Lucky the Leprechaun from “Lucky Charms” Cereal transitions from Cel animation to 3-D

Over the years Calabash Animation has taken Lucky the Leprechaun — the beloved brand icon for General Mills’ Lucky Charms cereal — on an amazing number of adventures. But none quite like their latest ad, “Everybody Flies” (:30), which finds Lucky animated in 3D for the first time ever. The ad was created by agency Saatchi & Saatchi, New York.

While previous Calabash animated Lucky Charms ads have featured a lot of CG environments and special effects, “Everybody Flies” marks the first time the Lucky character himself has been animated in 3D. This, according to Executive Producer Sean Henry, was a timely “evolutionary” update for a beloved character, and one that the Calabash artists wanted to get just right.

“Today’s kids are more familiar with CG animation than they are with the classic 2D animation that we grew up with,” Henry says. “There are high expectations because the medium itself offers such amazing potential. We thought CG was a perfect fit for Lucky and would enable us to bring this rich fantasy world to life in a way that we have always imagined in our heads. Adapting the characters into 3D enabled us to do camera and lighting effects that are very difficult and expensive to achieve in 2D.”

“Everybody Flies” opens with Lucky opening his book of magical spells to the one that imparts the power of flight. Suddenly Lucky finds himself caught up in a magical roller-coaster ride through the night sky atop a flying shooting star charm. Unbeknownst to Lucky, three kids far below are preparing an ambush from an ancient stone bridge. When Lucky swoops low overhead, the kids temporarily snag him in a giant net but are pulled over the edge, landing on their own magical flying shooting star charms and following Lucky up into the sky in a scene that recalls the classic bicycle chase scene from the film ”ET.” The spot ends with the kids crash landing unharmed and Lucky swooping in to nab his box of Lucky Charms before flying off into the starry sky shouting his motto “they’re magically delicious.”

“The challenge for our CG team was to capture the spirit of Lucky and the kids in a way that feels both natural and expressive,” Wayne Brejcha, Calabash Creative Director says. “Traditional animators tend to think about the characters differently than CG animators. When you’re drawing something you bring a sense of design to it simply because every line in it comes from hand to the paper. With CG a digital model exists inside the computer with form and structure, and there’s a tendency to let the computer model do its thing, but doing that gives up some of the artistry you get from cel animation. We wanted our CG team to think about the nuances you get with cel and bring that to life in 3D. We took all of the expertise our staff has developed drawing these characters for the last 20 years and brought it into the CG world.”