Ridley Scott and MPC on making Hennessy’s epic ‘The Seven Worlds’
After nearly 16 years out of the advertising business, legendary filmmaker Sir Ridley Scott has brought his grand vision to two high-profile campaigns. The first was an adventure film for Turkish Airlines, which was teased during the Super Bowl. The second grabs the viewer with Scott’s signature other-worldly vision – a visually rich film for Hennessy X.O, ‘The Seven Worlds’ which will have a brief presence during the Oscars.
Ridley Scott behind the scenes of 'The Seven Worlds'
The four-minute, visual effects-heavy spot, ‘The Seven Worlds’, was crafted in close collaboration with RSA Films and Ridley Scott at The Moving Picture Company [MPC], based on a campaign and original idea created by advertising agency DDB Paris.
The film puts forth the idea that “Each drop of Hennessy X.O is an Odyssey”, and the director creates an epic visual experiment that explores the cognac’s seven flavor profiles in a story full of powder-made lifeforms, sleek spaceships, anthropomorphic greenery, nectar-filled caves and floating boulders.
The creative adaptation of Hennessy X.O includes an homage to the Academy Awards in a scene that brings to life colossal golden figures, similar to the likes of the iconic Oscars award statue. In a short interview that accompanies the film, Scott joked, “I missed doing advertising, and feature films were starting to get on my nerves.” He went on to say that he would come back to the medium if he found something special, which he said this project was. “It’s more than advertising, it’s a form of entertainment. I think advertising has realized, after 30 years, that it must shift back to entertainment.”
Alongside the launch of the ad, MPC revealed an exclusive film showcasing the vast production work that was involved in bringing the campaign to life.
According to creative director at MPC, Ryan Jefferson Hays, created an initial treatment for each of the seven worlds in VFX, which began in 2018. He stated: “The sheer scale of the spot is immense – both in a creative aspect and from a production stand point. MPC were involved in almost every creative decision throughout the process of creating the spot working closely with Ridley Scott and the (executive creative director) and creative team at DDB Paris and Hennessy. Ridley was open to any ideas we could bring to the table but of course those ideas always needed to gel with his original vision for the piece.”
The 'Seven Worlds' are creative interpretations of each tasting note described by Hennessy’s Comité de Dégustationas illustrations of Hennessy X.O’s taste and feel: Sweet Notes, Rising Heat, Spicy Edge, Flowing Flame, Chocolate Lull, Wood Crunches, culminating in Infinite Echo. Following the initial treatment, the team at MPC worked closely on the storyboarded elements with Ridley Scott to bring his otherworldly ideas to life.
Carsten Keller, Head of CG explained: “The sheer scope and size of the project, being a four-minute short film, made it very different to the typical commercials we work on. Based on the agency’s concept and Ridley’s storyboard interpretations, we came up with visual references of how the campaign could look, along with technical breakdowns. There was always a clear plan in place and a lot of discussion upfront before any CG was done. Each world had a clear narrative and we knew how we wanted to create a lot of the elements. However, it couldn’t have been a success had it not had such a strong story from the agency and the fantastic creative vision and direction from Ridley.”
All of the films were shot in Prague. Taking Ridley’s storyboard drawings, the team at MPC then had to develop a number of motion concepts. With infinite options to some of the concepts, extensive research and development was employed to define the overall look and feel of each world and its characters.
Keller added: “Some of the worlds had clearer concepts than others. The drawings from Ridley helped massively but it’s not the same as 3D. For example, how do you form a girl out of powder? There are a million ways of doing that. We had to come up with so many techniques in the R&D stage of how we could layer this. In the ‘Wood Crunches’ world, we really wanted to create something that hadn’t been seen before. We had to make a performing creature out of leaves and branches but being such an abstract concept we had to dig deep creatively-speaking. On the other hand the ‘Rising Heat’ world was challenging technically, but creatively it was easier because it contained concepts people recognize from real life.”
Whilst the tasting notes were imagined as seven distinct worlds, the concept had to be stitched together as seamlessly and believably as possible. Creative director Ryan Jefferson Hays said: “That really was the biggest challenge – weaving the worlds together into a singular narrative.”
A 60-second version of the film will air during the 91st Oscars on February 24.