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Festive campaigns are not the time for subtle in-camera effects, it’s the time of year to be bold and experiment with cutting-edge visual effects techniques to enhance the emotion and magic of the season. 

With that in mind, Coffee & TV’s Head of CG, Martin Allan and Head of Flame, Nick John sat down with a mince pie to watch this year’s Christmas ads and give their verdict on the on-screen magic of Christmas. 

Argos The Book of Dreams

Martin Allan: “This ad is a really good example of well executed and integrated VFX, without being over the top. The transitions are excellent and the shots with the girl sliding down the banister onto the drummers stool look seamless.

If anyone ever needs a good reference of how to do product placement well, use this ad. All brands are subtly placed within the sequence to highlight Argos’ catalogue to the audience; for example, the TV featuring promo, the washing machines as the stage, and the dry ice coming from the fridge and kettle - genius!

A lovely advert which doesn’t feel too cynical.

Finally, the narrative is very relatable. I really connect with the idea that the dad is buying a present for his daughter, but really he wants it for himself...that’s men for you! A lovely bit of xmas bants, illustrated with understated and engaging visuals.”

Nick John: “Agreed, a lovely advert which doesn’t feel too cynical whilst also promoting Argos’ brands - a rare trick. They’ve got the right balance of styling visually, it’s not overdone for comical effect or too showy. Banger of a tune, also!”

Argos – The Book of Dreams

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Aldi Christmas Spectacular

Martin Allan: “Robbie Williams has been turned into a carrot called Kevin! It’s a fun way to break away from the usual dish of 'digitally enhanced' sprouts and to show Aldi’s offering for the traditional Christmas dinner table.

I’m most pleased to see a fart joke in there at the end.

While the character design and animation is simple, it does the job of drawing you into the playful narrative. There is a sack (sorry had to) of nice moments where you can see carefully considered and intricately rigged details, such as the holly juggling its red berries around the turkey. I’m most pleased to see a fart joke in there at the end, being a vegetarian at Christmas, I can relate to that!”

Nick John: “Aldi, Christmas and The Greatest Showman! Big fan of all three. Good fun and the food looks delicious.”

Aldi – Christmas Spectacular

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TK Maxx Gift Different

Martin Allan: “An interesting and kitsch take on Xmas. They also haven’t followed the “historical” trend of other brands this year. In my view they have successfully achieved the ‘wobbly’ VFX look so the audience knows it is tongue in cheek, rather than just being rubbish.”

I really like the look and tone of this, it sits well with TK Maxx as a brand.

Nick John: “Lots of lovely 2D composite work (*rubs hands). I really like the look and tone of this, it sits well with TK Maxx as a brand and it complements the script and the comical talent performance nicely.”

TK Maxx – Gift Different

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Very Pass the Parcel

Martin Allan: “This is an exceptionally nice piece of work, with a great communal message at Christmas time. The look and characters work really well with the animation. One observation would be that the highly-skilled design of the old man could be directly compared to Pixar’s work. With so much content being made today, it’s clear that it’s getting harder and harder to create original looks.”

Very – Pass the Parcel

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WWF Adopt a Better Future

Nick John: “I am a total sucker for stop-frame in all forms and I absolutely loved this. The creators went above and beyond with nice embellishments with some practical 2D and 3D elements. It created some arresting images and promoted a very worthwhile cause.”

WWF – Adopt a Better Future

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John Lewis Excitable Edgar

Martin Allan: “As always, John Lewis has delivered an extremely well-executed VFX spectacular. As the retailer is at the forefront of all the brands when it comes to Christmas ads, I think creating a slick brand film rather than a product placement driven commercial allows John Lewis’ offering to be remembered.

Edgar the Excitable Dragon is nicely crafted and he sits into the photo-real environment convincingly. The dragon’s eyes feel very strong for his facial features but the animation to convey his emotions is exceptional.”

Christmas ads would be nothing without a sprinkle of CG glitter or snow.

Nick John: “Hats off, this film is technically flawless, you can clearly see the amount of work that’s gone into the whole commercial. Christmas ads would be nothing without a sprinkle of CG glitter or snow, and the blizzard in this film gets an impressive. It’s not easy creating festive magic!”

John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners – Excitable Edgar

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Tesco Delivering Christmas

Martin Allan: “Very likeable idea to have a Tesco van man from the future delivering food to iconic periods in our history to celebrate 100 years of Tesco. I personally like the ravers! The VFX is a completely over the top stylistically, but it works well in the context of the advert.”

The VFX is a completely over the top stylistically, but it works well in the context of the advert.

Nick John: “Back to the Future is my go to Christmas hangover movie, so points there. I couldn’t find much to fault with the VFX. Yeah, there is a lot going on, but Christmas is the one time of the year you can go wild with matte painting or CG snow particles... so why not Tesco! My only gripe is the mashed up ravers would probably have the appetite of a sparrow so points deducted for authenticity there. Jokes aside, a solid effort.”

Tesco – Delivering Christmas

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