Thursday, January 21, 2010

Taco Bell's version of Thelma and Louise, the commercial that was Banned after only one night.

After being named the winner of an Academy of Television Arts and Sciences internship scholarship back in the 80's, my internship was spent at a commercials production company called Film Fair.

It was an honor to win such an award as I had to compete against students from colleges all over the country, including Harvard!

Some time after my internship had ended, automobile driving specialist Larry Boenzle informed me of a Thelma and Louise Taco Bell commercial that he would be participating in with fellow stunt car driver Mike Ryan, imagine my surprise to encounter a couple of Film Fair employees working on the shoot.
The adage it's a small world in the film production world sure can be true at times.


I decided to use a super-8 camera that Dave Riddle of Four Designs company fame had specially modified per my request to capture the actual stunt of the car jumping the train tracks while a locomotive cruised by at 15-25 miles an hour.

Dave Riddle added a rheostat dial to the super-8 camera that altered the level of current the camera received. The rheostat mounted dial would allow this particular Super-8 camera to smoothly fluctuate in speed from a low of around 2 frames per second all the way up to around 36-40 frames per second.

This rheo stat modification apparently does not work on most super-8 cameras, but in this instance for this particular super-8 camera, it worked like a charm. I used good old trusty Kodachrome 40 super-8 film to film the stunt.
There are times when I display a bull in a china shop etiquette, and this time was no exception.
Before the stunt was to take place, I recall going up to one of the youngish agency executives and exclaiming my surprise that they would attempt this type of commercial. I think I said something along the lines of "this strikes me as the kind of commercial that gets taken off the air because of viewer complaints within a day or two of the first time it is shown on television".

Fortunately, I did not say this to the executive in front of other people as well, so he remained pretty non-plussed about my comment and stated that the commercial had not received any major cautions from the ad agency or taco bell and therefore he was not concerned.
I may sometimes be a bull in a china shop, but I try to make sure there is room to maneuver for all parties involved.
And yes, the commercial was pulled from national broadcast after the first night or two of broadcast. File this under "just another example of people not listening to me when my opinion might have helped them figure out a solution to an upcoming unforeseen problem".

As for the Super-8 camera rheostat, you can see the car turn into slow motion as it begins to jump the train.

If you are planning on creating or broadcasting a commercial and want an objective, outsiders point of view about your commercial, contact Alessandro Machi about his consulting services at...

info at alexlogic.com

You can also view more
commercial critiques
by Alessandro Machi at

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