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United Airlines' "Dragon"

Jamie Caliri's artistry flies to top spot By Ko Maruyama
There were few outstanding commercials during this year's Superbowl broadcast, but no one would contest that United Airline's "Dragon" soars above them all.  The Fallon Agency (noted for its recent work on Sony's "Balls" spot) and Duck Studios (duckstudios.com) allowed Jamie Caliri the freedom to get this commercial into our heads and hearts.

 I had a chance to get a few questions with Jamie to talk specifically about Adobe After Effects' role in the commercial.  Ultimately, it was a collaboration of many different elements, hardware, software and people that brought all of the pieces together under Caliri's direction.

If you haven't seen the commercial, you can view it from United Airlines' website by clicking here.

[Ko Maruyama]

So Jamie, what was your background before you started the studio?

[Jamie Caliri]

In terms of background, I picked up my first movie camera in 1977 at the age of 7.  Like many film people my age I think Star Wars was a big influence.  Those Star Wars "making of" documentaries were so inspiring. I got into  photography in high school and then went off to Cal Arts to study animation and filmmaking.

I directed commercials and logo treatments using in-camera technique s in the early to mid 90's.  In the late 90's I abandoned animation and directed live action music videos.   I have also worked over the years as a professional photographer.

To be clear, every job is a different nut to crack, so I do not have a  permanent studio. The end credits for "Lemony Snicket" and United Airlines' "Dragon" spot were made in Ojai, CA (near my home), and we rented space and geared up for each job's needs.


Do you have a kit of tools, either rigging or otherwise that you consider to be a necessary part of any puppetry piece like Lemony or Dragon, whether it is in-camera or computer generated?


"Lemony" and "Dragon" were really different from each other in terms of process. "Dragon", being stop motion, required that we needed to have a full shooting space, lights, c-stands, and a complete workshop for construction. I have many tools I bring to bear on this type of project.

click images to view larger


Any particular tool you can't do without?


The camera movement system was the most crucial. The rest amount to a odd assortment of wood shop tools. As far as the digital side goes. We used my scanner and printer. Duck Studios  supplied us with the rest. Duck went out of their way to make sure we had what we needed. Kim Blanchette also brought a huge amount of animation rigging equipment. He had all these random armature  pieces.  Kim and Morgan Hay would  'Frankenstein' these together for each shot. 

click images to view larger


Since you began your studio, how many projects have you worked on and what scope of production styles does your studio cover (broadcast/film...3D/stop motion...)


The only two projects I have made here in Ojai are the "Lemony" end titles and "Dragon".  The one area I steer clear from is straight 3D-CGI.  So many people do it so well and I do not enjoy sitting in front of a computer, so it's a bit of a life style choice.  "Lemony" was all Photoshop and After Effects.

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Related Keywords:Dragon, United Airlines, superbowl commercial, after effects, jamie caliri, fallon, ko maruyama, stop motion

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