Chilkat Pass gets creamed

Film crew shoots Twinkies commercial in Yukon's frigid, snowy moonscape

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2003

White stuff was everywhere north of Haines last month during the filming of a Twinkies commercial near Chilkat Pass.

Oh, and there was plenty of snow, too.

Cream filling was at the core - though lacking its familiar spongy-yellow covering - of production for a new Hostess ad shot Jan. 21-23 on the snowy moonscape along the Haines Highway, which will stand in for Antarctica in the penguin-themed spot.

Kristian Andresen, production manager for Vancouver, British Columbia-based Circle Productions, said the Chilkat Pass footage will be combined with computer animation to create a storyline featuring Twinkie-infatuated fowl.

The ad centers around a snowplow - a Yukon Highways plow was used in the filming - that is moving through deep snow and rolling up a big pile of snow as it goes. Computer-animated penguins watch it approach.

"You see the blade, and the penguins think it's a Twinkie," Andresen said. "They all stand together as it gets closer and closer."

They don't get out of the way and - it's humorous, we're assured - they get "creamed" by the snowplow.

"One penguin turns into a massive snowball and bowls the others over like pins," Andresen said.

In the end, the group of penguins can be seen enjoying Twinkies.

The ad involves a number of companies. Circle Productions is the Canadian contact for Blue Highway, a video production firm in Portland, Ore. Blue Highway, in turn, works with Portland-based Will Vinton animation studios, which will merge the Chilkat Pass footage with animated penguins, Twinkies and the like in order to create the final, polished advertisement.

Andresen said Circle Productions scouted several snowy sites, including the Whistler, B.C., area and the Calgary Badlands in Alberta. But Chilkat Pass offered the best snow conditions and the appearance that best approximated Antarctica.

"We needed the whole tundra look of the summit, with no trees," Andresen said.

During and after the scouting process, Circle Productions was in contact with the Yukon Film Commission, which promotes and helps arrange filming in the Yukon and - in this case - areas nearby. The filming site was near Mule Creek, 68 miles north of Haines and eight miles north of the Chilkat Pass summit.

Yukon Film Commission production/location coordinator Iris Merritt said the plot of the ad was revealed to her office piecemeal - so they were a little puzzled when they read about penguins getting "creamed" by a snowplow.

"We're thinking, that's why we're not in advertising, because a penguin getting creamed by a snowplow doesn't sound like good advertising," she said.

But then the client was revealed, and the gentler, tastier definition of "creamed" became evident.

Brian Guerin, heavy equipment operator with Yukon Highways, had the honors of driving the snowplow with a specially-made, Twinkie-shaped blade. When reached by radiophone along the Haines Highway last week, he said the experience was interesting - but he felt sorry for the film crew working outside with brisk winds and temperatures well below zero Fahrenheit.

"It was a lot of fun, but it was an awful cold day," he said.

At the shoot, the penguins were represented by a stuffed stand-in and, in some cases, just wooden blocks. Clarence Kelsey of Whitehorse, who built the special snowplow blade and assisted with other props and special effects, said the crew had to find ways to create footprints in the snow and other effects to simulate the movement of the nonexistent penguins.

The seemingly odd fit of Twinkies and snow doesn't bother Merritt - since the film crew stayed in the Yukon and involved local residents and businesses in the shoot. Plus, she said, the crew was great to have around.

"The crews tend to be fun, hip, creative, funky," she said. "To work with them was a pleasure. Everything they looked at was an idea."

Andresen said the film crew had a great time and was awed by the scenery.

"There's nothing the director of photography can do to make it any better than it looks naturally," he said.

Andrew Krueger can be reached at akrueger@juneauempire.com.



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