Darth Vader lands at Toys ‘R’ Us
We’re launching some new work for Toys ‘R’ Us today to tease a big upcoming Star Wars event in their Nordic stores. AD Tim has the full story:
The brief from the client was to put a splash on the front of their catalogue to tell people that Darth Vader was coming and that you could meet him at Toys ‘R’ Us. After considering it for a while we returned with a completely different recommendation.
I was surfing YouTube for Star Wars inspiration when I came across a video with more than 2,000,000 views. The film shows the Galactic Empire from Star Wars ‘invading’ San Francisco and I thought something similar would be a funny way to advertise Darth Vader’s arrival at Toys ‘R’ Us. We wrote Mike Horn, the creator of the film, and asked him if he would be interested in coming to Copenhagen to make a similar film for one of our clients. Thankfully he thought it was a great idea!
Working with Mike was great. He turned out to be a one-man film production army and, even better, he knew everything worth knowing about Star Wars.
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We were all sad to see Mike leave earlier this month but we managed to grab a quick interview with him before he took off:
First, can you tell us a little about you and your professional background…
I went to film school at NYU & SVA in New York City, and became a freelance editor, cutting everything from indie feature films to reality cooking shows and tv commercials. Over the years I taught myself After Effects, and in 2008 released “Death Star Over San Francisco” a Star Wars fan film that went viral overnight.
What did you think when we first got in touch with you?
At first I was skeptical, because I’ve had many offers from other people and businesses that wanted me to craft similar viral-style videos, but nothing panned out into anything real. When I checked out Advance’s website and saw they were legit, and saw all of their killer Lego work, I got very excited, and just kept my fingers crossed the job would get green lit.
Have you gotten a lot of work on the strength of your video’s success on YouTube?
I was working at a TV channel called Current TV when I made my two Star Wars virals (the second viral being “Death Star Destroys Enterprise“. Those videos got me noticed by the Current TV executives and turned into a few opportunities to direct some promos for the network. They also helped me get on the directing roster of a commercial production company in San Francisco called Rehab, which in turn got me a few directing gigs for Lego and Pentax.
What were your thoughts about this project?
I had so much fun making it! It was a dream getting the chance to experience Copenhagen for a few weeks. Tim Ustrup Madsen, the Art Director, and Trine Schou, the Producer, were such smart and fun people to work with. I wish the fun didn’t have to to stop, and we could keep making more Star Wars spots forever! The project was also a step up from my previous Star Wars films in that I used more 3D, and learned some new skills such as 3D motion tracking.
What did you like or dislike about working with us?
Advance is one of the coolest office environment’s I’ve ever worked at. Even though they have a lot of employees, the camaraderie between them seemed strong. It seemed like everyone knew each other much better than at similar sized companies in the US. I think the catered lunch they offer everyday in the cafeteria helps contribute to the tighter employee bonds. In contrast, my experience at a few similar sized companies in the US, is that 3 years could go by before I actually learn another employee’s name. Lunch is every man for himself, and is often eaten at your desk. The only thing I didn’t like about Advance was lack of cold water… we’re big on water coolers and refrigerated water fountains in the States.
How does it compare to agency life back home?
I’ve never worked at an agency in the US, but have worked with a lot agencies and agency people, so as an outsider looking in, my take is that Advance seems a lot more humane in comparison. I found it amazing that many people were able to go home to their families at 17:00, where it often seems in the US, you’re signing away your life to the work and are lucky if you make it home by 21:00. I was also surprised at how long I heard some of the employees have worked at Advance, some people spanning multiple decades. It seems like there’s a higher rate of turnover at US agencies, that it’s more cut throat, and everyone moves to another agency after 2 years in order to get a pay bump, as if it’s impossible to get promoted within your own company.
What did you think of Copenhagen?
It has the best food out of any city I’ve been too. Even the cheap pizza shwarma places were really good. I thought San Francisco, where I live, was a green city, but CPH puts it to shame… it’s the little things like automatic timers on light switches, or glass bottles being re-washed for reuse, as opposed to being crushed and melted back into brand new glass like in the US. I also feel like the citizens of CPH have a lot more respect for their city and its upkeep compared to citizens of many US cities, like NYC, where many people simply discard trash on street, even if a trash can is close by.
Would you come back?
In a heartbeat! I hope to experience CPH in the summer time.
What’s next for you?
I’ve just started working for IGN and their START channel, where I should have the opportunity to continue making viral mashups of other geeky franchises. Tron is on my radar next, and I’m starting to think of ideas for my next Star Wars fan film, that I can enter into the official Star Wars Fan Film Festival this July.