Making of a Penguin Commercial
Camera, Action! Check out how a little “Hollywood”
magic allowed a little penguin to roam around the Tennessee
Aquarium. You’ll be amazed how much hard work went into
creating the Aquarium’s latest commercial. View the
behind the scenes footage of a penguin round-up in this gentoo
The challenge for this :30 second commercial was letting viewers
know the Tennessee Aquarium is home to some awesome looking
and fun penguins while showcasing some of the other amazing
animals and exhibits at the same time. Greg Newberry, writer
and director from Animal Instinct Advertising, came up with
the “Spaghetti Western” concept. “This was
one of the most challenging shoots we’ve ever done.
the commercial looks like a penguin ‘hombre’
is walking through the Aquarium and checking out the various
exhibits as the new guy in town, he never actually left
his exhibit,” says Newberry. Sub-Antarctic penguins
like gentoos and macaronis must stay in their climate controlled
environment, so a special technology was used to give the
illusion our black and white buckaroo was wandering around
both the River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings.
Is Not My Color – Or Is It?
One week before filming was to begin Atomic Films in Chattanooga
delivered 15 feet of blue screen material to Aquarium penguin
keeper Amy Graves. Amy placed the material in the back-up
room where most of the commercial would be filmed so the
penguins could get used to the new blue floor covering.
“It took a couple of days before any of the penguins
would even touch the blue. They would stretch their necks
out and look at it, but they wouldn’t actually touch
it. At the end of the second day one penguin finally went
in, touched it and turned back around and headed out,”
remembers Graves. But penguins like to play follow the leader,
so once the “ice was broken” the rest seemed
to think nothing of wandering into the back-up room and
walking around on the blue material.
Camera, (and Hopefully) Plenty of Action!
There’s an old saying about leading a penguin to the
blue screen, but you can’t make him act. Actually that’s
just been made up, but there is a real saying in Hollywood
that urges filmmakers never to work with children or animals.
Cinematographer and co-owner of Atomic Films, Bobby Stone,
reports filming these birds was cool. “Shooting blue
screen requires very precise lighting. And we were working
in a very small space that had to be kept at 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Despite the challenges the penguins were a joy to work with.
They are just about as cute and lovable as any animal could
be. Amy was very helpful in getting the penguins to ‘act’
for us,” says Stone. The penguins were filmed from several
different angles and elevations with the gentoos and macaronis
walking toward and away from the camera, as well as side to
side in front of the lens.
Penguins Were Harmed
Penguins have a natural curiosity that helped guide them into
the makeshift studio. A penguin keeper with a pan filled with
their favorite fish helped any reluctant “actors”
hit their marks. Graves was impressed with the way all of
the birds responded to all of the new elements. “The
thing I liked the most about it was we didn’t stress
the birds. We left the keeper door to the exhibit open at
all times. That way the penguins were able to come and go
as they pleased during the entire shoot.” “We
filmed both gentoos and macaronis and had actually hoped to
use the macs because of their unique look,” says director
Greg Newberry. “But at the end of the day, the cute
little gentoos were more animated and gave the better performance.
After this, they’ll probably want agents, their own
trailer and caviar instead of smelt.”
Once the penguin blue screen filming was complete, the various
galleries at the Tennessee Aquarium were filmed on the second
day of the shoot. Background scenes of the toothy sharks,
alligators, butterflies and leafy sea dragons were carefully
set up and shot from angles that would match the penguin
action in the foreground. Each location had to have special
lighting and coordinated action such as releasing butterflies
into the scene. The
rest of the magic was performed in the editing suite where
the birds were electronically dropped in front of the Aquarium
this new ad will not only entertain, but also inspire people
to come to the Tennessee Aquarium to check out “the
good, the bad and the ugly” of the natural world. Fortunately,
pardner, Chattanooga is a big enough town for both of us….gentoos