Australia’s Lucky Dog Fursuits slurps up a job for Schmackos pet treats.
by Patch O'Furr
“Dogs go wacko for Schmackos!” If you grew up in Australia, you might have this TV ad series stuck in your brain. A big reason is the hand-made, stop-motion animation (think Wallace and Gromit, from before everything went CG). These ads have quirky, nostalgic appeal for a long-standing branding win.
North Americans might have no idea this exists. That’s why I’m happy to share it as Furry News, with a bit of animation-nerd interest. Yes, the fandom has become part of pop culture down under. The official mascot for Schmackos pet treats is now crafted by Furry paws.
Schmackos has been made since 1989 by Mars Petcare. That’s the Australian subsidiary of Mars Inc. (a global brand worth over $30 billion and famous for Snickers and M&M’s). In late 2017, they approached Lucky Dog Fursuits to commission a suit for their mascot.
He’s a Jack Russell terrier named Roger, and the commission is special because the character design is already well established. Usually if you hear about branding and fursuiting, it’s about fans copying something trademarked. This is a reversal where a mascot was entrusted to an indie maker, instead of ad industry professionals. I think it happened because fandom has raised fursuiting quality so high. They came to furries to ask for their skills, not to take over an existing fan creation – so I would call it good work and positive to fandom. It’s a high profile portfolio piece like a pro sports team fursuit. Such work can help a maker to establish a career as a “pro-fan”.
Here’s the suit maker Topaz, her business, and the finished commission of a Roger suit for Shmackos.
Lucky Dog Fursuits is a small business based near Brisbane, Australia. It has been up and running since November 2016, and it couldn’t have been more of an enjoyable experience! I have absolutely fallen in love with the craft, and can’t see myself doing much else in years to come.
Work room part 1! pic.twitter.com/FKAFN1qcZ4— How To Train Your Topaz (@TopazBean) February 22, 2018
Now!— How To Train Your Topaz (@TopazBean) December 13, 2017
I know you’ve all be wondering what that big secret project as all about?
Well, here it is!
I was approached earlier in the year by Mars Pet Food Company, Australia, and they needed a new mascot for their pet treat line, Schmackos! And I asked me! pic.twitter.com/Z7UmL2WpRs
But wait, there’s more! Let’s look at the TV ads and how this started. I talked to Nick Donkin, animation director for the original campaign.
The Schmackos campaign started with Flying Gherkin studio, maker of boutique work for some of the biggest brands.
Flying Gherkin is a Melbourne based animation company established by Nick Donkin in 1993. Specialising in traditional stop motion, claymation, mixed media, puppetry and live action for film and TV ads, branded content, music videos, idents, title sequences and stuff that hasn’t even been invented yet. Your eyes are going to go crazy.
Hi Nick, can you fill me in on the background and what you do?
I created the campaign in 1997 in Sydney, Australia. Directed and animated 3 x 30 sec tvcs. They were well received and won a bunch of advertising awards. I created the characters in collaboration with the ad agency and my puppet crew.
What was it like to work on them?
A lot of fun. Had a great crew. Shot on 35mm film. Good times.
How long did your ads run and who made them after that?
They played my old ads as recently as 5 years ago. I made the first three, then they gave the campaign to a cheaper company who did a really crappy job imitating my style. Anifex took it over after my initial campaign.
When fandom artists deal with tracing and more, it’s a universal complaint, it seems. But Nick’s animation aesthetic still thrills me today. Look at all the warts-and-wrinkles charm in the characters:
And here’s a whole “movie” – a 3 minute short that’s more than just an ad. If they made stuff like this in the US I would watch it for fun!
Says Michael Cusack, writer, director and animator of the short film: “We work on our short films between commercial jobs. Consequently, they take a long time to make! Sleight of Hand is just under ten minutes long and it took a year to complete.”
If fursuit makers get higher end commissions, it can help them do full time “pro-fan” work.
So why did advertisers want a fursuit maker when they sought Lucky Dog Fursuits?
Marketing business news says that Schmackos was off TV for two years, and in 2017, they wanted a comeback to modernize the brand. I guess the animated style ran it’s course after many years so they tried a live action dog and a guy in costume. That aired, and it seems to have led to this story. I haven’t learned if the fursuit will be on TV, but if that’s what modernizing means – welcome to the furry future!
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