The Spot: Return of the Jedi

Why Deutsch and Volkswagen went back to the well for their 'Star Wars' sequel in the Super Bowl

Headshot of Tim Nudd

GENESIS: For months, Volkswagen and Deutsch debated whether—and then how—to do a sequel to "The Force," their runaway hit from the 2011 Super Bowl, for the 2012 game. "There's not a lot of great sequels. For every Godfather II, there's a Godfather III. For every Jaws, there's a Jaws 5," said Deutsch group creative director Michael Kadin. In the end, they felt they had to go back to the material. "To ignore it would have been glaringly obvious and strange," said Kadin's creative partner, Matt Ian. "It begged for a follow-up." After considering hundreds of scripts, they decided to do two spots—or rather, one plus an epilogue. The ad (which aired as a :60 during the game, with a :75 released online a few days before) begins with the story of a dog who wants to chase a Beetle, then segues to the Star Wars cantina, where the motley patrons discuss whether the new ad is better than the old one. To the agency, this was an elegant solution—giving life to an authentic stand-alone VW spot (that will now air on TV without the epilogue) while also nodding, in a postmodern way, at the juggernaut of the original.

COPYWRITING: The dog script fits into VW's brand tapestry of simple stories told simply. The dog wants to run alongside the car, but is too portly to fit through the home door flap—so he exercises until he finally makes it outside and scampers after the Beetle. "The dog is a metaphor for all of us" after our New Year's resolutions, Kadin said. "There's something very human and culturally relevant there." The dog section lightly references "The Force," with its family home, lack of dialogue, and voiceover line, "Back. And better than ever." The cantina scene, meanwhile, centers on Dr. Evazan and Walrus Man, characters who had an altercation with Luke in the original Star Wars. "They're still there. They're barflies, the loudmouths who comment on everything," Ian said. After Dr. Evazan blurts out his approval of the new spot, he finds himself in the Jedi grip of Darth Vader himself, who's a Little Vader fan. Vader releases his grip, and Evazan wheezes an apology. At first, the writers weren't sure about being so self-referential. "But it was just such a weird, funny, meta thing, we couldn't ignore it," said Ian.

ART DIRECTION: The dog section is warm and lush, with the red Beetle popping off the earth tones of the neighborhood. The cantina is the opposite—bustling, shadowy and claustrophobic. The agency worked with Lucasfilm to rebuild the cantina exactly as it was and get the masks and makeup right on the characters. (There's no CGI.)

FILMING: Lance Acord, who directed "The Force," returned for this spot, shooting the dog scenes in three days in Pasadena, Calif., and the cantina scene in a day at Universal Studios.

TALENT: Bolt, the dog, had to wear a doggy fat suit for the early scenes, as the creatives decided that using several similar-looking canines of different sizes would involve too much training. The actors in the cantina were cast to look as much like the originals as possible.

SOUND: Mournful piano music plays in the dog section until he starts exercising, when it switches to James Brown. In the cantina, the familiar song by house band Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes plays. "Would you even be listening to music while watching the game? Maybe not," said Ian. "But it puts you in that place. You have to suspend your disbelief."

MEDIA: The :75 rolled out online on Feb. 1, following an earlier teaser with a doggie choir barking "The Imperial March." An app on the VW website lets users create Super Bowl party invitations in the style of the Star Wars title crawl.



Client: Volkswagen of America

Tim Mahoney: Chief Product and Marketing Officer

Brian Thomas: General Manager, Brand Marketing

Eric Wilson: Brand Marketing & Diversity Communications Manager

Spot: "The Dog Strikes Back"

Agency: Deutsch, Los Angeles

Mark Hunter Chief Creative Officer

Michael Kadin Group Creative Director

Matt Ian Group Creative Director

Brian Freidrich ACD Copywriter

Mark Peters ACD Art Director

Vic Palumbo Director of Integrated Production

Victoria Guenier Director of Broadcast Production

Jim Haight Senior Producer

Marina Korzon Associate Producer

Production Company: PARK PICTURES

Lance Acord: Director

Jackie Kelman Bisbee: Executive Producer

Mary Ann Marino: Executive Producer/Head of Production

Pat Frazier: Line Producer


James Haygood: Editor

Dylan Firshein: Assistant Editor

Michael Raimondi: Executive Producer

Joe Ross: Senior Producer

Post Facility/Telecine: CO3

Stefan Sonnenfeld: Colorist

Offline/Visual FX Company: A52

Megan Meloth: Producer

Patrick Murphy: VFX Supervisor


Licensed Music: James Brown "Get Up Off of That Thing"

Scored/Original Music: Elias Arts

Sound Design: 740

Sound Design Audio Post Company: LIME STUDIOS

Mark Meyuhas: Mixer/Owner

Matt Miller: Assistant Mixer

Jessica Locke: Producer

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.