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How to grow a beard of bees

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M&C Saatchi has teamed up with director Matthew Swanson from Epoch Films, and design and visual effects agency Timber to create a (literally) buzz-worthy spot for the San Diego Zoo. The spot, entitled (rather aptly) “Bees,” is a light-hearted, but defiantly abstract look into the mind of a child whose imagination has been sparked by a visit to the world famous zoo, in this case specifically, the Tiger Trail at the zoo's Safari Park. The 30-second spot shows a child sat on a school bus sporting a frighteningly realistic beard of bees, which he explains to a friend he managed to grow after visiting the Tiger Trail exhibit.

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The 30-second spot shows a child sat on a school bus sporting a beard of bees

The spot builds on M&C Saatchi's previous work promoting the exhibit, which opened in May this year. The work consisted of TV, print, digital, outdoor and transit, targeting the Southern California region, and three spots which featured kids “Tapping into their tiger power” after coming face to face with a real Sumatran Tiger on the Tiger Trail.

San Diego Zoo – Bee Beard

The spot (above) is part of a campaign showing how one boy taps into a well of mysterious powers after experiencing the Tiger Trail, which hosts some of the world's most majestic wild cats. Swanson, Timber, and the M&C Saatchi team, worked together to create a magical tale that seamlessly blends CGI with live action. Swanson said that both teams “Were really committed to the process” from their very first conversations onwards, “And delivered impressively on everything” they discussed.” He added that the team at Timber displayed an exemplary attention to detail, making sure “There wasn’t a single i undotted or t uncrossed.”

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Getting the bee beard right was definitely a challenge.” Matthew Swanson

Maria Smith, associate creative director at M&C Saatchi LA, said they came to Timber, “with a pretty crazy idea; a kid with a full grown beard, and not just any beard, but one made entirely out of bees.” This is a task they knew wouldn't be easy, but she said the Timber team made their “Impossible scenario a reality,” and did so “With beautiful attention to detail.” She calls the effects used “Magical,” and says Timber had a very heavy hand in creating a truly “Mesmerising piece of film.” James Bray, the agency's executive creative director, jokingly added that if they'd attempted the pitch any other way (using real bees) they “Would’ve had child protective services” after them!

Another spot for San Diego Zoo from M&C Saatchi from May 2014

The scene was an incredibly technical task, which involved side-by-side shoots from Swanson (directing the live footage) and Timber (manning the “Bee-Cam”). The boy wore a simple fake beard decorated with 200 fabric bees, which the “Real” bees would later be superimposed over. Timber, meanwhile, shot a million real bees swarming on the face of a realistic-looking dummy, moving the dummy in order to approximate the actions's of the boy so the bees could be added later.

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The scene was an incredibly technical task, which involved side-by-side shoots from Swanson and Timber

Swanson admits that “Getting the bee beard right was definitely a challenge.” He said he knew what he wanted the beard to look like, but had to get there with limited time and resources. He said ; “There were a lot of conversations between myself, my production designer Justin Trask, and Timber Creative Director Jonah Hall. We literally had swarms of bees out in the open in a public park in studio city” He's still impressed that they were actually allowed to do it, and is “Happy to report not a single person was stung!”

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This was not the first time the bee beard has been used in a campaign. Back in September of 2011, Magners (with the help of Framestore) debuted an epic video and App staring Eamon, the Clonmel beekeeper. The App allowed users to try on 6 different types of buzzing beards. 

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Beekeepers have always been fascinated with letting the bees chill-out on their 'bods'. This practice of Bee Bearding was started by master beekeeper, Petro Prokopovych of Ukraine back in the 1830s. 

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and musician from Kidderminster in the UK. He didn't just have a crush on an older woman, he had a crush on the oldest woman. He grew a beard of bees for that woman, but it just wasn't enough.

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