When The Character Shop does commercial work, we often take an entirely different stylistic approach to creating characters than we would on most feature films. Most commercials want to present a pleasing, upbeat image to consumers, so that you can relate in a positive manner to the characters associated with a company, and therefore feel good about their product. By and large, our commercial work consists of creating either whimsical characters or realistic creatures.

Many times, it's a subtle blending of both. A lot of ad agency ideas revolve around real creatures doing clever things they're not actually capable of. We'll be called on to create an animatronic animal, and have to make it believable enough to be able to intercut with shots of the real thing. However, if you study many animals' faces, you'll discover (unless they're really young and cute) they're actually kind of "hard" looking. They aren't equipped with a lot of facial expression because it's not necessary that they have them, and nature strives to be efficient, doesn't it? The predatory (or prey) look of a real animal's eyes can end up looking "cold" and "inhuman".

Our job? Make 'em friendly, approachable, likable. We anthropomorphize their facial features just enough; bringing "prey" eyes which normally look outward (looking dumb or vulnerable) forward for a more human-like, intelligent look, and adding brow movement for expression. We'll take a dark black eyeball and add a lighter margin around it to make it look more familiar. We'll add in smiles, lip and cheek movement to give it a range of expression. But you have to buy it. There's a thin line between "humanizing" the animals' physiognomy and making it look unrealistic. One of our strengths is in knowing just how much to keep authentic, and how much to modify the features so you believe it.

(Clicking links will take you to a larger version or a page detailing the work).

A ventriloquist dummy comes to life for Tool's Sam Cadman, directing for TBWA/Chiat-Day and Sprint. While traditional vent figures are controlled solely by hand, TCS went high-tech on this one and created a radio and cable controlled dummy that could seemingly rise and speak on his own. Who's in control of who?

Who wants a frozen chicken? Bob Rice at Plum Productions, that's who. To illustrate what you *won't* find when you buy from Perdue Farms. Puppeteered from below and with radio controlled eyes, blinks, and beak.

Feeling Sheepish? Biscuit Film's Noam Murro sure was, after TCS created this curly haired ungulate for a Cadbury Chocolate ad. Rod-controlled head, arms, and legs, with animatronic facial expressions including side-to-side chewing, eye, blink, brow, and ear movements.

Pinocchio tries to treat his old man to some lip-smackin' DiGiorno pizza, but his pathologic lies turn his proboscis super-sized! Pinocchio was achieved with a combination "man-in-a-suit" plus an insert animatronic head solution. We went for an "Olde World" carved wooden look to him. For expressiveness in close-ups, the R/C head controlled his jaw, lips, nose extrusion, eyes, and brows.

Biscuit Film's Noam Murro once again chose TCS to create a trio of grinning, dishing Desperate Hyenas for another Cadbury ad. Rod-controlled head and legs, with animatronic facial expressions including jaw, eye, blink, brow, and ear movements. All 3 could rise up, and one was rigged to dance on his hind legs.

The ever-popular FOSTER IMPOSTERS, a pair of goofy chicken character puppets designed and created by Rick Lazzarini and The Character Shop. Lovingly directed by Marc Chiat, these West coast ad scene veterans of 10 years and nearly 20 spots are beloved by the public, and are instantly recognizable.

Biscuit's Noam Murro gave NBA superstar Kevin Garnett quite a burden to bear. TCS helped take the load off for a soulful, funny, and impressive ad for Adidas called "Carry". TCS created a harness and lightweight dummies with realistic silicone hands, seamlessly matching the stunt performers sizes and shapes.

Gus is the new spokesanimal for the Pennsylvania Lottery, and PA lottery ticket sales shot up from $16 million a month to $22 million after Gus' campaign debuted! He's a sophisticated animatronic rod puppet. He has a foam body and a synthetic fur covering, but underneath he's like the Terminator, with machined aluminum joints, servomechanisms, and cables of steel!

Who's a good Bud RoboDog? Who? Who's a good doggy? Capable of sitting up, grabbing beers, rolling over, and exploding!

Do you want to sell beer, my friend? Do you want to udpate a corporate icon, compadre? Is increasing market share the kind of revolution you can get behind? Then come to TCS, as the Polar Beer has come, and feel the power of Pedroso. It does, how you say, improve the bottom line.


