For seven years, Larry Moon worked as a Kellogg’s group TV producer at Leo Burnett. Moon had the privilege of working on the Frosted Flakes account with the iconic Tony the Tiger.
This “Gr-r-reat!” duo brought some of Tony’s most iconic, and active, commercials to life. Ever wonder what it takes to animate a spot for this breakfast champion? Let’s go back to 1993 to see how the iconic “Beach Volleyball” commercial was created.
Thurl Ravenscroft: Tony The Tiger’s Vocal Talent
“Thurl Ravenscroft was the voice of Tony for about 50 years.” Moon recalls. “He was in over 500 commercials!”
Ravenscroft was born in Norfolk, Nebraska and left at age 19 to attend art school in California. He was tall at 6’5” and Moon believes his height may have contributed to his booming bass voice.
Disney fans might already know Ravenscroft from his voiceover work. Ravenscroft contributed vocals to iconic Disneyland attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.
When the search was on for the first voice of Tony the Tiger, Ravenscroft was discovered through The Mellomen. This was a musical quartet that performed in music recording sessions in several movies.
How did Tony the Tiger’s commercials get their recordings? Moon says that the team at Leo Burnett would send Ravenscroft a rough cut of the commercial at his San Diego home studio. There was a pencil test of the commercial’s animation on a 3/4 time coded cassette included with the commercial.
Moon never felt that much directing was necessary when working with Ravenscroft. Recording for the commercials was done via phone patch between the Leo Burnett Chicago and San Diego recording studios. The two studios would then sync up the TV rough cuts including the pencil test overlay. Then, they would get on the phone with Ravenscroft as he recorded to the rough-cut picture. Lip sync animation was added to his voice track.
The vocal actor would later pass away in 2005.
“I only met him in person one time.” Moon admits, “In spite of that, I felt like he was a good friend. He was so pleasant to work with and he was ‘Tony.’”
Filming 1993’s Beach Volleyball Commercial
“When we filmed the commercial, we would put an actor in an orange jumpsuit to perform the part of Tony.” Moon says.
Why was an actor put into an orange jumpsuit for the role? It was a subtle attention to detail, but the orange color would naturally reflect onto the surrounding environment and affect those colors.
The Leo Burnett animation team would use Rotoscope animation of Tony the Tiger to cover up the actor in the finished commercial.
For the Tony the Tiger “Beach Volleyball” commercial, Leo Burnett hired Bobby Clarke. Clarke was a U.S. Olympic Volleyball Coach brought on to help with casting and coaching.
Liz Maskayan played Tony in this spot. Maskayan is a former UCLA Assistant Volleyball Coach. A few years later, Maskayan and her partner won the Beach Volleyball World Championships.
Hungry for more commercials? Take a look at this windsurfing spot from 1987. Tony’s windsurfing with the crew. He’s hanging ten with the help of Rotoscope animation. Surf’s up, Tony!