Over the years, Open the Portal has had what executive producer, Jason Milov, refers to as, “The great fortune,” to collaborate with Adult Swim on a variety of projects. “We love working with them, as they have always encouraged us to get as creative as possible. When they asked us to come up with three new spots (one ‘Smiling Friends’ promo, one Adult Swim Festival promo, and one general AS promo) we thought it would be a really fun idea to create a trilogy that connected each.”

Directed by David Braun (Creative Director at Open the Portal)

“We are big fans of the show ‘Smiling Friends’ and when Adult Swim approached us with creating a spot for the series, we were super excited to bring that world to life in stop motion,” said Milov. “We used a mixture of approaches throughout the spot. The main opening shot was done with puppet animation, live action pixelation for the internal mouth shot, and clay animation for the trippy throat vortex. We love mixing different styles together to create a visually interesting yet cohesive journey.”

The team built the puppet out of felt and his dimensions were pretty large. “Rather than shooting upright we ended up shooting it on the downshooter to allow more control over the puppet,” Milov told us.

Directed by Lindsay Berkebile

“I’ve always been obsessed with teeth in general,” director Lindsay Berkebile told us. “I used the phrase ‘by the skin of my teeth’ with a coworker, paused, and realized that phrase is extremely gross and messed up. What if teeth actually had skin?”

The biggest challenge on this spot was the teeth skin itself. “Finding a material that was translucent, easily animatable, moldable, and the right color and texture required quite a bit of R&D,” Berkebile said. “We tried tea-stained tissues, colored KY jelly, paintable silicon, and many other material until we discovered putting a layer of quake gel onto the teeth as a base, then putting wet, tan colored, tissue paper over it. To animate the skin all I had to do was cut the excess or push around the material like clay. The extra quake gel was then used to animate the spit strands!”

The second biggest challenge was reportedly getting the adult swim logo to “splat” on the camera lens in perfect [AS] shape. “We made two renditions of the adult swim logo on two separate panes of glass. One stunt logo that we could ‘mess up’ as in-betweens and one hero logo for the final shot. The quake gel base made it easy to timelapse the hero logo ‘oozing’ down the lens. We then shot certain parts of the sequences backwards and edited it all together to seem like one single shot. Very little room for error!”

Directed by Luca Cioci

For this spot, the team decided to pull from the color palette and design elements that already existed for The Adult Swim Festival promotional materials. “We definitely wanted to lean into the ‘party vibe’ but with our own unique spin, while simultaneously finding a way to naturally fit the spot into our overall teeth trilogy concept,” Milov told us.

The bumper starts with a motion-controlled camera move of a miniature set, which lands on a night landscape made of an assembly of still images of real-scale buildings. The balloon in the sky was shot as a separate element in a tank filled with mineral oil. “We also filled the balloon with paint so that when it burst, the paint would drop to the bottom of the tank, covering the entire view of the camera, which is shooting upwards.The cat entering the second shot was puppeteered in the tank as well.”

One of the main challenges came from using the chattering teeth and mixing both stop motion with puppeteering. “But we felt that adding mechanical motion to the human movement would create an interesting effect. This choice also meant that the cat head had to fit onto the teeth without obstructing their motion, which dictated some very specific decisions on how the cat head was fabricated. The logo at the end was made of a sequin fabric and animated on a down shooter.”

For more on the shoots see the BTS images below!