It’s an ordinary day for an ordinary mother of two: she battles commuters on the tube, wrestles her inbox at the office and spends the evening cooking for her family before collapsing into bed and doing it all over again.
Except this is no ordinary situation. Mama Bear is the one heading out for a day at work, while Papa Bear and their cubs are the family she’s coming home to at the end of a long day.
Our new TV advert, which aired for the first time on 23 December is, by all accounts, unlike anything we’ve done before. Since the first TV campaign in 1987, we’ve seen families biking through the forest, splashing about in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, zip lining across the sky and eating together at restaurants: all the possibilities of a Center Parcs break in under a minute, set to a lively soundtrack.
“We didn’t start with bears,” admits Center Parcs Sales and Marketing Director Colin Whaley. “Our starting point was to begin thinking about what life is really like for families now. We understand that modern life – with work, school, homework and household chores – can make it challenging for families to spend quality time together. Even though families are together under one roof, chances are there isn’t time to really connect.
“Center Parcs is made for families to spend time together, away from the distractions and stresses of everyday life. It’s a place for families to put down tablets and phones, switch off and give one another their undivided attention. That’s exactly what guests tell us, with many saying Center Parcs is the only place they feel they can really ignore their emails, or where they get their teenagers’ attention back.”
“The way bear families show emotion is very similar to human families. They bond with each other and look after one another” – Colin Whaley
It was this idea of undivided attention that was the starting point for Center Parcs’ new advertising brief. But how do you bring that message to life?
“We tested different options at focus groups, and the one that came out way ahead was the family of bears,” adds Colin.
Once the family of bears was chosen to be the heart of the advert, the real work could begin. It took 10 months to breathe life into the idea, with Computer Generated Images (CGI) being painstakingly modelled, one hair at a time.
“The fur is the trickiest part,” says Visual Effects Supervisor Dean Robinson, who works for ETC Productions, the creative company chosen to produce the Bear family. “If you look at the fur on a bear’s face, there are many different colours and lengths – clumpy, smooth, scraggly.
“It takes a special skill to be able to sculpt with hair as it requires such a meticulous eye for detail. Getting the fur right on just one bear can take six to eight weeks, which can mean lots of late nights and weekends.
“Everyone in this industry looks forward to a job like this as it’s really challenging” – Dean Robinson
“We started with rough sketches to gauge the size of the characters before painting them to get the texture right – Papa Bear is darker in colour, for example. Then it’s onto the 3D process which is the slower, more laborious element – we probably had around 20 people working on this at any one time; everything is built from scratch and custom made.
The artist almost becomes obsessive about the subject, watching endless hours of DVD footage of bears to properly capture the right movement and characteristics. The level of research is immense.”
A different direction
So after the hours of manpower, research and design, was Colin apprehensive about Center Parcs’ new furry family?
“Doing something different is always a risk,” adds Colin. “The vast majority of our guests and potential guests are well aware of what we do at Center Parcs so we don’t need to keep showing them Lodges, water rides and cycling.
“Whether you see the television advert, visit our website or see an online advert, the message is the same: we understand. We wanted to show, on a much higher emotional level, that we understand the challenges many families face and offer a solution that will bring them together again. That’s the story behind the bears.”
Find out more about how your family can get together again here.