Goldfish Crackers Are Set to Star in Some Very Cheesy Films

Pepperidge Farm goes fishing for tomorrow's directors

Thanks to the likes of Nemo, Dory, SpongeBob and Jaws, it's a proven fact that aquatic life can be a big draw at the box office. To date, however, no director has ventured into truly deep water by casting a goldfish in a starring role.

But that is about to change.

As a run-up to next month's New York International Children's Film Festival, corporate sponsor Pepperidge Farm is inviting young directors everywhere to create a short film featuring goldfish. The only catch is the fish need to be the kind that are baked, dusted with cheddar cheese, and come tumbling out of a 6.6-ounce bag—in other words, Goldfish Crackers.

Known officially as the Goldfish Tales Animation Experience Contest, the promotion—which is on now and runs until Feb. 27—gives tomorrow's filmmakers a chance to create their own stop-motion short features, then enter them into a competition in advance of the festival. The films can be dramas, adventures, comedies or love stories, just so long as they're no longer than 60 seconds and the crackers figure in the plot.

According to Pepperidge Farm CMO Chris Foley, the aim of the contest is "to bring families together through the art of filmmaking by using the very thing that is often a distraction to family time: our phones. By using accessible technology and a bit of creativity, Goldfish and NYICFF will provide families all the tools they need to become master animators and create something new together."

Of course, even today's phone-wielding, tech-savvy youth might not be fully equipped to direct and produce a short film, so Pepperidge Farm asked its longtime agency Y&R to create an online tutorial. It walks participants through stop-motion basics, beginning with downloading apps like PicPac or Frameographer, and also offers useful instructions. (Tip: Use a bit of clay to keep your Goldfish Cracker in place while shooting.)

Y&R creative director Eric Glickman said that stop-motion features were the next logical step in marketing that's been heading in that direction anyway. Y&R had already used the famous crackers in various dioramas and miniature artwork posted on Twitter and Instagram, and Stoopid Buddy Stoodios pitched in to create a series of stop-motion films including Goldfish in the Car and Goldfish on a Snow Day. When consumers responded to these efforts by creating their own Goldfish Cracker art, Pepperidge Farm and Y&R saw it as a green light for something more ambitious.

"Our fans had already shown us how much they loved creating images with Goldfish," Glickman said, "so we thought that the next step was to teach them to do stop-motion animation and see how much fun they could have with that."

As a kind of dry run, Pepperidge Farm rounded up 50 kids and their parents at the Animation Xperience Workshop in September. There, under the tutelage of filmmaker Aaron Hughes and his assistants, the group collaborated on a short feature called Goldfish in Space! (A number of shorts emerged from Y&R's creative planning, too. Scroll to the bottom to watch them.)

Goldfish in Space! probably won't be up for an Oscar this year, but for something created by a bunch of kids ages 6 to 12, "the film is fantastically charming," Glickman said.

Foley can't be certain the submissions he'll get will be as cinematically gripping as Goldfish in Space!, "[but] we're excited to see what kids and parents create together and look forward to seeing the results," he said.

Once all the submissions are in, judges will award prizes ($5,000 each) based on four criteria, including best story and best use of Goldfish. Pepperidge Farm will announce the winners on April 21 and plans to post the top-placing films on its social-media channels.

One more thing about Goldfish in Space!: It's not just a stop-motion film created for this contest; it actually happened. On Sept. 29, 1988, the space shuttle Discovery blasted off from Cape Canaveral on a four-day mission. Aboard the spacecraft were a tracking and data-relay satellite, a long roster of scientific experiments and, to ease the tedium of the 1.7-million-mile trip, Goldfish Crackers for the crew.