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Five Questions for Elastic Founder and Director Andy Hall

Coming soon to a bar and liquor store near you is Proximo Spirits' latest expansion to its Jose Cuervo line of tequilas, a cinnamon-infused silver tequila called Cinge. The company tapped McCann Erickson New York to create a social media-driven campaign that includes 15- and 30-second animated spots, a print ad and a graphic novel based on the drink's mascot, a fiery and highly styled scorpion on a mission. McCann turned to director Andy Hall, the founding member and animator at Elastic in Santa Monica and director of CG at its sister VFX facility, a52. A master of myriad animation styles, Hall is best known for this delightful stop-motion spot for Ben & Jerry's and this life-like CG concoction for Nike. We asked him about his recent work, seen below, and what references most inspire him.

Q: The Cinge spot is such a nice blend of 2D and 3D animated styles. What did you use to create it?

A: The majority of the animation was done in Maya in CG, and the environments were constructed in Maya, like the truck and the scorpion. To do the 2D work, we used Photoshop and Flash. We used Flash to form the essence of the animation and then Photoshop to add in all that textural detail. I think of myself as an animator, first and foremost, and Maya is the tool that allows me to tell stories, realize shots and bring characters to life.

Q: Did McCann come to you with the animation boarded out or with just a concept?
A: McCann approached me and the Elastic team with the idea that this new Cuervo brand should have a very distinct style, although they didn't really have a point of view about what that was. The studio did a bunch of style frames for them with very distinct looks and concepts they could get behind and make it their own. They wrote the script and then I boarded it all out the way I saw the story playing out and what we were going to try to do with the animation. At the same time we created a graphic novel that they will publish as well. The original artwork directly inspired the poster design, the TV campaign and this comic, which gives the entire campaign a terrific continuity.

Q: Have you ever done a project in which such a wide scope of peripheral marketing material developed out of the original animation?

A: Actually, the campaign I did for Arrowhead Water, also done with McCann, and the Ben & Jerry's campaign I did a few years ago both had a similar cross-pollination from the work that we did. The pre-campaigns, targeted Internet spots and even standies that went into stores were all basically derived from what we created for the TV. The graphic novel is a new one for us, though. And it was a challenge doing the 2D on this project, since all my work is grounded in 3D and stop-motion styles. To have the free rein to experiment was really, really enjoyable. Right now I'm working on some new projects that will be rather unique as well, but unfortunately I can't talk about them yet!

Q: What references were you looking at when you developed the scorpion and his world?

A: The artwork for Hellboy, by Mike Mignola, definitely was an influence. His graphic language is so unique and speaks so clearly visually. His composition and use of light and shadow is really, really strong and already tells you the story without ever having to see it move. And that's what I wanted to try and convey with the scorpion throughout the entire campaign. There's a uniqueness to the visual language and a very strong point of view, whether played out in the spots or just purely as an image.

Q: If you could name just one project, short or long-form, that inspired you in the past year, what would it be?
A: I remember a piece that I loved seeing, that came out of the U.K. recently. It's a beautiful piece of filmmaking from Studio AKA for TSB bank. Marc Craste directed, and it's just such a beautiful animated film. 

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