Well before "Team America", Young and Rubicam chose TCS to create Team Orbitz and Roman Coppola to direct them. High tech marionettes, these puppets features silicone faces with radio controlled jaws, eyes, and blinks. 6 main characters were designed, developed and created for this national campaign.

Whack a Pinata with a stick, and you may be surprised when he comes after you to retrieve the goodies! TCS built a running, jumping animatronic puppet for Wrigley's Juicy Fruit .


Traditional Cuckoo clock characters come to life for RSA-USA's John Schwartzman, for a Mohawk carpet ad. TCS carefully crafted a trio of rod puppets, sculpting and painting them to resemble the carved wood found on Tyrolean timepieces.

For Cadbury Chocolates' "Happiness" campaign, TCS designed and created an animatronic puma with radio-controlled, multiple-axis eye, brow, blink, nose, jaw, ear, and lip mechanisms. One slim-wristed puppeteer put her arms into custom-sculpted paw-sleeves, one puppeteer controlled the head with an external rod, while yet two more puppeteers handled its heaving, breathing chest and flicked its weighted tail .


For the debut of Apple's flat screen iMac, Director Kinka Usher chose TCS to figure out a way to make the comuter mimic an actor. That we did, using rod puppetry, white suits, and radio control. Heck, here at TCS, we can puppeteer just about anything and bring it to life!

For Sony Walkman, TCS created a bizarre little alien puppet named "Plato". There were two main bodies; one for walking scenes, and one for shots where the puppet was seated in one place. One of the coolest things about this puppet was it used an updated version of the Japanese "Bunraku" technique. Rick wore a special harness and foot plates, supporting the puppet and allowing it to mimic his walk.

For a Budweiser spot, TCS built three authentic-looking Galapagos Tortoise replicas. They featured hand-puppeteered head, neck, mouth, and breathing movements, and radio-controlled eyes, blinks, and brows. A urethane resin shell and a matte-finish foam latex skin complete the "look".

M&M's "M'Azing" candy bar campaign required that the bars magically unwrap themselves on camera. TCS made special duplicate hero non-melting bars, and engineered breakaway wrappers which allowed the bars to breathe and burst open in several different ways.

"Feed Me!" For a Steve Chase-directed Pizza Hut ad, TCS devised a ginormous Audrey Plant from the "Little Shop of Horrors". The big Audrey required a puppeteer behind her to operate her huge head, one man on her jaw cable control, a radio control for her lip and smile mechs, and 4-6 people on her leaves and vines, both using rods and marionetting using dacron cord.

Before the torrid love affair with Angelina, even prior to his dream marriage to Jennifer, Brad had a brief dalliance with...Kangaroos. For a Tu Ka cell phone commercial. In Japan. TCS created a full-sized animatronic kangaroo puppet, operated Bunraku-style again, with rods out the head and arms and plenty of R/C facial expression. Why did we never read about THIS one in the tabloids?

Animatronic cow puppets for MILLER LITE "Cowabunga" commercial. Three separate puppets were built, the largest having animatronic head, neck, tail, eye, blink, brow, nose, and jaw movements. Another front half paddled a surfboard into the ocean, and the third was a miniature for full on surfin' the tube, dude!

We've done all the Jack in the Box "Antenna Ball" spots for the past 5 years. Usually it's done with simple rods, although sometimes green screen, R/C, or even magnets. We keep those little guys movin'!

Remember these guys? TCS created slick, glossy animatronic puppets for the Duracell "Toys" campaign, back in the day!

A little pup turns vicious when an intruder breaks in, powered by Duracell, of course. This one a little more recent, and directed by Tool's Erich Joiner.

Radio-contolled animatronic Sandwich, directed by Plum's Bob Rice for Florida Orange Juice. Featuring foam latex bread and silicone lettuce, ham, tomato, cheese, olive and pimento replicas.

Traditional Nutcracker Puppets for a Pepto-Bismol holiday spot, directed by Gary Johns. Featuring a comination of rod and radio control, with movable jaws, eyes, brows, and blinks.

It's the famous BUDWEISER FROGS! TCS built a trio of animatronic puppets for several ads over the years, including "Speedboat". "Frozen", "True Love", "Truck", and "Alligator".

Speaking of frogs, here's another we built, this time for a European Citroen spot. Yes, that's Claudia Schiffer kissing our frog. I know, I know: It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it!

