The Mill created an edgy Super Bowl ad titled ‘Mullets’ for Kawasaki’s first Super Bowl entry with a pipeline featuring Autodesk Maya, Houdini Vellum simulations and proprietary fur.

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The Mill created an edgy Super Bowl commercial for Kawasaki titled ‘Mullets’, directed by Dave Laden and Christopher Gruse. This spot was Kawasaki's first appearance among the Super Bowl advertisements, promoting the new Kawasaki RIDGE side x side, a vehicle made to blend work and play.

Filmed over two days on a ranch in the countryside near Vancouver, the commercial features two adventure seekers who magically grow mullets on climbing into their Kawasaki RIDGE.

Wrestling legend Steve Austin, a long-time Kawasaki enthusiast and brand ambassador, makes an appearance. Austin's first dirt bike was a Kawasaki, bringing authenticity and star power to the ad.

As the two friends race across backcountry trails, they encounter CG creatures – an eagle, a bear, and even a turtle although reptiles do not usually have fur – each suddenly growing a custom mullet hairstyle as the vehicle passes. These creatures, intrigued by the abilities of the Kawasaki RIDGE, add a humorous and memorable dimension to the ad.

The Mill's expertise in CG FX, grooming and lighting were essential as each character and creature's hair growth simulations were meticulously crafted. Innovative 2D compositing techniques were used to integrate these simulations invisibly into the scene, creating a realistic visual experience that keeps the focus on the humour and the action. 

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Christian Nielsen, Creative Director at The Mill said, "Our team used our updated in-house grooming tools and pipeline to ensure each mullet was perfectly tailored to match the characters' personalities and styles. The collaboration with the agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and the directors was instrumental in infusing the spot with the right balance of humour and adventure."

In the Kawasaki project, The Mill integrated Autodesk Maya directly into its rigging, animation and rendering pipeline. Augmenting its capabilities, The Mill employed its proprietary grooming tool called furtilizer, while incorporating Vellum simulations in Houdini, which are used for generating soft bodies like hair. The final render was accomplished through Autodesk’s renderer, Arnold.

“The implementation of the Arnold hair shader in this context helped us achieve remarkably detailed hair and reach a level of visual complexity that raised the overall quality of our output,” Christian said.

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The project was also significant for Mark Benson, President of The Mill, a studio that is well known for creating memorable Super Bowl commercials. "The Super Bowl is not just a sporting event. It's a showcase of the advertising industry's best work. This collaboration with Kawasaki showcases our commitment to always take advantage of creativity and technology in the most innovative ways. We're excited to add this piece to our Super Bowl ad legacy."