Chipotle Scarecrow

When I moved to Washington, D.C. years ago I basically emptied my bank account to do so. I landed in the city with no cash, no friends, no internet access, furniture, smart phone, or a job. I slept on a “mattress” made of  my own clothes. I will always remember eating burrito bowls from Chipotle and literally licking the plate clean so as not to waste a single drop of nutrition. I have a certain loyalty to the company, but even if those trying times had not happened I’d be able to objectively say the following: The new Chipotle commercial is one of the best I have ever seen.

While I hesitate to call a work of art “flawless,” the word comes to mind after viewing “The Scarecrow.”

Gawker nails it:

It’s being called “the most beautiful, haunting infomercial you’ll ever see.”

And with Oscar-ready animation from the acclaimed visual effects wizards at MOONBOT Studios set over a score of Fiona Apple covering “Pure Imagination” from the 1971 cult children’s film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, is it any wonder that Chipotle’s “stealth” promo for a free iOS game is already on a fast-track to become one of this year’s most successful marketing campaigns — all without barely mentioning the word “Chipotle.”

Add to that a powerful anti-factory-farming message, and all other ads should just give up:

  • In a dystopian fantasy world, all food production is controlled by fictional industrial giant Crow Foods. Scarecrows have been displaced from their traditional role of protecting food, and are now servants to the crows and their evil plans to dominate the food system. Dreaming of something better, a lone scarecrow sets out to provide an alternative to the unsustainable processed food from the factory.

“Haunting” is exactly what ran through my mind the first time I viewed “The Scarecrow,” and Fiona Apple’s cover of “Pure Imagination” is the icing on the cake.

How can anyone not see the worst aspects of themselves in the scarecrow when he turns away from evil at 1:37? How many times in our life have we sat silent when we should have stood up and said “No” in a situation that demanded it? How many times did we shirk our duty to do what is right? No one is perfect, and we all have had moments where we were “the scarecrow,” too frightened or insecure or self-absorbed to stand up for righteousness. Again, the creative team behind this short film deserves a hat tip, a firm handshake and a pat on the back. Amazing job.

Chipotle Scarecrowe Cow

Haunting, indeed.

Chipotle Scarecrowe sadness

With all of that said, I can not help but think that there are a lot of farmers who are livid with this commercial. How do you feed a nation of 400 million people? That is a question that is rather complicated and, quite honestly, doesn’t lend itself to the “Good Farmers vs. Evil Farmers” dichotomy the writers have presented.

People have to eat, and at the end of the day plants and animals have to die. It would be nice if happy chickens and cows did not have to be sacrificed so that we might live, but that is the case. While I sit in awe at the creative genius behind “The Scarecrow,” the politics behind it are a bit dubious.

For those who are interested, I have been told ‘The Omnivores Dilemma’ and ‘In Defense of Food,’ by Michael Pollan, are both worth checking out. I’m assuming the makers of “The Scarecrow” are fans. Both are on my reading list, but the problem is that people keep suggesting (or giving me) books to read, and I still haven’t finished a stack that I received for Christmas.

Watch “The Scarecrow” and tell me what you think — particularly if you’re in the farming industry.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

6 comments

  1. It’s an amazing piece of work.
    I stumbled across it this morning, completely by accident, and watched it with no expectations (the best way to watch anything).
    I was blown away.
    Within 30 seconds, I said aloud “this is going to win awards”. When it was over… I watched it again.

    It’s quite a substantial little piece of filmmaking. The tone is just right.

    Bravo.

    1. I was hoping you’d comment, Jim. I definitely don’t agree with the politics of the original animation, but in this case I tried to stay away from the politics to focus on just how amazing the creative team that put it together is.

      There’s a “making of” video that is pretty interesting. The “villain” becomes the crow because even the creators realize that there really isn’t a villain… The work around was genius; the viewer feels as though Chipotle is a “good” guy in some sort of agricultural war where there isn’t a clearly-defined enemy.

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