More reptiles being used for Budweiser, this time it’s tortoises. Not turtles, but tortoises as a tortoise has rough round feet while turtles have flat feet. This is a common mistake that occurs in every cartoon that implies that they are both the same when they are two different species of reptiles. Much like the issue of people getting Hares & Rabbits or Crocodiles and Alligators mix up for not looking at the small details on what makes them different from each other. With that biology lesson a side, let’s talk about the commercial in general about these two tortoises.
The commercial starts with two tortoises resting on the shore of a beach. Which both of them see two enviormentalists who both finished work and about to enjoy having two bottles of Budweiser. Once their backs are turn, one of the Toitoises stands up and dashes to the area where the bottles are. It immediately throws them to it’s friend which happens to have a cooler built inside it’s shell. The shell closes back in place once the beer is inside. The running tortoise returns to it’s original spot right before the two humans turn around and discovered their beer has been stolen. No one else in sight other than the tortoises themselves which both the two enviromentalists are probably thinking “No way a tortoise can run that quick!”. While the two tortoises now have some beer to enjoy once the humans left their beach.
The commercial was made by none other than the Character Shop company, and I’m sure you all know who they are right about now. The commercial in general was directed by Dave Merhar who also directed commercials for Hyundai, Snickers, Polaroid, ESPN, General Mills, Heineken and Lincoln Mercury. The location of the ad was filmed at a beach in Florida, December 2000. It took four weeks to film the entire commercial, however obstacles were in the way of Dave Merhar. The original idea was to use real tortoises for the commercial, however obtaining the right size reptiles and transporting them to the spot was time consuming and expensive. Plus actual tortoises can’t be tame to do what you want them to do. A lesson the production team behind Caddyshack learn that you can’t teach an actual gopher to do tricks. So they did what Caddyshack did, use an animatronic puppet for the commercial. So they hired the Character Shop company because of their genius work in animotronics and special effects.
To accomplish the appearance of the tortoises, Merhar and the Character Shop team did a series of mock-up tests using different sized and statured actors, and had them run, jump, and move within a mockup tortoise shell.They finally found the perfect performer for the role which is Michael Munoz, a 4 1/2 foot tall man who had what it takes to be a tortoise. Once the size of the creatures had been established, the crew went to work creating the sculptures and molds of the heads, legs, shells, and tails. Two puppets, and one ‘action suit” would be created, as well as various insert pieces. In a particularly striking bit of luck, the crew discovered an actual Galapagos shell that was 4′ long; the perfect size. Los Angeles biologist/naturalist/lecturer Dana Bleitz provided the team an actual shell which just happened to have been the shell of a tortoise that was, at the time of its’ death at the San Diego Zoo, the largest Galapagos Tortoise in captivity.
The shells, lightweight and thin, were duplicated in fiberglass cloth and polyester resin, and painted to perfection. The puppets were designed to accommodate two puppeteers; one for the front legs and shell, and one to handle the head, neck, breathing, and mouth movements. Off screen puppeteers operated the tortoise’s eye blinks and movements via radio control. While the latest advances in synthetic prosthetic skins favor silicone, the team decided to go with foam latex as the material of choice for the tortoises’ skin. Reason was Lazzarini (who puppeteered the head of the lead tortoise) explains, “These tortoises had a very matte finish to them. The other benefit was that the skins ended up being lighter, which is a saving grace. Anyone who’s ever had an animatronic puppet head at the end of their arm …horizontally…can appreciate the difference that the elimination of even two ounces can make.” Finally, foam latex had the ease of paintability, and the stretchability needed to simulate realistic tortoise skin.
Having four puppeteers underneath the tortoise required digging a large hole in the sand. A task proven difficult, since the “perfect’ location just happened to be above a foundation of sharp, hard-to-dig coral. Once excavated, the pit was then covered with plywood, reinforced with vertical struts, and covered with sand. Joining him under the puppets were Character Shop puppeteers Erik Shaper, Stephen Blandino, and the mercifully compact Michael Munoz. “Escape” hatches were provided in case of an emergency, and Lazzarini provided himself with a bottle in case it was a long shooting. Equipped with video monitors, the puppeteers were able to do numerous takes, and give Merhar and the client plenty of material to choose from. Then it was Munoz’ turn; he showed he had the mettle and the energy to run across 50 feet of sand numerous time. A tiring experience even without having to wear a hot, stuffy tortoise suit.
While just a one time pair of beer mascots, the Budweiser Tortoises were probably the most unique beer mascots I’ve reviewed yet. The tortoise with the cooler inside his shell was probably the reason why I regarded them to be unique. I wouldn’t be surprised that the Character Shop team got the idea of Cecil Turtle’s shell upon the making of this commercial. As in one of the fewest Looney Tune characters to out wit Bugs Bunny. No merchanside deal was made on the Tortoises much like how the Lobster from last week had no merchandise at all as well. I know I said I’ll do one month of Beer mascots, but I decided to do one more for next week and then do something else. The next one will involve the “Wassup” quote.