
The voiceover says, “Water’s that more pure. Jet engines, trains and power plants that run dramatically cleaner. At GE we’re using what we call ecomagination to create technology that’s right in step with nature. GE. Imagination at work”. The spot finishes with a succession of images from GE, including the iconic light bulb, a wind turbine, a molecule, an x-rayed hand, a power plant, a jet engine, the Ecomagination green leaf, and the GE logo. Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube (HD)
GE’s web site explains the Ecomagination concept and provides a fresh look at the television advertisements in Windows Media and Real Media formats. Click here for the Ecomagination page for the Eco Ads. The Eco Ads page includes the ‘Making of ‘Singing In the Rain’ in Windows Media.
The ad was created by advertising agency BBDO New York by chief creative officer David Lubars, executive creative director Don Schneider, senior creative director and art director Tom Shaine, senior creative director/copywriter Tom Darbyshire, executive producer Regina Ebel, agency producer Rachel Seitel, music producer Rani Vaz and account person Elizabeth Daggett.
Filming was shot by director Joe Pytka.
Special effects were developed at QuietMan by executive producer/co founder Amy Taylor, Steve Holiner, animation/effects director/co-founder Johnnie Semerad, CG supervisor/modeler/rigger Kris Rivel, assistanct set supervisor Dave Bernkopf, Inferno effect artists Steve Koenig, Kim Harvey, Karen Huston, Charles Quinn, Chris Coleman, Peter Sidoriak, Lauren Hanson, lead animators Boris Ustaev and Anderson Ko, animation team, Sandor Toledo, Sam Curtriss, Chip Lotierzo, Michael Lasker and Steve Parish.
The spot was edited by Sherri Margulies and Matt Shapiro at Crew Cuts, New York.
Voiceover was provided by Robby Benson, the voice of Beast in Beauty and the Beast.
In the ‘Making Of’ video clip on the GE site we’re introduced to three BBDO staff. One of the creative directors explains that he’d seen ‘Singing in the Rain’ about 200 times since his childhood. The team made the connection with the joy of the Gene Kelly dance and the impact of GE’s help for the environment by having an animal choreographed to the same steps. At first the team considered using a chimpanzee but they changed their minds when the Careerbuilders campaign came out. They chose instead an animated baby elephant.
Fiona Carter, BBDO’s worldwide account director with GE (until recently), explains that this commercial is about all GE’s technologies under the concept of ecomagination. The ad highlights the impact of ‘low emission’ technology. Executive producer Regina Ebel gives the background to the stage preparation. The stage was set up over two weeks to prepare for waterproofing, lighting and electricity before bringing in the green foliage to emulate a rain forest atmosphere. Denise, an animal trainer, introduces the chimp, parrot and toucan. Vincent Patterson humbly says that the choreographer for ‘Singing In the Rain’ should have the credit for the dance steps. All Vincent did was take those steps for two feet and interpret them for a four footed animal. He explains that artistic license was required to have an animal going through steps that would normally lead to it falling over on its side. Patterson is known for his work as choreographer for Lars Von Trier’s movie, “Dancer in the Dark.” The dancers manipulating the elephant puppet were Matt Rustowicz and Gordon Hart-Ganske.
Johnnie Semerad from Quiet Man gives the background to the special effects work. Two actors/dancers were filmed going through the steps of the elephant. The scene was then shot without the actors. The film was then used to guide the creation of a CGI elephant. Controls and rigging were developed that enabled artists to manipulate the whole body of the elephant, including stomach and ear flaps.
Amy Taylor, executive producer, says the process involved study of live elephants in an African game reserve to get the feel of a real elephant moving around. However the elephant’s eyes are slightly larger and more dilated than in real life. The animators had the challenge of recreating the movement of fat, wrinkles, hair and skin surface texture as they changed during the dance. For more on the special effects techniques see the May 2005 article at Animation World Network (AWN).
GE Elephant on DVD
Stash Media include the GE Singing in the Rain video on their compilation DVD no. 10 (July 2005). It can be purchased for $35 or $41.50 outside North America