BENT Creates Lucha Libre Legend with TAXI 2

A miniature Mexican wrestler might not be the obvious choice for a Canadian cell phone company's spokesman. But when Bent Image Lab Director Rob Shaw discovered just such a character in Toronto-based TAXI 2's script for the latest Koodo Mobile campaign, he immediately saw the connection.

"When I first saw the script, I thought, 'I have to do this job!'

"The whole concept was so creative and different," recalled Shaw, the self-described "huge Mexican wrestling fan" who TAXI 2 chose to direct the three-spot El Tabador campaign. "In Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling) culture and films, wrestlers are more than just tough guys. They are detectives, ladies' men and defenders of justice. They also wear rad masks."

The campaign's star, a four-inch-tall CG animated wrestler known as "El Tabador," is no exception. As he bids farewell to his small Mexican village in the launch spot, El Tabador passionately explains that his destiny is to save customers from the injustice of hidden fees and long-term cell phone contracts. The next two commercials, "Compact" and "Couch," follow the wrestler as he continues his "fight for phone freedom." Like all legendary luchadores, the hero finds plenty of time for romance and adventure along the way.

El Tabador's name is a play on Koodo's no fixed-term contract "Tab" feature. Although El Tabador is animated, the world in which he exists is purely live-action.

"We always hoped the character would be fun and charming, but it was the fantastic work that BENT did that really took things to the next level" says Lance Martin, ECD of TAXI 2 Toronto.

The BENT team collaborated closely with the agency to create the spots, the latest of which hit the Canadian airwaves April 12. Animation production, including an in-depth character design process, took place in house at BENT's studio in Portland, Oregon. The live-action plate shoots were split between a Toronto stage and BENT's studio. BENT's art department built three full-size live-action sets for the in-house shoot. Drawing on their expertise in stop-motion, the team also constructed and shot the miniature Mexican village featured in the launch spot.

"The whole project was a blast, but I have to say character development was my favorite part," Shaw said. "I've always been a huge fan of Mexican wrestling. I love the Luchador Santo and his movies, and I grew up in the golden era of WWF.

"It was a lot of fun trying to cram all the stuff I love about both cultures into this four-inch-tall wrestler. He's a larger-than-life character in everyday, almost mundane situations. That contrast is perfect for a luchador character."

Drawing on this cross-border knowledge, Shaw and character designer Huy Vu created a wide range of initial character sketches. Working with TAXI 2, they narrowed down the options to arrive at the main look for Tabador. From there, Shaw and the BENT CG team developed a computer-generated character with the big, theatrical physical performance of a pro wrestler and the heroic, suave personality of a classic Luchador.

Beyond the three spots, BENT's CG department created character models and animation for the Koodo Mobile's YouTube channel, which includes an interactive YouTube video game, and "Behind the Mask," a viral mockumentary featuring Bret "The Hitman" Hart. The BENT team also created character poses of El Tabador for a series of billboards, TSAs, wild postings and a variety of other out-of-home media.

TD Fred Ruff and the CG team modeled and animated all the CG elements in 3D Studio Max 2010 and rendered them in V-Ray. The studio's compositing team, led by Brian Kinkley, used Adobe After Effects to bring the spots' live action and CG together in post.

The Creds:

Client: Koodo Mobile
Spot Title: Launch, Compact, Couch
Air Date: April 2010

Agency: TAXI 2, Toronto, Ontario
CD: Lance Martin
AD: Jeff MacEachern
Copywriter: Mike Blackmore
Producer: Jennifer Cursio
Client Name: Lise Doucet
Group Account Director: Caleb Goodman
Account Manager(s): Katie Trainor, Steve Waugh

Prod Company: Bent Image Lab
Director: Rob Shaw
Director of Photography: Bryce Fortner
EP: Ray Di Carlo
Senior Producer: Tsui Ling Toomer
Producer: Harry Linden
Line Producer: Darren Demetre
Coordinator: Chris Barber
Cameraman/Moco: Chris Peterson, Jim Birkett
Gaffer: Joe Bourguignon
Electrician: Ryan Kunkleman
Storyboard Artist: Monique Ligons
Character Design: Huy Vu
Art Director: Curt Enderle
Art Department Manager: Solomon Burbridge
Art Department Coordinator: Evan Stewart
Lead Carpenter: Greg Fosmire
Carpenter(s): Daniel Miller, John Kirkley
Graphic Artist: Christina Owen
Lead Painter: Mary Blankenburg
Painter: Ryan Schow
Model Maker(s): Marty Easterday, Kimi Kaplowitz, Jen Prokopowicz
Shopper/Props Buyer: Justin Warner
Client Services: Patricia Hall
Production Assistant: Charlie James
TD Lead: Fred Ruff
TD(s): Josh Cox, Shirack Agresta, Devon Myron
Principal CG Animator(s): Eric Scheur, Aja Bogdanoff, Joel Brinkerhoff, Max Perelman, Eric Urban
Stop Motion Animator: Jen Prokopowicz
CG Rigger: John Lally
2D Graphics: Dave Manuel, Stephen Bodin, Beau Hudspeth

Post: Bent Image Lab
Lead Compositor: Brian Kinkley
Compositor: Alan Winston
Post Production Supervisor: Jeff Dawson
Editor/Editorial Supervisor: Jeff Dawson
Colorist: Brian Kinkley

Audio Post Co: Company X Audio
Mixer: Brad Nelson/Adam Moffat
Sound Designer: Brad Nelson/Adam Moffat
Engineer: Adam Moffat
Producer: Brad Nelson

About Bent Image Lab:

Bent Image Lab is a Portland Oregon-based production company and creative laboratory, known for melding art, design and storytelling. It is a place where the brightest ideas are driven with an artist's passion and realized through the use of cutting edge technology.

Established in 2002, BENT specializes in wildly creative spots and videos that range from the frenetic to the deeply moving. Saturday Night Live, Coca-Cola, Zune, Lux Soap, Aflac, Budweiser, FOX, Guitar Hero, HP, PBS, Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Live Earth, and film directors Todd Haynes and Gus Van Sant, are just a few of the high-profile clients that have called on BENT for some of their quirky, highly-original work. BENT's long list of spots, music videos, animated films and promos has earned impressive recognition from top film festivals and industry shows, including SXSW, the Clios, Cannes, Sundance, the Chicago Film Festival, AICP/MoMA, the Rosey awards, the Broadcast Design Awards, the Tribeca Film Festival, the Rotterdam Film Festival and the Florida Film Festival. BENT's principals are, David Daniels, Chel White, Ray Di Carlo, Tsui Ling Toomer, and recently joined Nando Costa.