Formula One, Ben Hur, greyhound and horse-racing were some of the
unlikely sources of inspiration for the zany snail race in Guinness’s
latest commercial, ’bet on black’.
They were references used by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO’s creative team,
Tom Carty and Walter Campbell, and the director, Frank Budgen, to
describe the effects they wanted when putting the race together with the
computer-generated animation team at The Mill.
’They told us how they wanted the snails to move and position
themselves,’ Dave Throssell, department head of The Mill, says. ’We
created the racing snails in Softimage and Flame and wrote some special
software to stick them to the racetrack. They gallop and leap and lean
in on the bend. You can’t take in all the detail at that speed, but it
contributes to the credibility.’
If the technical challenges were daunting, the live snails posed their
own problems. Paul Rothwell, the managing director of Gorgeous, mounted
a worldwide search for snails big enough to take good close-ups and
inquisitive enough to come out of their shells while being handled.
The perfect five-inch large molluscs, with photogenic markings, were
eventually found in Cuba. Pure luck, according to Rothwell. ’We’d
already chosen to shoot there because of the Latin mix of people - it’s
the kind of place that might possibly hold such a quirky race.’
The snails came from the biology department of the local university,
accompanied by a protective biologist and their own vet. Filming had to
be in the early morning or the evening as the snails would not come out
during the heat of the day. When they did emerge, they revelled in the
spotlight and the wet track, but tired easily, so eight teams of eight
were rotated, all with numbers roughly painted on, as if by their
Throssell and his colleagues went on location to take stills of the
snails to send back to The Mill. Models of the snails were also pulled
along the track, to give the spectators something to focus on and allow
the computer team to correctly place the computerised racers against the
But the snails turned out to be the least of the production
A few days into the shoot, hurricane Irene wiped out the first village
location and the crew were confined to their Havana hotel. An
alternative location was set up in a vast motor garage in Havana.
Budgen took some atmospheric post-hurricane street shots which appear at
the start of the film.
The 400 villagers hired as extras now had to be bussed into Havana - a
transport nightmare in a country where even the police have to hitch to
work. When they did turn up, they were wearing their best clothes, this
being their first visit to the big city, and had to be persuaded to
change back into their everyday garb.
Even so, a gleaming-white trainer showed up in the rushes. Budgen
promptly replaced it by taking a digital photograph of Throssell’s
scruffy shoe and scanning it in.
With the hurricane wiping a week off the schedule, it took three weeks
and extra animators to make the airdate. They played out with only eight
minutes to spare.
Edited by Lisa Campbell Tel: 0181-267 4894 E-mail: