When it comes to marketing FXX’s now-classic sitcom, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, almost anything goes.
At least that’s been the findings of New York City-based creative agency Block & Tackle, which has worked on the show’s campaigns for the past eight seasons. The season-14 campaign includes the teaser above and the episodic trailer below.
For this season’s teaser, which also evolved into graphic elements for the overall campaign, the team tapped into their grade-school creativity.
“With Sunny, as long as it’s black and yellow there’s really nothing that’s out of the question,” says Block & Tackle Creative Director Adam Gault. “In the past, we’ve pitched ideas ranging from character whack-a-mole to indecipherable magic-eye patterns, ‘fine art’-inspired surrealism to anime-action sequences. We get to live out our graphic fantasies and try new things, which is very liberating and incredibly fun. This year, we tapped into our art-school pasts and challenged ourselves to draw character portraits with our left hands and eyes closed. We let the spontaneity of those initial drawings direct our thinking for the rest of the project… eventually landing on the idea of continually degrading loops. It’s a challenge we certainly had never tackled before, which is how we knew it was the right way to go.”
Viewers of the show know it’s full of awkward humor, which makes it exactly right to craft spots with a similar tone in its pre-season campaign.
“We kept coming back to this idea of an awkward spot—bad illustrations, bad music, bad cuts that progressively got worse,” says Block & Tackle Producer Megan Anderson. “We made a few frames of detailed illustrations from [rotoscoped] footage, then made a few messy illustrations, and just loved the juxtaposition seeing clean, thoughtful lines with eccentric, haphazard moments. Then we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if these bizarre illustrations had an equally bizarre flute rendition of the Sunny theme that was so bad it made you want to listen over and over?’ So we did a quick recording in the stairwell and fortunately FX was on board! From there, we developed the episodic package with more degrading animations and fonts for which we made a custom type toolkit.”
Once a style was determined, the team went about determining how to make it happen from design and technological perspectives.
“We started with selecting clips of each of the characters, focusing on ones that would lend themselves to surreal exaggerated movements as the illustrations degraded. The clips also needed to be somewhat general rather than iconic—we wanted to keep the focus on the characters’ essence, rather than the specific season or episode,” said Anderson.
“Once we agreed on the base clips for each character we drew keyframes for each step of the degradation - from tightly roto’d to exaggerated and loose. It’s a relatively straightforward cel process after that, tightening up in-betweens and cleaning up linework as the animations came together,” said Gault. “The real challenge was figuring out how to jam all of the elements into a quick 10-second package. We knew that we wanted the final pieces to have a quirky art-animation kind of vibe, so awkward pacing and a touch of randomness were a must.”
Block & Tackle producer and, apparently, flautist, Dorian Carli-Jones also recorded the flute music.
“While we were excited by the cel-animating challenge of this project, the concept didn’t really come together until our producer, Dorian, nailed the bad-flute rendition of the Sunny theme song,” said Gault. “The track gives the animation the unexpectedly artsy emotional weight that we think is just perfect.”
Overall, Block & Tackle’s now eight-year approach to It’s Always Sunny has helped the agency define itself.
“It’s been really fun to be a small part of this show over the past eight years,” said Gault. “It’s hard to imagine another property where we could not only get away with this stuff, but are encouraged to do so… that feels really lucky. From a larger perspective, the work we’ve done for Sunny has helped define and solidify the mischievous approach that we’re now known for.”
Season 14 of FXX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns Wednesday, Sept. 25.
Client: FX Networks
President, Creative, Strategy & Digital, Multi-Platform Marketing: Stephanie Gibbons
SVP, Motion & Digital Design: Steve Viola
SVP, Content and Editorial: Ethan Adelman
VP, Content & Editorial: Tom Cropper
VP, Motion Design: Amie Nguyen
Creative Director, Motion Design: Mike Parks
VP, Production, Motion Design: Dara Barton
Director, Production, Motion Design: Michael Perez
Directed by Block & Tackle
Creative Directors: Adam Gault and Ted Kotsaftis
Producer: Megan Anderson
Concept By: Kate Costello
Art Director, Lead Animation: Ben Hill
Animation: Pete Ahern, Kate Costello, Alex Winakor
Flautist: Dorian Carli-Jones
Design: Yun Chen, Kate Costello, Alex Winakor
Animation: Ted Kotsaftis, Tristan Balos, Kate Costello, Gung-Kai Koo, I-Cheng Lee, Alex Winakor
Custom Type: Kate Costello, I-Cheng Lee, Alex Winakor