After 20 years of commercial silence in South Africa, salt brand Cerebos gives us “Snow”—a story whose subject might surprise you, given the location.
That is, unless you were once a kid who grew up in a place where snow exists only as a charming concept, and not something to shovel. The FCB Durban spot, produced by Tulips and Chimneys, introduces us to Mpho, a girl who dreams of snow.
Sadly, there’s nowhere nearby for Mpho to realize her dreams of tobogganing without an electric fan. She lives in Karoo, where snow is as likely to form as a snowball’s chance in hell. (Though GE made the latter happen last year. Sort of. Keep believing!)
As Mpho pines, sporting unseasonably warm gear and carrying a stuffed penguin, her grandparents conceive of a miracle, just for her. It doesn’t take a lot; just the right moment, suspension of disbelief and a common household condiment.
Tulips and Chimneys—formerly Shy the Sun—is among the most well-recognized short-form animation firms in Africa, and it isn’t hard to see why.
The 40-second ad is a miracle of detail, from the books beside the television to the crisp drawings on the fridge, conveying in an instant the profound passion Mpho feels for her subject. And while the story arc never features Cerebos specifically, the brand appears in full glory on a dining table in the very first scene, innocuously posed beside an untouched breakfast. If you blinked, you missed it.
“We couldn’t be happier with the result,” says Brandon Govender, FCB Durban’s creative director. “We wanted something out of the ordinary and decided it simply had to be animated. Tulips and Chimneys are the best in the business.”
The universe of “Snow” combines stop motion and CG, with miniatures created in-house and post production firm BlackGinger collaborating on animation. The miniature set took nearly four weeks to build, with 31 loose items created to dress the kitchen alone.
“The textured ground was a mixture of sand, tiny pebbles and tea!” marvels director Ree Treweek of Tulips and Chimneys. “We then added hundreds of tiny sprigs of rosemary that led up to the larger bushes, created with moss, dyed different colors.”
The characters were also made to be immediately relatable and emotionally impactful.
“Mpho is shaped like an upside-down triangle,” Treweek points out. “Her cuteness factor largely comes from having such a big head in relation to her body and her tiny feet.”
Her grandparents are just as strategically considered. “Her grandma is bell-shaped, completely the opposite or rather the reverse of Mpho,” Treweek continues. “Her shape is an ode to her larger-than-life personality. She is definitely the matriarch of the family.”
“Gramps, on the other hand, is a skinny bean of a man. He takes up very little space in the house and is quiet and unassuming. However, he observes everything so closely, and in the end it’s his patient tinkering and exquisite mind that brings so much joy to Mpho and Grandma.”
However simple the payoff, Grandpa’s invention is nearly as breathtaking for the viewer as the illusion it was made to create. Composed of a pulley system, a hungry chicken and multiple containers of salt, it is utterly impractical. But the execution is so committed that it’s easy to forget that salt looks nothing like falling snow.
For a minute, like Mpho herself, you’re merely content to believe.