Summer is Coming – Diving deep into 3D animation for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

If you love Game of Thrones, you’ll want to read to the end of this blog post. This past May saw the launch of one of Team Tam’s and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s most impressive collaborations to date, inspired by the HBO hit show and worldwide sensation, Game of Thrones. Those familiar with the epic storylines will be familiar with the ubiquitous phrase, “Winter Is Coming.” Meant to inspire dread and trepidation, this assertion has become synonymous with the show.

But “Winter Is Coming” inspired more for Vice President of Marketing at the Boardwalk, Marq Lipton. He approached us at the end of 2017 with an ambitious idea centered not on “Winter Is Coming,” but rather “Summer Is Coming.” He wanted to create a video that echoed the iconic Game of Thrones opening, which involved worlds growing up from the ground, and apply it to the Boardwalk’s attractions. The video was meant to increase top-of-mind awareness of the Boardwalk as a summer vacation destination and catalyze a campaign to start the seaside amusement park’s 2018 season.

It was also an unspoken salute to all the Boardwalk employees who prepare the park year after year for the influx of summer guests—building the Boardwalk from the ground up, much like the animation in the video. For those employees, summer is always coming.

But could it be done? Could Team Tam create a wholly 3D-animated world that represented the iconic Boardwalk?

Proof of Concept

This year, the Boardwalk did not unveil a new attraction at the park, so the video was meant to get guests out to the park with all of the existing attractions. It was purely a video to entertain and inspire, without any selling aspect. But first, Team Tam had to convince Marq it could be done–and done well. We prepared a 10-second proof of concept that involved animation of the Giant Dipper roller coaster rising out of the ground. The client, needless to say, loved it.

Unlike the heavy storytelling of the TV show, Summer Is Coming instead channels the anticipation of school-free days, spent at the best seaside park in the U.S. Sondra Woods, Advertising Director at the Boardwalk, was initially skeptical about portraying the park in a manner so closely tied to a show that was dark, and rather risqué. But with Marq’s encouragement, recognizing the potential attention from millions of Game of Thrones fans, and our impressive proof of concept, Sondra was convinced.

Delivering “a Pony”

The final product was really a testament to the collaboration between all members of Team Tam. Susan O’Connor Fraser prepared the original flow and treatment, Tam O’Connor Fraser handled the music and sound effects. But the real giants of this project were 3D Modeler and Animator Aaron Dingman and Art Director Mike Baxter. Aaron animated almost all of the elements in the video utilizing more than 3.7 million polygons, resulting in 834 hours of rendering time on three different computers.

Marq Lipton’s reaction to seeing the final video for the first time:

“When you put any production together, you have an idea in your brain and the trouble is getting it out from there and onto the screen. So how do you do that? I don’t have the talent to make it happen. But you speak the words, draw the pictures, and then talk to people and hope that they interpret what you’re saying into what you want it to look like. Somehow Tam Communications did it. They did exactly what we were hoping to do at the Boardwalk. The only thing I can compare this process to is, if you remember when you were a child waiting for your birthday and you know what you really want. You open up the presents, and they’re good, but not what you really want most of the time. This time I opened up the present, and I thought… they got me a pony!”

Whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not, we hope you enjoy our “pony” as much as we enjoyed the collaborations to get it made.