Classic Seventies Advertising

Chris Padilla recently hipped me to some visually striking animated spots from the 1970s. Chris actually showed some of these commercials theatrically as part of his late-70s theatrical release Fantastic Animation Festival. The spots have an exciting spirit of innovation and are in a wholly different league from the mainstream work being produced in the industry during that period. Some of the ads are notable for their groundbreaking use of computer animation, while others use processed live-action to achieve an effect similar to Bob Sabiston’s techniques on Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. The agency art director for the Levi’s campaign was Bay Area-based artist Chris Blum.

Levi’s “The Stranger”
AD: Chris Blum

Levi’s “Walking Trademark”
Studio: Robert Abel & Associates
Director: Richard Taylor
AD: Chris Blum

Levi’s “Rodeo”
Studio: Duck Soup Produckions
Director: Roger Chouinard
Studio AD: Mel Sommer
Agency AD: Chris Blum

Mark Kausler, of It’s the Cat fame, animated on the “Rodeo” commercial. I asked him if he could share a few memories:

Duck Soup did that one, Roger Chouinard directed it. The late, great Mel Sommer was the art director at Duck. It’s mostly processed live action (the cowboys), Xeroxed onto cels and then we animated the clothes as if they were herds of cattle. I did the opening scenes, it took a lot of hours to do that shot where the clothes “fan out” as the cowboys ride alongside. In the end, I don’t like this spot very much, too much work for too little pay. Animating disembodied pants and shirts was no fun at all, no eyes, no personality. I guess now computers would “animate” stuff like this, they can have it!

7-UP
Studio: Robert Abel & Associates
Director: Richard Taylor
There’s another spot from the same campaign on Taylor’s site


  • http://www.studioaka.co.uk Philip

    Hi Amid – That’s Ken Nordine on “The Strangerâ€? & “Walking Trademarkâ€?! One of my two favorite voices of all time.

    More: http://www.wordjazz.com/

  • Half

    Wow. The Stranger really took me back. Now I realize that, even then, it was the voice that drew me. Ken Nordine , the man who gave the E to earnest.

  • Steve Gattuso

    These bring back memories. Not just of the 70′s, but of what I’ve run into since. The cels for some of these commercials are in the ASIFA-Hollywood archives, and I’ve had the luck to be able to examine them up close.

  • http://www.strugglingyoungman.com Shaw

    These are some of my favorite ads too, and I think they wouldn’t have the same spirit if they were all done by computer.

    Ever see this 7-Up ad:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLjoES7v2z8
    Really strange one done in Yellow Submarine style.

    It beats this one by about a million miles:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8ElcpYcGvs

    Still I kinda miss these:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYYSKkKOWT0

    And here’s 7Up’s strange mascot from (I believe) the 90s(?):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bw5BDct1ss

    And computer generated in a really strange ad from India:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr6PbjvSgEs

  • Carolyn Bates

    “The Stranger” was directed by my sister-in-law, Lynda Taylor (college pal but no relation to Richard Taylor). She directed & produced a number of great Levi ads, including “PlugFoot,” “Miner,” and “Harvest.” Duck Souper’s Mel Sommers, Arnie Wong, Kunimi Terada, Ed Hartley, Peggy Murakami and I had the pleasure of freelancing on some her ads. Lynda created some of her early Levi ads while at John Urie’s studio, where Roger Chouinard also worked briefly before starting Duck Soup Produckions with Duane Crowther. Lynda directed some seminal animation sequences in “Groove Tube,” “Cracking Up,” and “Tunnelvision.”

  • chuck

    Thanks for that posting!

    I’m sorry to say, I don’t remember seeing any of those, but I have a vivid recollection of another 70′s Levi’s spot that was done in a pixellation technique very similar to Norman McLaren. The jingle was country-ish and very memorable: “Good mo-ornin’ world. I’m ready for you-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo. I’m wearing mah Levis— Wheee-hee-hee-hee-hee, Levis!

    Someone out there tell me I didn’t dream it.

  • Jenny

    What fun to see those.

    I met Roger Chouinard(preeminent Little Lulu collector) through his daughter Christine when we were teenagers, got all squicked out when she mentioned who her dad was(who did in fact go to “Chouinard” the art school as did his first wife–no relation, though), and visited Duck Soup, obvious model for that series “Duck Factory”, They had beautiful Corny Cole boards for a 9 Lives Sylvester spot on the walls. I used to think that if a studio career didn’t happen I hoped I could work there. It seemed idyllic, a very sunny place to work. Does it still exist as a studio? Roger btw also had the most gorgeous home studio I’ve ever seen. Now there’s an idea for a Flickr set.

  • amid

    Thanks for the memories, Carolyn. Great to hear!

    Jenny – The studio is around though the name has changed to Duck Studios. Their site is DuckStudios.com.

  • http://www.jjsedelmaier.com J.J. Sedelmaier

    Wow ! There’s a plethora of stuff to talk about in this posting of spots !

    Levis’ and Foote Cone & Belding (FCB) in San Francisco should be congratulated for their innovative use of rotoscoping and opticals. People forget the preproduction that was necessary to lay in all the effects before all things digital came into play, and when film was the medium. Colossal Pictures eventually dove in on some great Levis’ work as well. 7Up worked with Bob Abel – who really pioneered CGI in the 80′s – as well as Goldsholl Associates out of Northbrook, Il.

    and by the way, the “strange mascot” used in the 7up spot is Fido Dido created by Sue Rose of Pepper Ann, and Angela Anaconda fame. I worked on 4 or 5 of these when i was at the Ink Tank, and later produced them (including the one on YouTube) out of White Plains. The one above was animated by Doug Compton. i always loved the flip of the can that Doug added for Fido to open the pop-top.

