Every few years, CBS dusts off a minute-long animated holiday greeting that first ran in 1966. Now, more than 50 years later, it’s unveiling several new animated shorts that were inspired by that original spot.
Renowned for its graphic art design, the vintage greeting was designed by illustrator/animator R.O. Blechman (The New Yorker, “The Soldier’s Tale,” “Sesame Street,” Alka-Seltzer ads) and produced by animator Willis Pyle (“Pinocchio,” “Bambi,” “Mr. Magoo”). Because it’s a minute long (the standard back then, but unheard of now, as commercials are stripped to as quick as six seconds), CBS doesn’t have the opportunity to run it often.
The spot, which features a tree full of birds who tweet until they encounter a saw-wielding man (who then surprises him with music of his own), has found new life on YouTube, in addition to running every once in a while during CBS’ annual Thanksgiving Day parade coverage.
Taking a cue from that spot, CBS creative director Garen VandeBeek spearheaded the new on-air holiday campaign, choosing the Swedish design firm Brikk to create the spots, which were animated by Anchor Point, in collaboration with CBS’ marketing group.
“We found an animator in Sweden and showed them what we wanted, and they put it to work,” said CBS Marketing president George Schweitzer. “It’s very sweet, a nice kiss to the past.” But as a nod to the present, these spots are computer animated (unlike the hand-drawn original).
As part of the campaign, CBS also reached out to Blechman, 86, and bought his copyright for the spot in order to run it in perpetuity. (Back in the 1960s, spots like that were done as work for hire.)
The new spots will be the centerpiece of CBS’ 2017 on-air holiday campaign, which debuts on Thanksgiving Day and continues through the end of December. Images include a group of birds in various birdhouses who each peek out to perform “Jingle Bells”; a shivering squirrel who finds warmth from a resting bear and cub; a moose who is suddenly adorned in colorful ornaments thanks to a strong wind and a nearby Christmas tree; a bird on a roof who pecks on the one working bulb on a string of lights and causes them all to glow; and a snowman who is saved when a squirrel, rabbit, and raccoon shield him from the sun.
“It’s a way to remind people that the network has a personality,” said Schweitzer. Here are the spots: