Work Debrief - Toyota's story of coming to life in a superficial world

To launch Toyota's long-awaited GT86 model, Saatchi & Saatchi created a futuristic society in which reality is forbidden, Rob Potts writes.

Saatchi & Saatchi has released an animated TV campaign for Toyota's GT86 sports model that dramatises the story of a man who has become tired of living in a superficial world.

The Brief

The GT86 was one of the most anticipated car launches of the year. For the purists, it promised to be a dream of a car - no gadgets, no driver assist and definitely no automatic parallel parking at the push of a button. Instead, it flew in the face of current car-design conventions, a return to a back-to-basics pure driving experience that was all rear-wheel drive, low to the ground, sleek lines and fun.

The early press reviews agreed. The GT86 promised to be the real deal. Toyota was rightfully proud of what it had built and wanted to show the public what it was capable of putting on the roads in the most dramatic way possible.

The Creative Idea

It was conceived and written pretty quickly. We shaved a good 20 minutes off the creative process time when we lifted the proposition straight from the brief (cheers, Tom Callard) and turned it into the endline: "The real deal."

We knew that the takeout of the story had to be about a car that makes you feel real, so then it was simply a matter of working backwards and coming up with an intriguing script about a guy who wants to feel alive.

We figured that a guy who wasn't alive to start with would probably be a pretty good place to start. A CGI guy would surely give his right pixel for a slice of good old-fashioned reality, wouldn't he?

Which got us straight into Grand Theft Auto world. A cool place to live - looks great, nice girls, cool cars. Only trouble is, it's all pretend.

And there was our story. A CGI guy living in a CGI world who can't buy a thrill. Unless he knows a guy who sells contraband reality.

The Writing

It soon became clear that this idea was turning into a bit of a mini epic. Unfortunately, we were briefed to write content for 30 seconds; we just wrote on and hoped nobody would notice the timing if we read it out really quickly.

Somehow, the dialogue on the finished film never got changed from the first draft we wrote, which is pretty rare given the time it takes to get an idea out of script form and on to a screen.

We wanted our guy's world to feel dark and oppressive but look amazing on screen. The films Drive and Vanishing Point were a good reference point and we were into the idea of our protagonist being a guy who doesn't talk a lot, which is a result when it's your job to come up with the dialogue.

We always saw it starting with our guy saying "Can you feel it? Can you feel the thrill of being alive? Neither can I" and him taking his hands off the steering wheel and the computer car taking over.

We presented just the one idea to our client, based on the principle that it's impossible to have two good ideas. Thankfully, they bought it. To their credit, they also agreed that the creative idea was deserving of a longer format and found us the money to do it justice.

The Art Direction and Direction

In essence, it's a mini road movie told in CGI. A script of this nature can only ever be as good as its cinematic direction and the quality and attention to detail of the CGI. So we were pleased when Adam Berg at Stink said he was up for it, because the guy has an amazing track record. He brought in Digital Domain to create the CGI work. It was set up by James Cameron, did the CGI for Transformers and they are the go-to CGI guys for Hollywood. But, to be fair, they already had us at the mention of Hollywood.

Adam bombarded us with visual references of what he wanted our futuristic CGI town to look like. For the record, it's an amalgamation of Sao Paulo, Tokyo, Dubai, The Fifth Element and Romford High Street.

As Digital Domain got cracking on building the city and designing the CGI cars and characters in Santa Monica, the rest of us flew out to Barcelona to film the live-action driving scenes.

Adam had created a rough previsualisation of the film with Digital Domain and then we shot it for real.

We'd only seen a photo of the GT86 before, so it was a relief when they turned up on set and didn't disappoint.

Our stunt driver used to be The Stig and he still refuses to take his helmet off. We spent four nights watching him drive the GT86 around an industrial estate at varying degrees of speed - thankfully, one of them was broadcastable. On every shot, the creative director from Digital Domain would shoot photo reference of the cars' movements in order to seamlessly fit the live-action car into a CGI background later.

Then we were in the studio to shoot the warehouse scene. We built the set and filled it with real objects such as the light bulbs and the plant that would sit in the CGI warehouse.

The Digital Domain guy ended up playing our driver and our account man Chris Bietzk stood in for the guy selling the contraband real items. He was gutted when we put 30 years on him and gave him big ears in post-production.

Live action in the can, it was over to Santa Monica to shoot our cast in motion-capture, fit a real car into a CGI world and make it look good.

The Editing and Sound

Paul Hardcastle at Trim did the edit. He dropped the live-action scenes into the previs and cut around that. Over a six-week period, rendered CGI would come back from the US and Paul would drip-feed the parts into the edit with the patience of a saint.

Parv Thind did the sound mix at Wave Studios. He put a menacing computer hum on the city during the opening scenes to create a sense of foreboding. He also created the sound of pixels being broken off when our real car came into contact with CGI objects.

The Edith Piaf song came from Adam. We scripted the warehouse guy to be playing a piece of old scratchy vintage vinyl (that's real music, kids!) and for it to continue throughout the ad. The track gave the driving sequences a balletic nature at odds to what was appearing on screen. The title, No Regrets, seemed to fit the idea too.

The Media

The film was seeded online as a 90-second and on TV as a 60-second. It will be running in cinemas later this year before Skyfall.

Rob Potts is a creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi

Title: Real deal
Client: Lisa Fielden, manager, brand and digital marketing, Toyota GB
Executive creative directors: Paul Silburn, Kate Stanners
Copywriter: Rob Potts
Art director: Andy Jex
Planner: Tom Callard
Account handlers: Ben Wilkinson, Chris Bietzk
Agency producer: Kate O'Mulloy
Media agency: ZenithOptimedia
Media planner: Matt Skelding
Production company: Stink
Director: Adam Berg
Editor: Paul Hardcastle
Producer: Ben Croker
Post-production: Digital Domain
Audio post-production: Wave Studios