anecdotes about the creative process

Lively Kisses

CLICK TO PLAY See the Kisses come to life!

The Hershey's Kisses commercials have been a popular and very successful campaign, originally created via stop-motion animation in the 1990's and continuing to the present day with computer-generated imagery. The now defunct Colossal Pictures in San Francisco produced the earliest versions of these advertisements, brilliantly directed by Carl Willat. In 1995, Colossal, unable to find a local stop-motion animator who could handle their current Hershey's assignments, reached out to me. I was persuaded to travel from my home in Santa Monica to their San Francisco studio in order to animate two commercials, one featuring ice skating Kisses and the other spotlighting a snake charming Kiss. Both commercials were extremely challenging to create but the final results were incredible.

The ice skating Kisses spot was by far the most difficult to animate. I spent about a month on the project, planning the choreography with Carl, testing, and finally animating the finished version. All of the action took place on a huge seamless stage, about 24 feet wide, which required that I animate on my hands and knees - quite an uncomfortable position. The Kisses, each about eight inches wide, were expertly constructed by the Colossal model shop. The squash-and-stretch effect of the Kisses was achieved by a replacement series - each hand sculpted, cast in hard foam, and covered with aluminum foil. The flag-like strips on top were constructed of thin malleable sheet metal and covered by paper with the Hershey logo. The camera and spotlights that followed along with the Kisses were motion-controlled by cameraman Glen Claybrook; therefore, I had to literally hit my marks with precision in order to maintain sync with both. I accomplished that by making pre-planned pencil lines on the stage floor (invisible to the camera) for the Kisses' positions on every frame. Because the Kisses were tilted on edge for much of the action, I often had to support them using surface gauges, clearly visible on-camera, on the side. In the past, I never would have been able to use such a method, but the then-recent advances in digital compositing allowed my support gauges to be removed in post-production. (This technique is routinely used today.) The final animation was sweetened in post, presumably on a Quantel "Henry" compositing system, using the addition of a couple of ice sprays as the Kisses hit the ice - a very nice touch.

The snake charmer piece was significantly more straightforward as a locked-off camera was used and the action took place in one spot. The main difficulty was in getting a smooth, flowing movement out of the "cobra" which was created from a long strip of thin sheet metal. Of course, the flowing movement had to be in perfect synchronization with the music. As the snake got closer to the camera, I again used surface gauges, later removed in post-production, to support its weight. One additional complicating matter was the cobra flare which I accomplished by using a series of replacements; accordingly, I had to carefully pose and align all of the undulations in the strip with each replacement. Crazy stuff! Upon seeing my animation, the client thought it was "too sexy" so I was required to do a re-shoot to tone down the side-to-side action which I had animated to simulate hip motion in my first iteration.

All things considered, I feel that my traveling out of town to work on such a unique gig was well worth it. These Hershey's Kisses commercials are among the top favorites of all projects I have animated.

Hershey's Kisses commercials ©1995 The Hershey Company