Hershey's Halloween Goes Psyop Spooky
Halloween is a holiday unlike any other throughout the calendar year. It can be dark and creepy, and yet it's also all about sweets and family. There's a lot going on for just one night in October.
That’s why when it came time for The Hershey Company to find a creative force capable of bringing their new more sweet than scary candy characters to animated life, Psyop became the perfect a fit. Known for dreaming up wonderfully strange animations such as his actually-rather-terrifying short film “Teeth,” Tom Brown took on the challenge of eating a giant pile of candy and then creating some really cute films. Enlisting a Kit-Kat black cat, a witch doubling as a chocolate bar and a couple of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup spiders, the haunted world of Hershey’s kicked into high gear just in time for consumers nationwide to clear the candy shelves in preparation of incoming trick-or-treaters. We got a chance to chat with Tom on his artistic process, personal holiday inspirations and how Pokemon might have played part in this series of spooky spots.
How did you approach this traditional, almost vintage-looking world and put your own personal touch on it?
Tom Brown: We needed something simple, graphic and clean looking. It’s a holiday spot, and it’s for kids, so it had to be fun. Because of that, it also just made sense to reference an old school UPA-style aesthetic, but with a modern twist. It was really fun to limit the palette to those awesome Halloween colours and just see how playful we could be, while keeping it clean and graphic.
What did you draw inspiration from in terms of maybe your own childhood memories of Halloween?
TB: We only answered the door to Trick or Treaters once when I was a child. I was excited, they asked “Trick or Treat” and, Mother wanting some return on her candy payment, said “trick”. The big boy started to make some magician's hand gestures and then threw a handful of seed husks in her face, and then they ran off. Therefore, I always thought Halloween was for mean boys.
Most challenging part of bringing these characters and their world to fruition?
TB: I really wanted to see the Candy Characters transform into the candy bars. I didn’t want to just cheat it with a puff of smoke or some sparkles. They brain-stormed a whole bunch of different ideas for how to make it look great, and we came up with pages of ideas, then we just had to choose the best one for each character. Then the animation team did an amazing job; I love the two Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup spiders smashing into each other, but maybe that’s just because I love peanut butter.
Tom, seen here posing with his new Halloween friends.
Favorite aspect of this project? This could be the creation of it, overcoming a specific challenge, seeing the final product on television, etc.
TB: I knew that I wanted the candy transformation scenes to have super cool, anime-inspired, abstract backgrounds almost (exactly) like the bit in Pokémon where they call their Pokémon from the Poké Ball. So they throw the ball, and the camera zooms into the ball and the Pokémon breaks out, and behind it are all these diagonal flying lines. I really love that idea of focusing in on an action, and everything around it being abstract and graphic. I sort of pitched that idea to the clients, but we weren’t sure if they were really going to buy it. I got so excited right at the end of the project when we put those backgrounds in. Of course we made a more subtle version just in case it was too crazy... BUT THEY LOVED IT.
Any additional tidbits you’d like to leave us with?
TB: Hershey’s sent us so much candy (for reference). I don’t know what we are going to do with it all. I’d take it home for Trick or Treaters, but I don’t want to find out what it’s like to get seed husks thrown in my face. Luckily, I have therapy that night.