Marcell Jankovics Animation Used In A Super Bowl Spot

Licensing old songs has been a staple of TV advertising in recent times, but could licensing animated shorts become the next trend in the world of commercials? Brew reader Joshua points out that a GMC Yukon Hybrid commercial aired during yesterday’s Super Bowl repurposed animation from Marcell Jankovic’s 1975 Oscar-nominated short Sisyphus. Watch the commercial above.

The message delivered is not entirely effective but that’s not the fault of Jankovics’s animation, rather in how they decided to use it. In fact, it’s to Jankovics’s credit that a short film he made over thirty years ago looks as fresh and vital as any contemporary piece of animation. So who’s next? Will other ad agencies take a cue and begin making use of visually striking animated shorts like Norman McLaren’s Begone Dull Care or John Hubley’s The Adventures of an *? Considering how well some of these films hold up graphically, and also the fact that the average TV viewer has never seen these films, there are a lot of fascinating possibilities.

And speaking of Marcell Jankovics, last week I wrote about his rarely seen (but must-see) animated feature Fehérlófia. The comments in that post are well worth reading including a particularly nice commentary about Jankovics’s work by Aeon Flux creator Peter Chung.


  • Andrew

    No kidding! I saw this when it aired, and what’s worse is that *I* didn’t even know it was from something created 30 years ago in an unrelated project! *shakes head*

  • Doug Vitarelli

    It was great to see Sisyphus outside of art school. I always loved that movie. I agree the commercial was that great but that animation always does it for me.

    Now how about Free Radicals by Len Lye? That might be good for a liquor or a drug ad!

  • http://inklingstudio.typepad.com David Nethery

    I saw that commercial during the SuperBowl and I wondered if you’d comment on it . My first thought was that it was a rip-off of Marcell Jankovics’ work. When you say it was “re-purposed” for the GMC Yukon hybrid ad , do you mean that the agency actually paid Marcell Jankovics for the use of his design and his animation ? I hope so.

  • John Tebbel

    I was going to a lot of animation festivals 30 years ago and remember it well. It really made me sit up on the couch last night. As I remember, the action went from right to left and not left to right as it was in the commercial. And I don’t remember the happy ending. Hope it was a big payday.

  • Steve Gattuso

    “Why push?”

    “Why dream?”

    Why is such amazing animation being put to the service of such an ugly-ass vehicle?

  • amid

    John: We’ve also linked to the short film in this post. The action in the short is also left to right. They didn’t flip the screen image. Though you’re right, the film obviously doesn’t a happy ending like the commercial.

    David: I can only assume that they properly licensed this film and paid Jankovics for the usage. No agency could be that blatant. If anybody knows for sure, let us know.

  • Joshua Smith

    What a strange coincidence. At least for me it is.

    Sisyphus is about as “pure” as animation can get. It’s a great film to watch frame by frame to see the wide variety of ways that a man exerting himself can be stylized, using only a few strokes of ink.

  • Clyde Crashcup

    Now they’ll ‘repurpose’ Norman Mc Laren’s ‘Pas de Deux’ next year to hawk colon cleanser.

  • http://www.jjsedelmaier.com j.j. sedelmaier

    “Sisyphus” was instrumental in getting me juiced about animation when i was in school at UW/Madison. I originally saw it on PBS’ The International Animation Film Festival hosted by Jean Marsh (sp?). Does anyone know if they’ve made that series available on DVD – or even VHS ??

  • http://inklingstudio.typepad.com David Nethery

    Did this stuff all start with the Beatles’ “Revolution” re-purposed to sell Nike running shoes? Not that I’m too sorry if artists like Jankovics or the Hubley heirs can make some money from it in these Last Days of Animation.

  • http://www.spiteyourface.com Tim Drage

    Not sure what to make of this at all! :-S

  • Emilie

    I’ve always been a fan as well of this beautiful film. What I find sad though, is that they cut the soundtrack. I think the film is more efficient with the breathing. I remember seeing this film at school in an auditorium on big screen. I even felt tired after watching it. I think the commercial’s music doesn’t do honor to the animation at all!

    Sometimes I wished there were credits after commercials. People could be curious and look for the original film!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    > Sometimes I wished there were credits after commercials. People could be curious and look for the original film!

    Instead of accidentally finding it weeks, months or years later and go “Hey, I remember this from that Super Bowl ad, what is this anyway?”

    Lord knows we’ve been through this time and time again. :-)