Directed by Dom & Nic, a humorous new Christmas ad reunites The Mill’s team with Fairy, voiced by actress/comedienne Dawn French. In this spot, Fairy finds herself befriending two reindeer-shaped mittens, voiced by A-listers Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, for their first taste of Christmas.

In 2022, the ad series helped M&S Food enjoy its biggest Christmas ever.

Fairy discovers Left and Right, two conjoined mittens accidentally dropped in the snow by their owner, a little girl named Lilly. Once inside, Fairy treats the mischievous mittens to some Christmas fun and games before leading them to a magnificent feast set on a dining room table. “This is not just food… This is M&S Christmas food,” says Fairy in closing the spot.

“The mittens were two of the most complex characters I have ever been involved in creating,” said Andy Steele, Creative Director, The Mill. “The team remade the underlying animated structural rigs several times in order to capture a range of motion and emotion. Having all this functionality in one rig – being able to see every knitted thread in the mittens, for example – offered creative freedom to shoot without cutting corners. The filmmakers even hired a professional knitter to fabricate real-life mittens as an essential camera and lighting reference on set!”

A materialistic approach played a key role in creating the real look and feel of a small child’s mittens. “We found inspiration for their movement style in Forky from Toy Story 4,” said David Bryan, Animation Director at The Mill.

Inspiration also came from Sesame Street and The Muppet Show in the way characters can speak convincingly with limited tools, focusing on “syncing the head and body of the mittens, paired with a simple yet charming mouth action, to match the energy in Rob and Ryan’s voice overs”.

Using features like the antlers on the mittens to express emotion, their body mechanics were informed by using a real mitten “to puppeteer animation references for some of the more technical actions, aiming to avoid distorting the body and legs too much or over-humanising their limbs”.

Creative Director Andy Steele added: “With such amazing voice talent for the performances, the animation team really invested themselves in the project. It’s not every day you get the chance to work with the likes of Dawn French, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. Everyone involved was really pumped about it, and you can see it in the creativity of the spot.”

Michael Burns

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