08.28.2008

My Favorite Olympic Commercials

Posted by AJ Harbison at 12:32 am

And, bringing my Olympic posts to a close:

My favorite commercial during the Olympics–or rather my favorite series of commercials–has been United Airlines’ “It’s Time To Fly” campaign. I’ve seen four of the five commercials in the series at various times, the most prevalent being the one entitled “Two Worlds,” in which a business man from a black-and-white world rises to a fantastic colorful world in the sky, and when he returns, begins to spread color throughout his world. The earliest one I saw, “Sea Orchestra,” employs a very colorful, illustrative-type style to depict an orchestra of various sea creatures heralding a transoceanic flight. The other two I’ve seen, “Butterfly” and “Moondust,” utilize a very fluid sidewalk-chalkesque animation style that I enjoy very much.

All the commercials, however, are notable for their background music: Rhapsody In Blue by the American composer George Gershwin. Gershwin was a jazz musician in the early twentieth century, but he was also an art music composer, and Rhapsody in Blue represents one of the first pieces considered a “crossover” blending jazz and classical music. It has become one of America’s most performed concert works, is instantly recognizable by its famous themes, and all in all is a really cool piece.

This piece forms the background for each of the five commercials in the United campaign (United has been using the piece in commercials since the 1980s), and is featured very prominently as the commercials contain no dialogue and limited narration. Perhaps the commercial drawing the most attention to its soundtrack is the “Sea Orchestra” spot, in which different groups of sea creatures perform the different groups of instruments in the piece. Perhaps I’m biased because of my affinity for Rhapsody in Blue; but I enjoyed the visual art of each of the commercials as well, and they’ve been the best spots I’ve seen in the three weeks of the Games.

You can see the commercials by following this link to United’s website; click on “Commercials,” then mouse over the small thumbnail picture to expose all the individual commercials. You can also see “behind the scenes” material for each one; the “Music Sketch” PDF file for “Sea Creatures” is pretty interesting.

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