This week we feature a very snowy piece with a very warm feel for Petco. In “Saving Up,” a little boy (felted puppet) is saving up for a precious bike when he falls in love with a three-legged dog at a shelter near the bike shop. When he gets the bike for Christmas, he uses the money to get the dog with supplies from Petco. Ultimately the boy re-purposes the bike’s wheel as a way for the dog to get around more easily and keep up with him. The message from Petco, that it feels good to give, dovetails with their program to get something for your pet and donate one to an animal in need.

Alise Munson of Portland’s HouseSpecial animation studio spoke with us about the production. “This 90-second short film was made using felt to create 19 hand-made puppets and hundreds of props to give the piece a warm holiday feeling,” she told us. “The production included 10 detailed stop-motion sets (entire streets and multiple interiors), 30 tiny dog bones, hundreds of tiny decorative lights, five cars, eight dogs, two pink fuzzy dog balls the size of a pea, two tiny holiday mugs, a miniature hand-knitted sweater, a baby in a monkey costume, an actual working bicycle and yards of classic loft polyester batting to help create the snowy scenes.”

When we asked co-director Mark Gustafson about the tender moods created in the piece, he told us, “We approached the filmmaking with a sophisticated eye–the lighting and camera movement reflect an immersive, filmic aesthetic, featuring deep environments with strong graphic elements. Evening scenes are beautiful and cinematic, lit with miniature, practical “candles” and working light fixtures within the frame. Christmas morning is bathed in shafts of angled golden light that pour through the windows…washing the family gathered around the tree in the glistening magic that is Christmas.”

Although successful, the process was not without challenges. “VITRO’s script had a strong emotional message that hooked us on the first read,” Co-Director and Creative Director Kirk Kelley said. “Our biggest challenge was a five-week schedule to bring the story to life—from storyboarding through design, build, animation and post—and with the collaboration of the Petco & VITRO teams, we succeeded in creating compelling characters and the visually engaging world of ‘Saving Up.’”
Petco’s “Saving Up” debuted on November 19, 2018 with a national television run, as well as in movie theaters coast to coast. The spot is also online and has earned around 7 million views on YouTube as 2018 ended.

For more on the production see these behind the scenes images taken by Jay Lee:

Petco – Saving Up
Agency: VITRO
Animation Production: HouseSpecial
Co-Director.ECD: Kirk Kelley
Co-Director: Mark Gustafson
Executive Producer: Lourri Hammack
Producer: Julie Ragland
Art Director: Gee Staughton
DP: John Nolan
Editor: Cam Williams
Flame Artist: Rex Carter

Storyboard Artist: Alan Long
Illustration: Alan Long
Character Designer: Gee Staughton
Art Director: Gee Staughton
Co-Art Director: Andy Berry
Production Design: Jenn Ely, Stephen Bodin

Sculptor: Katie Mello, Toby Froud
Armaturists: Katie Mello, Chris Ohlgren
Character Fabricators: Margaret Meyer, Elodie Massa, Maeve Callahan, Suzanne Moulton, Sara Neiman
Painters: Jess Bronk, Polly Robbins, Sara Neiman, Jenn Ely, Elecia Beebe, Javid Howell
Prop Fabricators: Toby Froud, Teresa Huarte,
Greg Boettcher, Bryan McIntyre, Mattie Bowden, Joe Schmidt
Set Fabricators: Rob Melchior, Chris Caniglia, Zachary Sheehan, Matt Reslier

Animator: Wendy Fuller, Chris Ohlgren, Bartek Prusiewicz
Swing/Electric/Grip: Jake Hauswirth, Clay Connally, Jay Lee
Wrangler: Shami Lang-Rinderspacher, Mattie Bowden, Rob Melchior
Motion Control: John Nolan
Art + Stage Manager: Erica Johnson

TD.VFX Supervisor: Karl Richter
Matte Painting: Stephen Bodin, Alan Long
Nuke Compositor: John Corbett
Modeling.Texture Artist: Jane Byrne
Lighting Artist: Matt Reslier
Animator: Chris Ohlgren

Art Dept. Production Coordinator: Calvin Davis
Production Assistant: Alex Webster, Zoe Hays, Tori Milhollin

Compositing Artist: Rex Carter
Media Tech Support.Tape Room Op: Hamilton Barrett
Editorial/Post Dept. Manager: Cam Williams

Singing Serpent
Composer: Masaya Ozaki
Sound Design: Jon Fuhrer