Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chipotle's Scarecrow: It's a Beautiful "Thing"

When I first saw this film/video/advertorial I was stunned by the production values. It is wonderful animation. The details, the colors, the sound mix, it's jaw dropping beautiful.

Then I began to clue into the multi-layers of borrowed interest. Each element is taken from classic children's stories and films.  And I soon realized this is one very well calculated crazy quilt.

So I have taken it apart and here's what I've come up with:

First  and most obvious is the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. We all remember, he was on a quest to find a brain. In this situation,  mechanical crows buzz around threateningly.

Second is the music: it's the wonderful  "Pure Imagination" from Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory covered  by the fabulously talented Fiona Apple. But this time I began to feel uncomfortable. The original context of "Pure Imagination" is an uplifting declaration of wonder. I get goosebumps every time Gene Wilder sings this. It is a charming, endearing and heartfelt celebration of childhood in Willie Wonka. Not so here.  Here it is used to the opposite effect, with Apple's almost dirge-like rendering. It takes on a somewhat apocalyptic delivery being used as a further lesson to this assemblage.   But this very special song,  in this context, loses all it's magic and becomes threatening, eery, sad and kinda creepy.

The third layer is the  underlying statement of  anti-chicken and beef as food for us. It's symbolized in the form of sad repressed cows and hens aka Nick Parks claymation characters and the not so subliminal force fed, forced confined treatment these critters are subjected to before becoming big macs or Mcnuggets. It is an altered rendition and just a feather away from Park's Chicken Run movie.

So as Scarecrow leaves the "emerald city" in his cool old ford heehaw pickup, he has a
brainwave of how to save the world, the cattle, the chickens and the kids of the food eating future.

Overarching all of this is the bigger "marketing" statement where we see the Scarecrow
growing sun kissed fresh veg, vigorously chopping this fresh veg, cooking and serving fresh veg to the brave new fresh veg world/generation. The implied message being: we are a fresh new idea, we are just a small, farm fresh, organic, healthy good fresh food choice straight from our chemical free farm, freshly prepared as you wait and freshly delivered direct to you, you little brave new consumer.

However, being in the adbiz, there is a glaringly obvious message here:  The cost of producing this epic showpiece is astronomical. Only a big time corporation with deep deep pockets could afford the  expense of the over-the-top amazing animation, the usage cost of the music, the cost of Apple etc etc. Which I am sure they are going to try to recoup some by making this a game app.

This is one massively expensive crazy quilt.

Nothing down home and small about this.

The problem is: what the film depicts is not what you get at the Chipotle counter. There's no one chopping fresh veg in a Chipotle. Product comes right out of a mass produced fast food service like every other. So this is a real "bait and switch" for kids enamored by this film/game and dragging mom and dad into Chipotle. Chipotle is basically planting the seeds for swapping Ronald McDonald out for the Scarecrow in these kids heads.

And the more I really think about this, the more upset I am that whoever "created" this, took
the liberties of co-opting and changing children's stories icons by making them now mean something else. L Frank Baum, Roald Dahl, and Nick Park are geniuses. The people who took their creations
and bastardized and cobbled  them together to represent a story for selling burritos are not. The sadder aspect is the people that created this will take ownership off the work of others.... just to sell tacos and burritos. And little kids won't know better. Most kids won't ever know better.

So while I admire the production values for what they are, it all reduces  to a beautifully rendered and craftily crafted crazy quilt wrought object. Myself borrowing from another book/film, like Frankenstein, it's a thing. A piece of digital wonder that someone will build their career on as the next digimeister, filmster or ubergamer.