Showtime for Happy Trails

Those old enough to remember the “Lets All Go to the Lobby” cartoon that encouraged snack food purchases in theaters should appreciate the work Happy Trails Animation has completed for Producer Phil Bevans of Smithgroup Communications. The 75-second theatrical policy trailer for Cinemark, titled Late for Showtime, gave the toon house a chance to update some familiar characters while shooting for a classic look.

The Flash-animated piece features established Cinemark characters Front Row Joe and Popcorn Penny. Happy Trails was asked to collaborate with Smithgroup on developing the concept and script. "It was a hoot coming up with gags that would really make this trailer an homage to early animation superstars like Chuck Jones and Tex Avery," notes Happy Trails exec producer Mark Axton. "We don’t get nearly enough opportunities to make things stretch and go ‘boing’ and have eyes bulging out, so this was refreshing and fun."

Happy Trails beta tested Bauhaus Software’s Mirage for Mac during production. "We were really pushing for the old chuck Jones classic cell style, and Mirage was the final tool in our palette to really nail the look down," says director Andy Collen.

To meet the extremely tight five-week deadline and accommodate the small budget, the company set up a virtual studio that employed off-site artists for secondary animation and most of the inking and painting. Axton comments, "There were certainly tracking, proofing and versioning challenges with this technique, but ultimately it went smoothly and allowed us to keep our costs competitive by avoiding the trap of having staff artists sitting around waiting for their part of the process to begin."

Late for Showtime was distributed to Cinemark theaters in South America, Central America and the Southwestern U.S. on March 4.