5 Minutes With… J.J. Sedelmaier for adidas

The adidas Holiday 2012 Campaign was all about The Cautionary Tale of Ebenezer Snoop. Enlisting the help of some of the world’s finest sporting and cultural icons, the film retells the classic English Holiday story ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, seeing Ebenezer Snoop confronted by the Ghosts of Holiday Past (Stan Smith), Present (David Beckham) and Future (Derrick Rose & Rita Ora). The film also features global adidas stars Jeremy Scott, Dani Alves, Joe Tsonga, Steve Aoki, Yohan Blake, Andy Murray, Dwight Howard and many more.

We recently sat down with J.J. Sedelmaier, established illustrator of Beavis and Butthead & Saturday Night Live fame (Adult Swim etc), who illustrated the Holiday Campaign for adidas to discuss working with and illustrating these global icons. Here we discussed how this collaboration came about, difficulties that were overcome and, of course, the holiday season.

SLAMXHYPE / Introduce yourself… Who are you?

J.J. Sedelmaier / I’m J.J. Sedelmaier. I design, direct and produce animated films. I’ve done over 500 commercial production projects but am better known for creating the “Saturday TV Funhouse” cartoons (Ambiguously Gay Duo, X-Presidents, etc.) with Robert Smigel for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”, “Harvey Birdman-Attorney at Law”, “Tek Jansen” for “The Colbert Report”, as well as other irreverent short film projects for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, “The Late Show with David Letterman”, and Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” block… My background is in illustration, cartooning, and graphic design, but I also write, lecture, and consult on all matters concerning animation, advertising, and design. I’ve worked in the industry for over 20 years…

SLAMXHYPE / How did this collaboration come about?

JS / I got a call from Claudia Roy at Sid Lee asking if I’d be interested and available to work with them on an animated “Holiday Season” project for one of their clients – all in the style I started on SNL. It sounded intriguing and fun so we kept talking and at my suggestion, they soon brought me up to Montreal for a “creative day” of hanging together and batting around ideas. This also gave us all a chance to get to know each other! I later found out that the project’s creative director Brandon Pierce had been at a screening I’d done a few years ago, and personally requested I’d be called in on this… very cool!

SLAMXHYPE / In your words, can you describe the partnership here between you and adidas on this project?

JS / The partnership has been ideal, and precisely how I prefer to work. What this means is everyone is contributing on equal levels to making a dynamite piece! We all say what we like, and we all say what we think sucks. No hard feelings, and nothing retained for no good reason – just positive forward movement.

SLAMXHYPE / How was this project different from your past works?

JS / There were a couple differences. First off, soon after starting on the project, it became apparent that I wasn’t just going to be doing an animated piece. This project campaign was a holiday branding project. There were webtoons, retail store designs, and I had been asked to be a performer with Snoop in one of the filmed teasers. The other difference was regardless of the animation taking inspiration from my work on Saturday Night Live, I wasn’t going to be able to do a film that reflected at all negatively on its characters, and I was going to have to be more careful than I might want to be in my depictions. Luckily, background in broadcast commercial production had me tuned as to how to deal with it…

SLAMXHYPE / Why was the ‘Christmas Carol’ storyline taken as the inspiration behind the campaign instead of a different approach?

JS / It’s a classic device known to everyone and something that fit Snoop well. It also was a primo tool to incorporate a multitude of recognizable real life characters/endorsers.

SLAMXHYPE / Continuing from the storyline, talk about involving the likes of David Beckham, Derrick Rose, Snoop Lion, Mark Gonzales, Jeremy Scott, Dwight Howard, and others in the film.

JS / Separate from making sure that everyone was depicted “faithfully”, there weren’t any real problems – it was a blast! My only strong request up front was that we get the actual people to do their own voices, and I’m so glad we could. Snoop in particular, was exquisite. There’s an authenticity and honesty to the reads that acts as a terrific foundation to the animation. This style of animation is very limited in movement and even in design. It only works well when it’s married to a strong story/script/track – actually, that’s bullshit. Story/script/track is ALWAYS important!

SLAMXHYPE / Were there any difficulties you came across while doing these illustrations?

JS / There were a couple characters that didn’t come easy – Caroline Wozniacki comes to mind. But that was more about making her as attractive as possible… because she is! For the most part, the caricatures went well. This style of cartoon is also not about real beautiful artwork, and I was adamantly clear at the beginning about this.

SLAMXHYPE / If you watch the film over and over you keep noticing more and more familiar faces – did that make part of your thinking when putting this together – that you wanted people to keep discovering?

From the very beginning we discussed how we wanted this to be something people could revisit endlessly and continue to find new stuff. This also meant that we could justify playing the action in such a way where the viewer might even be encouraged to re-visit the cartoon.

SLAMXHYPE / What are your plans for the holidays this year?

JS / We’re all going to relax and hope we have electricity and heat throughout the holiday.

SLAMXHYPE / Last  words?

JS / “Happy Holiday to all, and to all a good nizzle”