Thursday, July 8, 2010

Simply UnBEARable

Yesterday my father linked me to an article on my University's news page about how the campus Ad Lab recently teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Ad Council to create a new video about fire safety featuring Smokey the Bear. You remember Smokey, right? Smokey was awesome. He was pretty much the coolest mascot ever besides Tony the Tiger. In fact, if Smokey and Tony joined forces, I can bet you that we'd all be sitting around safely contained campfires eating Frosted Flakes instead of doing whatever other lame things we're doing right now. But I digress. Apparently the folks over at the Forest Service wanted to re-imagine Smokey for the younger generation. My father insists that the only way to effectively re-imagine a mascot is to have it rap, but Smokey has already rejected that idea because he knows rap sucks and will not stoop to the lowest common denominator, as evidenced here:
Click here to watch
(This is the old Smokey, of course. You can tell because he's so manly that he could put out a fire just by folding his arms and looking sternly at it. It's times like this that I wish I was a lady bear.)
However, for the NAC, "re-imagining" apparently means 3D animation, and because they didn't want to do it themselves, they decided to turn to college students as a clean, legal source of cheap labor. Now, BYU has a fantastic animation program, and in the highly capable hands of the animation students, any project is bound to flourish. Sadly, nobody informed the NAC of this when they came to BYU in want of an animated educational video about Smokey the Bear, so they gave the project to the BYU Ad Lab.
Long story short, this happened:

I don't know who was the supervisor for this, or how long they were asleep for, but I'm pretty sure they need to be fired. Another person who needs to be fired is whoever gave the okay for this to be released as an official video for the U.S. Forest Service. I mean really, this is just bad. The whole thing looks like it was written, animated, and voiced entirely by one bewildered Freshman with a beginner animation program. Of course, I might have been able to leave the video alone -- just walk away and brush it off as another bad educational video -- had it not been for this article, which praises the project highly, making it sound like a brilliantly crafted piece of educational media. It is this alone that stirs in me an intrinsic desire to tear this video a new one.

Now, as much as I dearly wish to talk about why the video is terrible, I really have no idea where to start, so I guess I'll just go from the top and work my way down:
The opening was fine; just some clouds. Pretty standard stuff for something like this. It wasn't until I encountered the sheer baby-eating terror that was the character models that I began to worry. I tried to be fair. I told myself that the students worked hard on this video for seven months and it wouldn't be fair for me to make fun of it. I asked myself "What if this were my project?" and tried to put myself in the place of the creators. Of course, as I did that, the very next thought into my head was "Oh, wait! If it were me, I would make sure my character designs weren't terrifying before I let it see the light of day." After that I felt justified.
And now, some bullet points:
  • Once upon a time, it was the 80's and animation looked like this.
  • Bad writing + Bad voice acting = terrible characters
  • Aryan male is the hero, girl and black boy are na├»ve simpletons, Latino boy just wants to torch the forest. Oops. Attempt to give characters diversity: Failed
  • Hitler Youth can talk to trees. Why? Nobody knows. They never speak of this power again. Plot hole status: Gaping
  • Worst animated bunnies ever. Project is officially sunk.
  • Smokey has a depressing backstory. The past was drawn in crayon; ask your grandparents
  • "In Soviet Russia, forest burns you.”
  • Smokey is intensely creepy. After much deliberation, I realized it's because he has no fur. Also because he has no soul and wears suspicious jeans.
  • Don't worry. Smokey followed safety regulations and put the fire out properly after roasting those kids.
  • Creepy dad is creepy. He is definitely an accomplice.
  • Creepy dad and Smokey hit the gay bar after hiding the evidence.
  • Rule #1 of fire safety “Only you can prevent wildfires” isn't a rule, it's a slogan. Get it off the list.
  • Cousin Eden says: What about wildfires caused by lightening, diptards?
  • Hey kids! Always annoy every random bearded stranger you meet in the woods about fire safety and a bear in a hat will give you a shiny ranger badge. “Go go, Forest Rangers!” *guitar solo*
  • Ranger Lupe has no purpose. Her existence is a hollow lie. Please to be giving her a purpose, or cutting her from the movie. Thank you.
I don't really know what else to say except for that I hope nobody on the outside ever finds out that this video was made by BYU, or we've lost our reputation forever. Heck, even the target demographic (ages 5-8) isn't going to be fooled into thinking this is good animation. They've grown up with Pixar for pete's sake! Of course, I don't think that this one is really the fault of the students at the Ad Lab. I've seen what the Ad Lab can do. So, what, I ask you, happened here? My theory is that somebody on the NAC wrote the script and the poor Ad Labbers were dragged kicking and screaming along with it. My other theory is that the Ad Lab isn't the animation department, and so they should not be making animations (this theory is not quite so solid; more of a hypothesis really, but I think it has good potential, so I'm seeing if I can get it approved by the committee.) As you can see, I'm doing my darndest to pin this one on the NAC because I respect the competence of my peers. I know how hard it is to have to complete a project in an unfamiliar medium. Until proven otherwise, I'm going to assume that they were held at gunpoint for the entirety of this project.
My final word: The NAC needs to try harder, writing should be left to the writers and animation to the animators, and those members of the production team of this unfortunate creation should seriously consider releasing it under the name Alan Smithee.
As for Smokey, he doesn't need a re-imagining. All he needs is a shovel, a deep, manly voice, and that good old song:

"Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear.
Prowlin' and a growlin' and a sniffin' the air.
He can find a fire before it starts to flame.
That's why they call him Smokey,
That was how he got his name. "


Steph-a-Neph said...

Wow. Or perhaps Woe. My eyes won't stop bleeding now...I think we need to sign a petition or summat that will enable the COMPETENT people to redo this wretched "Instructional Video." It needs to be burned, and then all memory of its existence erased from everyone who was forced to be in close proximity to it at any time.
P.S. Er, if you didn't want the outsiders to know that this video was done by BYU, you shouldn't have blogged about it. The End
*Approve Stamp*

Adam James McLain said...

Smokey's always had a depressing backstory though...that's his true backstory...


Wow. That...was...terrifying. They didn't even blink. I'm glad I have an entire day to remove this from my mind.

Songster said...

Good grief. That is hilarious. My suggestion would be to add a little senseless and random violence to the film. Smokey should kill the children after their fire gets out of control and roast them in the flames, devouring their flesh thereafter. Then it would pass as a good spoof AND warn children about trusting strange bears. And starting forest fires, of course.

You should post the Ad Lab's Dorito video to salvage our reputation. That is an awesome piece of advertising and should reassure the masses as well as psyches.

Jessica Grosland said...

I was trying to figure out why Smokey, whom I love so very much, was creeping me out in this video. Then I realized it!

Dark-skinned (not furred. serious problem), deep voiced, lives in the forest, barely wearing those pants (talk about low riders). This all adds up to one thing:

Jacob Black.

Yes, they used the poor, pubescent werewolf/shapeshifter of the Twilight "Saga" as a model for Smokey's new look.

Is it any wonder we're all so sad?

Jessica Grosland said...

P.S. The blonde kid talking to a tree looked like Draco Malfoy, only more of a pansy.

Kelsey Griselda said...

I think you just showed me my new favorite movie.

Thank you.

Meg said...