Brick Bowl: Animating The Big Game Ads with Lego

A+C Studios recently undertook an enormous project on a very short timescale — we called it ‘Brick Bowl’.

The Big Game half-time commercial break in the United States is one of the most talked about and watched events in the global entertainment calendar, with a thirty-second spot setting companies back a cool $4.5 million.

In light of this, the team here at A+C decided to recreate some of the best half-time commercials in a stop motion short film using Lego bricks and a protagonist minifigure character (affectionately nicknamed ‘Hank’). The film focusses on Hank’s adventure as he moves through and interacts with the different ‘commercial worlds’.

The team set the challenge of producing and delivering the entire project online within a thirty-six hour period after The Big Game. This was done in order for Brick Bowl it to resonate well with audiences who would still have the commercials fresh in their minds.

Because many of the ads were veiled in secrecy prior to The Big Game event, this made the project a real challenge, with no way of guessing what many of the ads would entail. The team did however prepare as best as possible beforehand; converting the 5000 sq ft state-of-the-art animation studio into a Lego Mecca, complete with thousands of bricks which were stockpiled in the weeks leading up to The Big Game.

The first real challenge on the night of The Big Game was choosing the ads to reference within the Brick Bowl animation. To make this a slightly easier task, the creative team produced a dossier of all brands which had confirmed ad space. Some of these brands released teasers for their ads prior to the event, allowing the team to predict which might get the most attention and prepare by readying relevant Lego props and characters. The scripting and storyboarding had to take place in a relatively short time during the night of The Big Game, so that adequate time was allowed for model-making and animation. The majority of the script for Brick Bowl was finalised between 11:30pm and 1:00am GMT, 1st-2nd February.

The model making team arrived at 2:00am for a Lego building blitz, with around a four-hour window to get everything built before the animators arrived at 6:00am.

The six animators on the project all met at the studio before the project for a tw0-day Lego animation training camp. This helped them learn the best techniques for animating Lego, helping keep all shots high quality and consistent. The puppets most animators are used to working with are four times the scale of Lego minifigures, so this smaller size is something the animators really had to adjust to.

When the animators had wrapped the shoot at around 1:00pm, it was immediately time for the post production team to add their magic; working into the evening adding digital special effects to shots, replacing green screen backgrounds and removing wires used to hold characters up. A team of sound engineers then worked through the following night to create the Brick Bowl soundscape.

Brick Bowl was finally completed and shared on YouTube and Vimeo at 11:30am on Tuesday 3rd February. The animation received over 80,000 plays with 120,000 social shares and 1.6m #BrickBowl impressions.

Here’s a ‘making of’ video showing how it all came together!