  • http://blackwingdiaries.blogspot.com Jenny

    Thanks, Amid–that site is really worth a visit–so many spots and under the heading “Brownies”(?!), there’s a selection of personal work by some of the Duck people. Fascinating!

    The subject of commerical animation and this era in particular are overlooked; this is a terrific entry for CB. Thanks again!

  • Jamie Mitchell

    Hmm – seems this commercial was designed/directed by Bob Mitchell

  • Quiet_Desperation

    Wow. I remeber all of these. The walking trademark was a favorite of mine as a kid.

    I look at the “Stranger” comercial now and think, holy crap, did people actually go out in public with those?

    These days I wear Lee jeans. Half the cost and last twice as long. Especialy the brown and tan ones for some reason.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I remember seeing a couple of these ads years ago due to that video release for “Fantastic Animation Festival” that stuck the Levi’s “Stranger” ad and the 7-Up on it (though not a terribly great-looking quality due to being a nearly 30 year old recording using a less-quality video transfer).

    That one 7-Up ad someone mentioned here…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bw5BDct1ss
    That’s “Fido Dido”, created by Joanna Ferrone and Sue Rose in the mid 80′s (conceived on a restaurant napkin even) but became a mascot for 7-Up in most foreign markets.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fido_Dido

  • doug holverson

    Here’s my favorite animated commercial. Few people remember this one, and many of those pass it off as a dream or figment. It was airing at the time I was in junior high, which was when Watergate, OPEC, an UFO flap, and a whole lot of inflation was going on. Just think, only five years to go from a druggy psychedelic Underground Comic to a squeaky clean kiddie advert.

    I miss Nesbitt’s, Nehi, Lane’s, and Goodie. I wish I could find some in the Omaha area. (Well, that and Chronos freezer gyros.)

  • Carolyn Bates

    That Nesbitt Orange commercial was another great one from Duck Soup, designed & directed by Roger Chouinard. Duck’s Kunimi Terada remembers Gary Mooney animating, and she inked. They still have wonderful cel setups of this spot at the studio. PS, the 7Up “Spot” campaign was a collaboration – Richard Taylor was the official director & he shot the live action but Duck Soup produced all the cel animation for the “Spot” campaign. John Howley directed the animation on “Vacuum” and Becky Bristow was one of the animators.

  • http://www.cganim.com chuck

    Are there any Youtube spots by Bob Kurtz @ Kurtz and Friends?? I love Kitty Salmon ” Foolish Cat” & Chevron ” Dinosaur” both I believe from the 70′s??

  • http://wardomatic.blogspot.com Ward

    Man, that “Walking Trademark” and hearing Nordine’s deep voice waxing eloquent about the glory of Levi’s really brings me back to my childhood. I loved that whole Levi’s campaign. There was something so ethereal about it, even to a youngin’ like me.

  • Corey K.

    “Ken Nordine , the man who gave the E to earnest.”

    Which E?

  • David C

    Chuck, the commerical you’re looking for might be this one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPD46zL4Ne0

    My personal favorite is this Claymation Levi’s commercial:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JRxwZ146L4

    I found it last week, after years of wondering if I’d ever see it again. As a kid, it really inspired me – great song, great guitar work, clever animation with a mix of live elements… But (as a King Kong fanatic) what really cinched it for me was the appearance of the clay gorilla. I used to watch television just hoping to see that commercial! It had me convinced that being an animator was the best job in the universe.

    I’ve always assumed that it was Vinton’s work, but haven’t been able to verify it.

  • http://pending Mark Kausler

    It’s nice to be remembered, Doug and Caroline. I animated the scenes in Nesbitt’s Orange from the kid with the propeller cap sipping the soda, through the dog lapping up the soda around the fire hydrant, up to the pinball scene, which might have been “Moon”‘s. Duane Crowther did the boardroom sequence at the end of the spot, you can’t miss his “index finger acting” when the soda bottle says “You’ve got a lot to l’orange” in the penultimate scene. Too bad Kunimi doesn’t remember me any more, I love ya, Ku!

  • Carolyn Bates

    Oops, sorry about that Mark! I’ll rib Kunimi-san about that. She thought Duane had done a bit but wasn’t entirely sure. That Nesbitt’s spot is also my favorite of the more than 1500 jobs Duck has produced, although I also love the Woody Woodpecker & Wally Walrus that you animated for Sam Cornell’s Woody Woodpecker Show titles.

  • Corey K.

    The animated Levis ad I’ve always wanted to see again – just because it was such an odd fever-dream I want confirmation that it’s real – featured someone bicycling up to a big, surreal fast-food drive-in and asking what “flavor” Levis cords and jeans they’ve got. “RASPBERRY-AND-CHOCOLATE!” says a robotic voice. He makes his selection and is then suddenly encased in a gigantic styrofoam container like they used to use for burgers at McDonald’s, and he squeakily rides off.

    Anyway. I can’t find that one on YouTube.

  • http://itsthecat.com Mark Kausler

    Carolyn, please excuse the mispelling of your name in my previous comment. Thanks for the compliment on the Woody and Wally animation, that was a highlight of my freelance career, I love drawing those characters!

  • http://- Fred Bosick

    HEY, Where can I get a video of the Nesbitt’s Orange commercial? An audio recording would be sufficient. I’ve been looking for this for years. Thank you!

  • Gary Mooney

    Hi Mark.. Moons, huh?
    I’m the guy who got you started in the business out here, lol.
    Remember Quartet? You were just a kid wanting to break into the
    animation business.

    What the hell are you doing these days? I’m retired and living in the country with my wife dogs, horses and cats.