SAN DIEGO ZOO

KOALAFORNIA CAMPAIGN – “MONTAGE”

Director: Lorenzo Fonda
Client: San Diego Zoo
Agency: MC Saatchi LA
Creative director: James Bray
Agency producer: Dennis Disalvo
Copywriter: Maria Smith
Art director: Ron Tapia
Production company: Paydirt Pictures
Executive producers: Jonathon Ker, Jeremy Barrett, Dilly Gent
Producer: Skot Bright
Director of photography: Justin Gurnari
Production designer: Jade Altman
1st AD: James Heth
Stylist: Leila Baboi
Puppet maker: Lee Romaire
Casting: Prime Casting
Editing: Anthony Cerniello @ Bonch
Vfx & compositing: Bill Pollock @ Bonch

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At the beginning of 2013 the San Diego Zoo (world’s second best zoo, by the way- the first one is the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, in case you wondered) acquired around 20 koalas, which they were soon planning to insert into their own custom made habitat at the new Australian Outback exhibition. Since most of the people visiting the zoo come from southern California, MC Saatchi agency came up with the Koalafornia campaign, where little cute Koalas would “invade” California and do human things like there was nothing weird about it.

I worked closely with the creatives, starting from their scripts and adding some fun details here and there, while keeping in mind the limitations of having to work with a puppet and its respective puppeteers. We had a back up plan to go shoot real koalas at the zoo against green screen, in case the puppet didn’t look real enough; but when we saw the first comped footage we gladly realized we didn’t need that.

Overall, this was one of the most entertaining projects I’ve been part of. The campaign even won an award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for “Campaign Budget more than $175,000”.

PRODUCTION NOTES

The beginning of the puppet, a nicely sculputed head made of latex or silicon or something like that.

Progress!

Towards end of puppet fabrication, the puppet is put to test on the field, in the same space as a dog. Dog doesn’t seem to notice anything weird. Test passed.

Testing puppet resistance and making sure no drugs are hidden inside the animal.

This is how we shot the skateboarding koala. Sorcery!