Is that a Bud in your claw, or are you just happy to see me? For Director David McNally, another famous Lobster spot. We created a number of lobsters, including one that ran away with all his nimbly little legs going, based on the mechanism Rick invented for the ALIENS Facehugger.

Before the implosion, ruled supreme. TCS created an animatronic piggy bank with the glosy look of ceramic, but with the flex and stretch of silicone rubber. Radio contolled and self-contained, it had head, jaw, and nose movements.

Brad, Harrison, and Charlie aren't the only ones going to Japan to pick up a little extra change. ET did a spot for Fuji Xerox, and TCS was picked to replicate Spielberg's famous progeny. Featuring a rod-operated head and arms, and Waldo® controlled facial expressions.

Had enough frogs yet? We sure haven't! Here's another one for Director Rent Sidon and Cheerios. A translucent silicone puppet, cable and Radio controlled, this one was able to give a big pucker-up in the hopes of...well, just getting a kiss from the princess!

For Tool's Erich Joiner and Ericsson Phones, TCS came up with three full alien suits, complete with hammerhead-like animatronic heads. Erich wanted one of the aliens to be chubby, so he picked Rick!

For a special Academy Awards spot, Director Richard Donner hired Rick and TCS to dream up this wicked-looking alien, featuring Waldo® controlled expressions, a flaring spiky frill, 4 eyes, and bizarre, petal like mouth protectors.

When Sony Playstation needed a bug-eyed, ranting, scorched sheep, the only logical place to turn was The Character Shop! With a (very hot) man in a suit and an animatronic head with over 30 functions and expressions.

If you're a dolphin, and you gotta get cross-country, basically your only solution is to fill up the convertible and hit the road! For Discovery Cove, TCS created a pair of silicone dolphin puppets, operated from below by scuba-breathing puppeteers with underwater communications and monitors. *Not* something you see every day!

"Where's the cream filling?" TCS created this cute-gone-creepy doll for Hostess and director Gary Johns. WIth a silicone skin formulated to look like flesh-colored vinyl, and R/C animatronic eye, blink, brow, jaw, and lip mechanisms. She also sported articulated cable controlled fingers and rod operated arms.

For an Oxygen ad, TCS went even further, designing a silicone skinned realistic baby arm, with articulated cable controlled fingers, with wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. "Was this Super Sunday's best spot? Best Spots says yes". See Barbara Lippert and Adweek sing the spots' praises!

TCS created a slew of slithering snakes for a Steve Chase-directed Coors spot. Silicone skinned, with motorcycle chains as their spines, these were rod or cable operated and featured sophisticated mechanisms that deployed the fangs forward when the mouth open, retracting them as they closed.

A realistic animatronic chicken for a Honda spot. Stands on fixed legs, but has cable controlled head, neck, tail, and wing movements, as well as radio controlled eye, blink, and beak. The silicone wattle and crest wobble realistically when the head moves.

This animatronic anteater for Budweiser was animated by a combination of hand, rod and radio control, and it took a total of five skilled puppeteers to operate. Two used radio control to animate sophisticated mechanisms in the anteater's snout, nose snuffle, mouth, eyes, ears, and brow.

A plastic, poseable action figure for Domino's Pizza. Featuring engineered joints, custom sculpt, and a shiny plastic paint job.

A patina'd bronze statue springs to life and comes in from the cold in this spot for Nicor energy. Composed of prosthetics and wardrobe work, TCS replicated a heroic aviator.

A totally animatronic vegetable head spokesman for a Kraft Salad Dressing spot. A la' Arcimboldo! Brows, blinks, eyes, cheeks, jaw, lips, and mustache operated via TCS' Facial Waldo®.

Another Tu Ka cell phone ad, this time with penguins. But there's only three of 'em here. Click to see *10 times* that amount! Radio, rod, and cable operated penguins, cell phones, and whiskey go together in the Land of the Rising Sun!

...not to mention Water Buffalo, Retriever puppies, a singing Sturgeon, a French Toast suit for Eggo, and many, many more!

For The Character Shop, commercial production accounts for half of all the fun we have, half the challenges and half the satisfying solutions. It also accounts for 50% of our income. We have a nice slice of the market share, and we're intent on growing this side of the business. Got a national spot or campaign that needs some believable characters? We're game!

For further details (and pictures) about our commercial work, see our individual sections on
Whimsical, Scary, Realistic, Prosthetic, Puppet, and Animatronic characters.

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