Michael Phelps and Danny McBride Go to Outer Space for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Fleeing Earth, into the otherworldly CoD universe

With global temperatures rising and the most obscene U.S. presidential election in recent memory taking place, 2016 might feel like the worst year ever. But whether you're an average joe on the street or celebrity swimmer Michael Phelps, Call of Duty's new game, Infinite Warfare, is ready to help you escape.

The new live-action trailer for the Activision title opens on a young man beset by dire news reports. Beside himself, he does the only reasonably thing. He hops in a spaceship and takes off from Earth altogether.

"2016 has been a year full of shock and head shaking," says Matthew Curry, group creative director at 72andSunny, which created the ad. "As we got further into the year, the idea that you could leave the insanity behind to go have some badass fun felt like rich territory. So we came up with the ultimate solution to a world gone mad: Screw it! Let's go to space."

Cue blastoff to a high-octane interplanetary gunfight, wherein the ad fulfills its obligation as a CoD trailer to deliver a explosion-packed, celebrity-studded fantasy blending live action and computer graphics, ultimately featuring surprise banter between Phelps and comedian Danny McBride. (A red-band trailer, launching Friday, will feature more in that vein.) 

As usual, a driving, guitar-driven soundtrack—in this case, "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses—is key. (Past CoD ads have featured "Gimme Shelter" and "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones. Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," meanwhile, featured in a 72andSunny ad for another Activision title, Destiny).

"Classic rock has a timeless cool to it," says Curry. It fits perfectly with the badass fun and swagger of the Call of Duty brand. For this particular spot … we considered everything from end-of-the-world songs to songs about escape. In the end, 'Welcome to the Jungle' had the perfect tone and message to tee up the badass fun of battling through the chaos of space."

As for casting, diversity was the driving factor, based on emphasizing the CoD franchise's broader sales pitch—"There's a soldier in all of us." But there was some strategy in the cameos, as well. "We instantly loved the idea of taking Michael Phelps, the winningest human on Earth, and putting him in space to see how he fared," says Curry. "Danny McBride was the perfect person to steal his kill, and his thunder."

The trailer, launching today, is the culmination of a massive push to promote latest title in a hugely success franchise. Infinite Warfare, launching Nov. 4, is the first to be set in space. "The campaign for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare consisted of literally over 100 marketing elements, all highlighting what is unique and different about this title," says Todd Harvey, svp of global consumer marketing at Activision.

"With 'Screw It, Let's Go to Space,' we've focused on creating a broad message that taps into the pop culture happening around us, while transporting players into the new game world of Infinite Warfare. The launch of Call of Duty is a pop-culture moment, and in that sense, the news of the day serves as a great starting point to play on that sense of escapism to enjoy the next epic entertainment launch of the year."

Past elements in the campaign have included the ambitious "Hostile Takeover" in-game activation in the prior Black Ops 3 title. Social activations launching later this week will include #EarthWorldProblems—a Twitter response campaign from Edelman playing on the popular #FirstWorldProblems trope, and "Terminal Tours" from AKQA—a Facebook Messenger walkthrough of the dangers of playing CoD in space.

As for whether 72andSunny had a specific candidate in mind, as the one moderating punches in the face during a particularly egregious debate, Curry maintains it was "no one in particular. We wanted a line that spoke to the insanity of the election season, so we really gunned at an unbelievable moment. Problem is, things have been so crazy that no matter how hyperbolic we went, you could argue it was still believable."

In other words, strap in.

Activision, Call of Duty Team:
Chief Executive Officer, Activision Publishing: Eric Hirshberg
Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer: Tim Ellis
Senior Vice President, Global Consumer Marketing: Todd Harvey
Senior Vice President, Consumer Engagement, Digital Marketing, Public Relations: Monte Lutz
Senior Director, Consumer Marketing: Carolyn Wang
Senior Manager, Consumer Marketing: David Cushman
Associate Manager, Consumer Marketing: Jared Castle
Coordinator, Consumer Marketing: Lynn Ballew
Senior Director, Digital Marketing: Justin Manfredi
Senior Manager, Digital Marketing: Rich Elmore
Senior Manager, Digital Marketing: Mario Sgambelluri
Digital Marketing Associate Manager: Peter Bowman
Vice President, Global Media: Caroline McNeil
Senior Director, Global Media: Simone Deocares-Lengyel

72andSunny Team
Chief Executive Officer: John Boiler
Chief Creative Officer: Glenn Cole
Chief Strategy Officer: Matt Jarvis
Director of Strategy: Bryan Smith
Chief Production Officer: Tom Dunlap
Group Creative Director: Matthew Curry
Creative Directors: Robert Teague, Tim Wolfe
Senior Designer: Jon Hall
Writer: Matt Meszaros
Designer: Lauren Albee
Group Production Director: Angelo Mazzamuto
Senior Film Producer: Dave Stephenson
Junior Film Producer: Skyler Courter
Group Brand Director: Rhea Curry
Brand Director: Simon Hall
Senior Brand Manager: Brett Schneider
Brand Manager: Will Nader
Strategy Director: Daniel Teng
Strategist: Jake Watt
Partnerships and Legal Director: Kallie Halbach
Partnerships and Legal Manager: Jesse Sinkiewicz
Partnerships and Legal Coordinator: Molly Hogan

