You know those sweat-drenched dreams you have when you’ve accidentally swaddled yourself in the duvet and are haunted by a presence somewhere between a repulsive goblin and unhinged kids show presenter? The ones where you wake up afraid to turn on a TV? Well, Becky and Joe’s new stop-frame idents for US confectionary brand Trolli have mainlined that feeling, bringing you a selection of misshapen cave-dwellers that – through just one taste of Trolli’s tangy confectionary – enter a world of psychedelic lunacy. The sweets even sing.
“Trolli’s neon and black branding was a good starting point for the overall look, a strange dark world that is transformed by sugary madness,” says Joe Pelling, who with Becky Sloan, make up the directorial duo that brought us Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared. Agency Wieden+Kennedy already had a clear idea of the tone when they approached Becky & Joe, but were keen that the pair visualise a psychedelic fantasy in an original way. “We were given a lot of freedom and were able to push the characters and design into a pretty weird direction,” Joe tells It’s Nice That. The duo also brought in Jon Boam to make the character design that little bit creepier. “We have always loved his stuff and I think he is particularly good at creating weird fantasy characters that don’t look like Lord of the Rings fan art,” Joe says. “In fact, originally we were going to include a spooky witch in one of the spots but Jon sketched this really funny tree man and we got so attached to it that we changed the script to include him instead.”
This aforementioned log lad delves into a packet of gleaming Trolli worms, which scuttle up his arm and devour his fingers. Bewildered by this onslaught, the tree man looks into the packet to find a worlds of demonic, saccharine sweets luring him into neon oblivion. Similarly in another slot, a warty troll opens a cupboard where the joyful radiation emitted by the Trolli inside turns him into a demented page boy. “Our main task was to create the most interesting contrast between the two states,” says Joe. “This was done with both contrasting textures in the sculpt and build, plus using UV light and paint to bring extreme colour into the gloomy sets.” Similarly the pace starts slow, mysterious and creepy and then really ramps up energy-wise when Trolli appears. Joe says, “We wanted to turn the ‘cute candy’ feeling up so far that it tipped over into something unsettling.”
Given just how much the pair packed into the 30-second and 15-second slots, there were a lot of complex elements to build and shoot. “I think the most tricky parts were the transforming moments, like when you see the troll change in-camera from one state to the other,” says Joe. “In some cases this meant we built separate heads that acted as in-betweens for the puppets, and for other shots we animated one puppet and then did the entire shot again with a different one which had to replicate the exact same movements.”
Understandably, the “amazingly talented” team spent a lot of time testing sequences, finding new ways to overcome practical issues as well as creative ones. A key challenge was animating the tiny silicon worms all at once, creating a realistic sugary look that didn’t melt under the lights. The result is a diabolical, high energy whirlwind, but one that communicates with great success how intense it might feel to put a tangy sour Trolli “Crawler” into your gob. Just remember, what goes up must come down.