The headless horseman and his flaming pumpkin head – the ubiquitous Halloween duo are forever charging along moonlit trails, in menacing pursuit of terrified mortals. But what do these scary season mainstays do when they’re not scouring the autumn earth in search of the lost rider’s noggin?
In a hilarious reimagining of the galloping villains, Comedy Central portrays the eternally intertwined duo’s domestic life in a seasonal spot for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Set in a candlelit noir dining room of mammoth tables and leather-bound books, the spot portrays a flustered Jack-o-lantern head vainly reaching his serpentine tongue toward a bowl of Reese’s. Flustered and unsuccessful, the wilting orange fellow asks for assistance from the horseman, who slowly obliges, his steps weighed by his wearily resigned obligations of servitude.
We caught up with Comedy Central/Viacom Velocity Vice President and Creative Director Beth Trentacoste to find out a bit more about the creative process of bringing this much-used character to life in a novel way, while working closely with Reese’s to stay true to their brand messaging.
How did this spot come about?
Beth Trentacoste: Comedy Central and Reese’s brand partnered to create custom content to air on Comedy Central in October around Halloween. Reese’s is all about the perfect combination of chocolate and peanut butter. So inspired by that, we pitched them this idea where the Headless Horseman and his head are working together as a perfect combination to enjoy a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
How does Velocity maintain the essence of the partner while still executing an original concept?
BT: We’ve found that our audiences respond best to marketing and branded content that’s told in the voice of our brand – in this case, Comedy Central. This is what we do and what we do best. We create custom content for partners, through our comedic lens, told in our voice, in a way that we know will connect with our fans.
This spot was about taking Reese’s messaging and seeing that through the Comedy Central lens with our comedic sensibilities, and figuring out how to translate that into something we know our fans will like. We want it to be funny, original and edgy, but still stick to the tenets of the partner’s brand while maintaining the message that they want to convey. That’s the value that we bring to partners. We have a deep connection with our fans and we make content that stays true to our partners’ messaging.
Take us through the process of making this spot, from concept through production.
BT: Rooted in this idea of a perfect combination of chocolate and peanut butter, we focused on a piece of iconic Halloween imagery and put our twist on it in the way that we interpreted the characters of the Headless Horsmean and his head. They’re basically like an old married couple who’s stuck together for all of eternity. They totally need each other, so because of that or in spite of that, they maybe just totally can’t stand each other. For example, when the Headless Horseman mounts his horse to walk down the table, you would think that the head might admire his valor and charisma, but they’ve been seeing each other for a million years, so he’s just so totally over it. The fun was diving into that relationship. At it’s core, it’s just a good natured piece of Halloween fun, with a bit of irreverence and maybe a touch subversive.
Can you give us some production details?
BT: We shot at the Alder Mansion in Yonkers, which is rumored to be haunted – a very fitting location. The pumpkin was a puppet that was positioned on a table with a hole underneath, and there was a puppeteer lying on the floor operating and doing the voice. In post, we used CGI to bring the pumpkin to life. Enhancing it with fire and flames coming out of the mouth, and then similar to animated films, we added in the voice. The Headless Horseman was actually the horse trainer who wore a green screen hood that allowed us to cut off his head in post.