Chipotle Makes Magic Yet Again With Fiona Apple and a Dark Animated Film

Fiona Apple, CAA Marketing and the Oscar-winning animators at Moonbot Studios prove to be impressive collaborators as Chipotle takes the formula that worked so well two years ago—celebrity cover of a famous song + gorgeous long-form animation + potent environmental message—and replicates it for a new campaign.

In fact, it enhances the formula by adding a gaming component, too.

Like the acclaimed, award-winning “Back to the Start” campaign, the new effort, called “The Scarecrow,” is another grand statement from the restaurant chain about the world of industrial food production. The centerpiece is a free, arcade-style adventure game for the iPhone and iPad, supported by an animated short film of the same name.

The film, posted below, is a dystopian fantasy in which a famously antagonistic relationship—that of crow and scarecrow—is turned on its head. Crows are running the show at the Crow Foods factory, which is staffed by scarecrows who’ve lost their jobs at the farm and are forced into supporting the unsustainable processed-food system.

The first two-thirds of the film are oppressively bleak, as chickens and cows are pumped full of hormones and our hero scarecrow all but blanches at the horror of it all. In the end, of course, he breaks free and opens his own little restaurant, where he serves—naturally—wholesome-looking handmade burritos.

The animation by Moonbot is lovely. (The studio won the Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2012 for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.) And the music—a Fiona Apple cover of the song “Pure Imagination” from 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—is flat-out hypnotic. Together, they produce a deeply evocative atmosphere that connects the viewer emotionally to the story—even if it’s not quite as magical as the brilliant, stripped-down, stop-motion “Back to the Start” video.

But it’s not all about the film anyway. The game, also developed with Moonbot and CAA, is a major focus, too. You’re challenged to “fly through the city of Plenty to transport confined animals to open pastures, fill fields with diverse crops at Scarecrow Farms, and serve wholesome food to the citizens at PlentyFull Plaza, all while avoiding menacing Crowbots.” And if you get at least three stars out of five in each of the game’s worlds, you get a coupon for free food at Chipotle.

Branded entertainment goes doesn’t get much more well rounded or better executed than this. Apple’s song will hit the iTunes Store soon, with 60 cents per download benefiting the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. And the game is available for free at the App Store.

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