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McDonald's VFX Breakdown

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It’s exciting gritty, fun, and totally gorgeous to look at.
— Little Black Book

On May 13th, McDonald's released a marketing campaign to bring back the Hamburglar. Their campaign was met with overwhelming critical disdain from media outlets, the advertising industry, and the general public. Social media initially compared the Hamburglar's new “hip-dad" look to a male stripper, creepy stalker and a cheap costume rip off.

Little did McDonald’s know, that for the past several months, Mad Box Post (a Virginia-based post production company) was working on a spec fan episode that also brought back two beloved McDonald’s characters.  Grimace and the Hamburglar, are featured in an epic, Blues Brothers inspired opening sequencetitled, "Episode 1: Paroled."

The 60-second short film was directed by Whiskey Tongue (directing duo Chris Allen Williams & Matthew West) who are also the principal partners of Mad Box Post. Along with Max Fischer, Director of Photography, they led a team of excited and determined crew through one ambitious and grueling day of filming which included a Porsche chase car, stunt driving work, and a blend of live action, animation and visual effects.

Top 5 McDonalds Ads ever made.
— McD Truth

The spot was concepted and created by Brett Landry and Brian Engleman, two rogue creatives, determined to bring a script they loved to the screen. Williams approached them a year prior to collaborate on the spot, expanding on their ideas to give it a longer, more cinematic feel.

"I felt that the story was very well told in 30 seconds, and the idea of making it longer was born completely out of the selfish need to just film a muscle car driving to some great classic rock," says Williams "I figured, what the hell, we had the chase car, we had that sexy Chevy Malibu, lets film it!"

Filming started on the scenic roads leading to the backlot of AMC's "Turn" in Powhattan, Viginia, and ended in Richmond's Scott's Addition district. A blank warehouse wall served as the canvas for a replica Joliet Penitentiary wall, a stylistic homage to the opening scene of the 1980 film "Blues Brothers".

Ronald McDonald is portrayed by local stunt and race car driver, Jesse Clark, and SpangTV producer Jordan Rodericks was tasked with becoming the Hamburglar... or at least the lower half.

The characters were modeled, rigged and animated by Rick Plautz and the tracking, compositing and visual effects were led by Charles Bevan with a joint effort from the whole Mad Box team.  Being a spec project, all the post-production work took nearly a year to complete as it had to be squeezed into spare time between projects.

30 and 15-second versions of the spot exist thanks to additional edits by Rick Plautz and Logan Threlkeld.

"The timing couldn't have been more perfect," states West. "We knew that the spot would get attention because of the press McDonald's was already receiving for their current ad efforts, but we never expected them to re-launch their own Hamburglar the same time we were finishing ours."

Mad Box had originally planned on releasing their spot at the end of May, but on Wednesday, May 6th, McDonald’s teased their new campaign on social media. The next morning, Landry and Engleman contacted Mad Box and it became a mad dash to the finish line.

"We worked around the clock to get the last of the visual effects and compositing finished," says Bevan, "We definitely had sweat while shooting, and somebody cut their hand at some point so everything but tears went into making this piece."

Tuesday night, colorists Matthew West and junior colorist David Muessig designed the look of the spot in Mad Box's color finishing suite.  With the relentless overnight work by Muessig , the final spot was complete by 3:30 AM. That next morning, the ad world was hit by two dueling Hamburglars.

"We never meant to hijack their campaign," promises Williams "We just were hoping to piggyback on the public awareness to generate traffic."

Here’s what a McDonald’s Television ad should look like
— The Street

Ultimately, they did both. By the end of the second day, media outlets and advertising trades picked up on the “OG Hamburglar” and by weeks end, the video linked on oghamburglar.com had already produced as many views as the official McDonald’s Hamburglar commercial. The twitter hastag #ROBBLEROBBLE was taken over by people reposting and retweeting the the unauthorized TV spot and come the weekend, it appeared McDonald's went into a social media frenzy, seeding twitter posts to help reclaim the hashtag.

Willams believes it did more good than harm. "The response on our fun little spot was very positive for McDonald’s. A ton of people on social media believe we were all in it together, like we were building some sort of online feud on purpose."

To date, no one from McDonald’s or their agencies have reached out.

When asked whether there will be a sequel, Williams says, "We would love to do more, but we did this first one on our own time and our own dime. Hopefully the second episode comes from the people behind the Golden Arches."

chris williamsComment