Office workers, high-school kids, rush-hour commuters, a rock band performing on stage and even Anna Kendrick all vanish, Obi-Wan style, and their earthly accoutrements—clothes, backpacks, guitars—fall to the ground in this captivating two-minute promo for the Electronic Arts game Star Wars Battlefront.
Ultimately, these folks are transported into the pulse-pounding action of the game itself, which is set for release on Nov. 17. The spot, "Be More Powerful," goes wide today online, and will air during ESPN's Monday Night Football game between the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers.
"We wanted to send a message to fans that they're going to get to do what they always wanted to do—disappear into a world they love and fight these incredible battles they've only imagined," Ryan Hartsfield, associate creative director and copywriter at Heat, which created the spot, tells Adweek.
"We knew this had to work globally, so we started thinking about a spot that feels almost like a World Cup announcement. Because Star Wars, like football, is one of those rare fandoms that literally transcends age, culture, religion, sex, race, borders, everything. It's like a secret club, except there are 300 million members."
Once that concept was established, the agency asked itself, "How do we show people leaving our world and going into the game world without literally showing real people in the game, or the game in the real world, both of which have been done time and time again?" says Heat associate creative director and art director Jeff Fang. "Obi-Wan vanishing into the Force just became a natural device, because it's the most Star Wars way of showing somebody transporting from one realm into another."
The shots of various folks vanishing are smoothly achieved and seem both strange and familiar, because Star Wars lore is so firmly fixed in our cultural consciousness.
"The intention was to stay as close [as possible] to the original Obi-Wan disappearance in Star Wars: A New Hope—which was a practical effect," says Fang. "But we couldn't put everybody in robes and shoot from the same angle. The only other time a character disappears into the Force is when Yoda dies, which is a dissolve. So there was little precedence on what this would look like in Star Wars canon and how to accomplish it from a production perspective."
Kendrick, who simply must show up in every commercial these days, melts away while fixing a late-night snack. Brandishing a kitchen knife like a lightsaber, she channels Ben Kenobi's famous not-so-last words: "If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."
"We wanted a celebrity fan to deliver the Obi-Wan quote and be the big transition to gameplay," Hartsfield says. "Anna is a legitimate superfan who also happens to resonate with a younger audience. We also like the spin of a woman delivering that famous quote. It speaks to the diversity of the fan base. Star Wars is for everyone. She was perfect."
While Star Wars fandom does indeed transcend international boundaries, some other aspects of American popular culture apparently do not. For example, the scene in which two bros vanish while high-fiving proved particularly difficult to realize, and not because of the special effects.
"We shot in Prague, so we did our casting there and in Berlin," says Hartsfield. "Kids in Europe don't know what a high five is, let alone how to do it. Ever try and teach an 18-year-old kid how to high five naturally? I don't think we ever got one totally perfect—but close. The European awkward high five has kind of become a secret handshake within our group."
Electronic Arts, Star Wars Battlefront, "Become More Powerful"
Agency: Heat, San Francisco
Chairman, Executive Creative Director: Steve Stone
Creative Directors: Anna Rowland, Warren Cockrel
Associate Creative Director, Art Director: Jeff Fang
Associate Creative Director, Writer: Ryan Hartsfield
Producer: Melissa Nagy
Director of Production: Brian Coate
Director of Account Services: Aaron Lang
Account Director: J.T. Pierce
Account Manager: Kevin John
Assistant Account Manager: Rachel Majors
Business Affairs Director: Julie Petruzzo
Client: Electronic Arts
Vice President, Global Creative: Dana Marineau
Senior Director, Global Creative Strategy: Dustin Shekell
Director, Global Creative: Eddie Garabedian
Senior Manager, Global Creative: Doug Harakal
Media, Postproduction Director: Mattias Lindahl, EA DICE
Vice President, Marketing: Lincoln Hershberger
Brand Creative Lead: Neel Upadyhe
Senior Video, Media Director, Editor: Randy Evans, EA DICE
Senior Animator: Cameron Scott, FIDO
Production Company: MJZ
Director: Dante Ariola
Director of Photography: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Senior Executive Producer: Eriks Krumins
Line Producer: Natalie Hill
Production Designer: Quito Cooksey
Production Service Company: Bohemian Pictures, Prague
Editor: Andrea Macarthur
Assistant Editors: Colin Guthrie, Andrew Manne
Executive Producer: Crissy DeSimone
Post Producer: Yole Barrera
Visual Effects: The Mill
Executive Producer: Sue Troyan
Producer: Dan Roberts
Production Coordinators: Chris Lewis, Anwei Chen
Shoot Supervisors: Chris Knight, Koen Vroeijenstijn
2-D Lead Artist: Chris Knight
3-D Lead Artist: Koen Vroeijenstijn
3-D Artists: Jacob Bergman, Jason Jansky, Steven Olson, Monique Espinoza, Blake Guest, Berk Hakguder, Michael Archambault, Cory Cosper, Majid Esmaeili
2-D Artists: Ben Smith, Scott Wilson, Robert Murdock, Tim Robbins
Art Department: Brett Lopinsky, Kelsey Napier, Matthew Dobrez
Motion Graphics: Kyle Moore, Vinicius Naldi, Greg Park
Colorist: Adam Scott
Executive Producer: Thatcher Peterson
Color Producer: Ali Struck
Audio Mix: Lime Studios
Audio Engineer: Rohan Young
Live Action Sound Design: Rohan Young, Lime Studios
In-Game Sound Design: Charles Deenan, Source Sound
Music Composed and Orchestrated by Gordy Haab
Music Arranged and Edited by Samuel Smythe
Original Star Wars Music by John Williams