HouseSpecial Brings CustomInk’s ‘Spokestopus’ To Life In Stopmotion

April 18, 2016 (PORTLAND, OR) Introducing Steve the Spokestopus. He’s a new animated super fan created by content production studio HouseSpecial for CustomInk, the leading provider of custom apparel and accessories for groups and communities. The multi-spot campaign is a collaboration with Los Angeles ad agency SUPERMOON ( and debuts this month on broadcast and digital media platforms.

HouseSpecial’s Mark Gustafson (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Planters Mr. Peanut, Häagen-Dazs) helmed the spots and teamed with SUPERMOON’s Executive Creative Director and Partner David DeRoma to refine the initial scripts and develop the Steve character for animation. The end result was an under-water campaign with a unique look and feel that married stop-motion techniques with CG-animated mouths and environmental VFX.

“To best evoke the warmth and friendliness of the CustomInk brand, stop motion was the perfect technique that equally conveys a comforting, tactile human touch and felt appropriate for the diorama-like setting of Steve’s fish tank office,” Gustafson said.

The Steve puppets were constructed with a customized armature (an internal moveable metal skeleton) and covered in a dyed silicone skin. Details were hand painted and clothing was hand sewn including Doug the aerating deep-sea diver’s apparel.”

Sets were also handmade to look like a real fish tank found in a human world. Plants were created with movable pieces so animators could imitate natural underwater movement at 24 frames a second.

“All the details of Steve’s underwater office reflect the universality of a desk job, but with touches of the personal and the occasional nod to his Cephalopoda-ness — a hybrid aquarium/workspace environment.” Gustafson said. “I wanted to do as much in-camera as possible, but effects like bubbles and refraction are better candidates for CG. When combined, these authentic elements make for a nicely dynamic environment.”

The Details:

  • CG was used to add floating particles and bubbles for depth.
  • For the underwater look, HouseSpecial’s Flame artist finished the piece with a post distortion to enhance the practical, caustic lighting used on set.
  • The number of puppets designed and built for this campaign – Three Steves, one Doug and a free-standing tentacle.
  • The software used on this campaign includes Dragonframe, Maya, Nuke, Flame and Photoshop.

Tiny Things – Actual miniature props created for the campaign:

  • A branded hat, t-shirt, tank top, sweatshirt, polo
  • Soda can with a branded insulated holder
  • An office desk
  • An office chair
  • A retro telephone
  • A No. 2 pencil
  • A name plate – Steve
  • A coffee cup
  • A computer, keyboard and mouse
  • A goldfish in a fish bowl
  • Three picture frames and artwork of octopuses
  • A treasure chest
  • A potted plant
  • A dozen ocean plants
  • Coral
  • Many CustomInk branded boxes

The HouseSpecial crew also brought the same level of brand detail to the live action part of the campaign. Gustafson traveled to one of CustomInk’s facilities in Reno, Nevada to capture the company’s staff in their native space. Look for the lobby in the campaign’s opening shots.

“When we look past Steve at his desk, I wanted to capture the energy and motion of a real environment,” Gustafson said.

“Upon first read of SUPERMOON’s scripts, we fell in love with the creative possibilities of animating all eight of Steve’s tentacles as we crafted his physicality,” Lourri Hammack, Executive Producer and President, said. “We look forward to the return of Steve and his friends in future campaigns.”

Current “Steve the Spokestopus” spots can be viewed on CustomInk’s YouTube channel at”

About HouseSpecial:

HouseSpecial spun-off from feature film studio LAIKA in July 2014. The studio’s collaborations include an ongoing CG campaign for Boom Beach® with Supercell and Barton F. Graf, the long-standing M&M’S campaign featuring the beloved Red & Yellow characters with BBDO and a stop-motion homage to artisans and the maker movement for Häagen-Dazs® with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. The studio’s award-winning short films A Tale of Momentum & Inertia and Jailbreak can currently be seen at festival screenings and online. Watch all the latest work at

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