The Challenge: Create a kid-friendly animated shark with a
playful personality who could diffuse fears someone might
have of petting a shark.
To begin the computer imaging process, we needed a shark in which to
model Sammy after. Sand Bars were chosen because of their classic
shark-like appearance as well as the orientation and look of their
mouths. They would make the best talking shark.
Animal Instincts Greg Newberry and underwater photographer Steve
Miller dove into the shark tank at the Newport Aquarium. Steve shot
Sand Bar sharks from every angle.
The digital images were given to Mark Cretcher at Command X who began
the modeling process. Mark experimented with several looks for Sammy
until we settled on the one used in the commercial.
To give Sammy a personality, we gave the script to professional actor
Christopher Guthrie to interpret as if he were a shark. We videotaped
Christopher acting out the script in a variety of personalities and
voices. This gave us human mannerisms as reference points that Command
X could use in bringing Sammy to life.
We auditioned several voice talents until we heard a voice that felt as
if it was Sammys. Here, Rob Williams becomes the voice of Sammy and
records Sammys lines at Sound Images, the regions leading sound
design and recording studio. We found surfer music in their library
for the soundtrack that would add to the charm of the spot. Sound
Images was also responsible for the sound design – the subtle sounds of
water movement and bubbles as Sammy swims through the scene.
Sammys mouth had to match how a real mouth would move when speaking.
Here, Mark Cretcher watches how his mouth moves as he reads Sammys
lines from the script. Then he programmed Sammys mouth movements to
Sammy needed an environment in which to swim. We dressed out an
aquarium in cinematographer Jeff Barklages studio and shot it on 35mm
film. Here, hand model Gabe Lupinski simulates petting the shark. Once
we captured the environment with Gabes hand, Mark Cretcher was able to
place Sammy in it and maneuver him throughout the commercial.
The result? Sammy the Shark came to life and led hundreds of thousands
of kids to the Newport Aquarium and their new Shark Central Exhibit to
pet the sharks.