Lights, Camera, Animation

Making Christmas Magic

Season’s greetings, TV lovers! We’re telling anyone who will listen about our holiday deal. When you subscribe to DISH between now and 1/15/18, we’ll include an Amazon Echo Dot AND a new Voice Remote for FREE. That’s a ton of value. It’s like a stocking stuffed so full of entertainment you’ll need to yank, wiggle, and pry it all out.

We needed to tell the world about this deal. So, we asked our pals at House Special to make an ad. House Special are absolute pros at stop-motion animation. They made our SpokeslistenerTM look dapper and convincing as he talks TV with an enchanted snowman. Here’s the finished product—you have to see it.

Cute, right? We thought this ad was really pretty amazing. Did you know House Special made everything you see by hand? All of it! The forest, the snow, the trees, the satellite dish—everything. And they animated the whole thing by hand, too. To make this spot, they shot every frame one by one, changing the characters’ expressions and posture in between. DISH gives you Hands-Free TVTM,  but this was a total handful.

We wanted to know more about stop-motion animation, and how House Special does what they do. So we asked them! They were kind enough to take us behind the scenes and show us. See how they made the SpokeslistenerTM’s head out of clay, how the character fabrication team made his skeleton, and how costumers made a bespoke, hand-sewn three-piece suit, complete with a red pocket square. It’s pretty cool.

As it turns out, when you’re creating a whole world for a commercial that millions of people will see on big screen, high-res TVs, there is a lot to think about. So how do they make a whole world that seems big and real, from nothing?


One of the most important ways to make a world like this look real is to make sure everything fits together. “People need to believe that the puppet fits the world,” says House Special Director Aaron Sorenson. The props need to scale, too: “A small coffee cup prop should look like it fits into the character’s hand,” he adds.


Sorensen says it really helps stop-motion worlds seem real when you can use your eye to imagine what things would feel like if you touched them. “Using textured, visually tangible materials (like fabric, fur, foam, and wood) to make the world more believable is key.” Take a look at moose and squirrel here and see if they wouldn’t be the softest, furriest little dudes you’d pet all day, probably.


Finally, the stop-motion world becomes believable when everything in it moves naturally, from the snowflakes fluttering down to the ground, to the SpokeslistenerTM’s mouth when he talks, to the squirrels’ bobbing tails. House Special has a team of some of the industry’s best animators who can move characters in a natural, believable way, Sorensen says. “The puppets and sets can look amazing, but if the animation isn’t great, the illusion falls apart.”

The incredible thing about the movement you see? Almost all of it is arranged by hand. For DISH’s ad, small features like the snowman’s lip sync was animated by a computer graphics team—after they also tried doing it by hand. What matters, says Sorensen, is getting it “just right.”

And that they did. Amazing work!

This holiday magic won’t last forever. Get an Amazon Echo Dot and new voice remote FREE when you subscribe to DISH between now and January 15, 2018.