CAMPAIGN CRAFT: CRAFT SECRETS - Snails turn up the tempo for Guinness showpiece/AMV BBDO had to overcome tired snails and a hurricane to capture the race. Margaret Patrick reports

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’.

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

live action.

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:

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