April 15th, 2015

Dairy Queen kicked off the 'Flip a Blizzard' campaign with the spot 'Clap Your Feet America!', inviting fans to #GetUpsideDown with an Oreo Blizzard treat. Barkley US and Mill+ in Chicago collaborated on the fully animated spot celebrating DQ's upside-down philosophy.

Directed by Mill+ designer Matthew Darnall, the team in Chicago designed a whole chorus of weird and wonderful animated characters and a world of topsy-turvy fun for 'Clap Your Feet America!'.

Matthew explains how he and the team created the Blizzard-flipping spot for Dairy Queen below:

Making 'Clap Your Feet America!'

Starting with the original sing-along song scripted by Barkley US, the Mill+ team wanted to jump into this world and establish the upside down rules where each character had some harebrained way of fitting into this Oreo studded land.

Dance Cycle Whole Shot 1

Establishing the Style

From the start, we pursued an illustrative style that felt hand crafted and playful. We investigated creating assets in vector, but it lost some of the personality and imperfections that lent to the charm. We also wanted the art generated to match the animation style, so it was a bit of a balance act between art style, rigging, and animation.

Style Frames

Defining The Story A whole minute of fun character animation was really exciting brief for us. We spent a substantial amount of time listening to the custom music track, which was incredibly catchy and fun. To us, it was a roadmap. It had a story of it’s own, but we also had a lot of creative leeway to add and remove to it as we chose. It was very inspiring and exciting.

Troubadour 01 2a 1
Owl 01 2b
Bear Tree 01 3a 1
Moose 01 3b

We used our main character, the troubadour, as the vehicle to hinge the action and storytelling, while also keeping it anchored in the world we’ve established. There should be a sense of movement and progress throughout the piece – like a journey. But things also needed to be upside down! Cutting from the scenes of him dancing with his forest friends to unique moments highlighting the song kept it interesting, and minimally repetitive.


Crafting the Characters

The main rule was very simple: every character is upside down and every character finds a way to make it work for them! After that, the inspiration was a creative, fun, simplistic and organic process. A character had to make us laugh, whether it be in design, absurdity or animation. As long as it was charming, we would make it work.

Pig Fieri 4a
Leprechaun 4b
Yeti Skateboarding 5a
T Rex 2 5b

The troubadour is the main character and the face behind the DQ rallying cry, so we had to do some brainstorming to get him right. We knew from the get-go that we wanted him to be simple and identifiable, but we wanted more personality out of him than you would get in a basic avatar. In a first pass, he had shaggy hair with a cap and round sunglasses. He was fun but started to look like a camp instructor version of John Lennon, which is awesome, but not what we had in mind. We decided to reign him back in while keeping the stubble and sweet shirt.

Character Build 320x320 6
Character Build V03 320x320 7b

We were always reaching for new and unexpected ways to animate the characters. One of my favourites is the sun, he has no arms and I love how he desperately tries to get a taste of an Oreo Blizzard just out of reach. It presented so many animation possibilities that we just couldn't resist.

Sun City 2 New 8a
Sun Space 8b

The “orangutan flying a plane” sequence was a particularly fun one. It’s an instance of where we got to collaborate with the script and the song. Finding a way to stitch together a pilot monkey, a brother and sister living the dream (which is living in a massive Blizzard that is held by a furry monster, duh), a trapeze artist, and two feet clapping together - was a riot.

Orangutan Plane 9a
Living The Dream 9b

Using the Blizzard as a prop here being passed between the characters gave it the element of interaction that we wanted - and a bit of purpose. That acrobat needed his Snack!

Trapeze Catch And Foot Clap 10

The concept of a gang of four mini construction workers coordinating to flip a massive blizzard made us laugh immediately, so we knew it was worth pursuing. We had a blast animating these little guys' actions.

Sh02b Loop 02 11

If you look closely, you can see the grouchy truck driver slam the car as he barks at his brothers and the tall one on the scaffolding celebrates the big flip with a single snap of his suspenders!

Guy 01 12a
Guy 03 12b

There's also the bunny bouncing around on his ears. He's so cute! We kept making cycles for him that amused us, so we kept finding more places to put him.

Bunny 03 14a
Bunny 1 14b
Bunny 02 15a
Bunny 01 15b

We tried to find fun and inventive ways to present characters, the environment, and the Blizzard’s upside down! The sloth moment is one that makes us chuckle every time. At first, the orientation is a little confusing  - up until Sloth gives it all away that he is upside down in a tree by saying it out loud. Oh Sloth, you are so literal, and very well dressed!

2 Sloth Wide 16

Towards the end of the film, the song's tempo cuts in half and almost enters ballad territory. We wanted to illustrate something that would match this synth-like moment, and when we landed on a space scene we knew it was perfect.

Trouba Transition To Space 17

What better way to emphasize this far out transition than by ripping open a black hole and going into another universe? Everything and everything can be topsy-turvy in space! No rules of gravity apply, so we could play around with the movement. We gave the hero a psychedelic outfit change, some sweet shades and upgraded him to a bad ass axe guitar.

Saturn Hungry 18a
Troubadour In Space 18b
Bunny In Space 19a
Sloth In Space 19b

We wanted the final shot to be a visual crescendo, with lots of action and reoccurring characters. It had to feel like we arrived somewhere! If the piece didn’t have a flow and sense of travel, we don’t think it would have had the impact we wanted.

Follow Dairy Queen on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for updates on the sweet, #GetUpsideDown fun, and take a look at more characters from 'Clap Your Feet America!' below!

Trouba Behind Bush 1Confetti 9Sloth Closeup
Fireworks 3Monkey BikeConfetti 7
Penguin On ChairliftConfetti 6Yeti 01
Fireworks 1Band LeaderConfetti 9
2 Statue Of Liberty 4Fireworks 62 Sun City V02
Bird 01