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Television viewers across America are familiar with those disco-loving, hard-partying Budweiser Ants. In the first commercial spot produced by ad agency DDB Needham, television viewers were treated to computer generated ants, designed and animated by the hotshots at Digital Domain, a major force in the effects field. This time around, Digital Domain teamed up with one of the industry's leading character creators, Rick Lazzarini and The Character Shop, to introduce a new creature for the second Bud ants spot; a cute and fluffy anteater.

2.5 kb (Full size 13 kb)The commercial starts with a lone anteater sitting next to an ant mound. There is a bottle of Budweiser in the foreground, stuck upside down in another ant mound nearby. The anteater snuffles about, snorting and kicking up dust. He then sticks his nose into the empty ant mound, searching for a meal.

3.5 kb (Full size 13 kb)As he vacuums the inside of the ant hole, the Bud bottle starts to move; it seems that it's being tugged somehow. Suddenly, the bottle disappears underground. The anteater's eyes widen, and he pulls his nose from the hole. Oops! He's accidentally sucked the empty Bud bottle onto the end of his snout!

4.5 kb (Full size 18 kb)As he sits there with his Bud-bottle nose, puzzled and trying in vain to pull it off, he is interrupted by a curious parade: The famous ants do a victory dance in front of him to the tune of the Bee Gee's "Staying Alive", while carrying a new, ice cold bottle of Budweiser.

Bud Anteater Progress 1.6 kb (Full size 15 kb)The anteater is not real, of course, but it sure looks that way. It is a highly realistic animatronic puppet, created at The Character Shop in only four weeks' time. To begin, The Character Shop crew did extensive research on anteaters. "It was an exciting project to do because an anteater is such a unique creature." says Lazzarini. "I don't know that one's ever been done before." But because anteaters are so rare, it made the animal that much more difficult to research. "We did find some reference on an electronic encyclopedia, and we took a trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Bud Anteater Progress 2.7 kb (Full size 20 kb) Using photos and video footage from the Zoo, and a few photos from the odd animal book, the crew researched the size, form, fur, and movement of the giant anteater. The crew kept the creature's appearance close to reality, yet gave it enough character to appear cute and funny, stamping it with the popular trademark of many of Lazzarini's wonderful creations. Although it was very close to actual size, the anteater had to be scaled up about 15% to accommodate the size of the overscale prop Budweiser bottle.

The live-action portion of the commercial was shot at Vasquez Rocks, located a few miles southwest of Palmdale, California (the site of many an old Western and more than a few Star Trek episodes!). The animatronic puppet was animated by a combination of hand, rod and radio control, and it took a total of five skilled puppeteers to breathe life into this magnificent replica. Three of the performers worked underneath a raised 4 foot-high platform using rod puppetry (with mechanical enhancements) to animate the anteater's hands, feet, and head. Two other puppeteers used radio control to animated sophisticated mechanisms in the anteater's snout, nose snuffle, mouth, eyes, ears, and brow. The anteater also had another realistic touch. The character was able to look as if it were breathing as two rubber bladders placed under its chest fur (oh all right, they were Whoopee® cushions!) expanded and retracted. For the shot where the anteater snorts, creating clouds of dust, a flexible tube ran from the tip of its' snout to a can of compressed air. Two short taps on the valve trigger were enough for the snorts to kick up dirt realistically.

Bud Anteater Progress 3.7 kb (Full size 20 kb)Over the years, Lazzarini and his talented crew have developed a reputation as well-respected professionals capable of tackling the most difficult tasks. Working with materials like silicone, foam latex, urethanes, and epoxies, and utilizing the latest in electronic and mechanical technology, The Character Shop has crafted some very memorable creatures indeed.

Lazzarini is well-known for his work on such films as Operation Dumbo Drop, Outbreak and The Santa Clause; commercial spots featuring the Bud Frogs, Foster Farms Chickens and Duracell Toys, and for his frequent appearances on national television, including such shows as Entertainment Tonight, The Discovery Channel's Movie Magic, and Late Night with David Letterman.

Bud Anteater Progress 4.5 kb (Full size 15 kb) "You develop a real appreciation for the design of nature when you try to duplicate its colors, textures, forms, and movement," Lazzarini marvels, "to come even close is our great challenge, and on top of that we've got to be creative and add in an appealing character." He adds: "We're constantly striving to improve the believability of our creatures, so for someone to say "I thought that was REAL!" is one of the greatest compliments we can receive."



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