Production Company: Pony Show Entertainment
Director: Peter Berg
Director of Photography: John Schwartzman
Production Designer: Jeff Mann
Partner: Susan Kirson
Executive Producer: Helga Gruber
Head of Production: Gareth Wood

Editorial: Work Editorial
Editor: Jono Griffith
Assistant Editor: Keith Hamm
Executive Producer: Marlo Baird
Producer: Lynne Mannino

Visual Effects: MPC
Creative Director: Paul O' Shea
Visual Effects Supervisor: Michael Gregory
Computer Graphics Supervisor: David White
Colorist: Ricky Gausis
Visual Effects Producer: Matt Olmon
Line Producer: Ekta Gupta
Visual Effects Coordinator: Sarah Laborde
2-D Lead: Nikkesh K
2-D Supervisor: David Rouxel
3-D Lead: Jacob Oommen

Visual Effects: Pixomondo
Visual Effects Supervisor: Timothy Hanson
Executive Producer: Mandie Briney
Visual Effects Producer: John Baer
Bidding Producer: Patrick Neighly
Digital Effects Supervisor: Patrick Schuler
Compositing Supervisor: Spencer Hecox
Previz Supervisor: Matt McClurg
Paint/Roto Supervisor: Lance Ranzer
Rigger/Maya Technical Director: York Schueller
Senior Production Coordinator: Enoch Davis
Production Coordinator: Antonia Oelmann

Costumes: Legacy Effects
Effects Supervisor: J. Alan Scott
Production Coordinator: Damon Weathers

Sound Design: Formosa Group
Supervising Sound Editors: Per Hallberg
Sound Designers: Ann Scibelli, Jon Title, D. Chris Smith
First Assistant Sound Editor: Philip D. Morrill

Recording Studio, Mix: Lime
Mixers: Rohan Young, Jeff Malen
Assistants: Ben Tomastik, Lisa Mermelstein
Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan

OMD Team
Group Account Director: Natalie Holbrook
Associate Media Director: Carly Haw
Media Supervisor: Amir Ghareaghadje
Senior Media Strategist: Justin Levenstein
Media Strategist: Natalie Garretson
Assistant Media Strategist: Deveny Rohrer

Senior Vice President, Brand Marketing and Communications: Michele Wyman
Senior Director, Brand Marketing and Communications: Mark Van Lommel
Senior Director, Talent Relations: Jonathan Kichaven
Senior Account Executive, Talent Relations: Ashley Studer
Program Manager: Chong Kim
Account Executive, Brand Marketing and Communications: Renee Felton

Executive Creative Director: Jordan Atlas
Group Director, Activision: Zach Tindall
Vice President, Strategy, Activision: Sam Kennedy
Associate Creative Director: Chris Swanson
Senior Account Supervisor, Activision: Lauren Curtis
Senior Strategist, Call of Duty: Ben Lewis
Project Manager, Activision: Katie Stemler
Copywriters: Gabe Duran, Ronnie Lee, Matt Kugler
Art Director: Michele Pappas
Designers: Alex Sutton-Hough, Ji Choi
Senior Community Manager: Justin Fitzwater
Community Managers: Kurt Wendler, Jason Suh
Vice President, Insights and Analytics: Michael Fein
Manager, Insights and Analytics: Jocelyn Swift
Analysts: Tyler Phillippi, Carol Chu
Junior Analyst: Megan Cooper

Group Creative Director: Nick Strada
Creative Director: E.B. Davis
Art Director: Nils Westgardh
Art Director, Photographer: Oscar Wickman
Associate Copywriter: Tandeka Lauriciano
Senior Designers: Cliff Li, Hovin Wang, Charles Calixto, Enoch Tengler, Randy Santos

Client Partner: Kristin Goto
Account Director: Erin Morgan

Program Manager, Executive Producer: Cody Lucas
Director, Film and Motion: David Shuff
Motion Designer: Ryan Jones
Senior Production Artist: Jim MacMurray

MediaMonks Films:
Director: Rogier Schalken
Assistant Director: Mel Anderson
Director of Photography: Dallas Sterling
Executive Producer: Lauren Becker
Line Production: Theresa Marth, Mark Aran
Post Supervisor: Wesley Kolsteeg
Post Producers: Marlose de Rijke, Gerben Molenaar

Head Writer: Scott Ganz
Writers: Eva Steele-Saccio, Jessica Kitchens, Nicholas Pelczar
Operations Manager, Producer: Jennifer Dobbs
Head of Enterprise: Mike Houlahan

Infrastructure Engineering Lead: James Chalfant

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@GabrielBeltrone gabriel.beltrone@gmail.com Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.