A dramatic new spot for Emmerdale’s 50th anniversary sees iconic characters turned into cake topper miniatures
To mark the momentous birthday, ITV Creative used multi-faced methods – including 3D printing, on-running camera shots and meticulous miniature set design – to create a suspense-filled teaser.
- 27 September 2022
- Olivia Hingley
Emmerdale, like many other soap dramas, is notable for one thing – its high intensity drama (to be honest, it’s in the name). And so, fittingly for the show’s 50th anniversary, ITV Creative have created a spot full to the brim with action, suspense and hurricanes – with Bronski Beat’s eternally theatrical Smalltown Boy as the accompanying soundtrack.
Despite its dynamism, in the spot not one of the characters moves – because the creative team at ITV turned each one into a 3D printed cake topper. “The 50th anniversary is such a landmark moment in television – it’s amazing that a show has lived in the hearts and minds of the nation for five decades,” explains Tony Pipes, executive creative director at ITV Creative. “The idea of a celebration cake came from the creative Jess, who saw it as a great vehicle to tell the story of the upcoming special episode, while also celebrating its heritage.” Yet even with the playful choice to turn the characters in cake toppers, Tony is keen to express how the team still wanted the spot to feel “premium and cinematic”, and so “didn’t want to be building caricatures of such well loved characters out of marzipan or sprinkles”.
Matt Rhodes, the spot’s director, details the intricate process, which involved the actors’ outfits and poses being carefully planned to look as if they were caught in the midst of a hurricane. “They had to stand completely motionless while we scanned them,” Matt details, “they couldn’t move an inch as their clothes and hair were on wires to give the impression they were being battered by the high winds.” This stage was also the most enjoyable says Matt, working with actors who were “really enthusiastic” about the project, and the tactility and tangibility of the 3D printing process.
To really heighten the drama, Matt tells us that the team also used a motion control camera with a long borescope lens that “allowed us to film powerful, tracking shots to really immerse the viewer in the scenes”. Moreover, to mimic the sensation of the hurricane, Matt wanted the camera to be moving at all times, not just in linear moves, “but moves that took us into the scenes and swirled around like the storm itself”. Enlisted to create the miniature set were Lord Whitney, an artist-led studio based in Leeds. To really capture the scene, the studio got pretty creative: hay bales were crafted out of Weetabix, and each pebble of the overflowing riverbed was hand painted.
Predicting how Emmerdale’s dedicated audience will receive the spot, creative director Rachel King hopes it will get viewers excited about the special anniversary episode. “They are invested in the storylines of these well-loved characters and will be intrigued by the clues and easter eggs (not chocolate ones) of what’s to come, embedded into the film,” she details. What’s more, she thinks people will be impressed at how closely the creative team have stuck to the Emmerdale world. “Everything was recreated exactly as it is seen in the show – from The Woolpack to the barn, the car to the costumes. It's a microcosm of the Emmerdale World,” she details. “While the execution is unfamiliar, using models, all of the action remains in the familiar and where the fans’ hearts live.”
Overall, reflecting on the project, Tony concludes with a note on how enriching and enjoyable the experience turned out to be. “It was such an immersive experience to make, creating worlds and bringing the scenes to life – it reminds you that we really do have the greatest job in the world.”
GalleryITV Creative: Emmerdale 50th Anniversary Spot (Copyright © ITV Creative, 2022)
ITV Creative: Emmerdale 50th Anniversary Spot (Copyright © ITV Creative, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.