Celebrity judges from the fields of filmmaking, comedy, and television today helped Union Pacific award the $15,000 Grand Prize to Brock and Nellie Boyts for their Great Big Rollin' Railroad remake video following a ceremony at the company's headquarters building. The contest was part of Union Pacific's year-long 150th anniversary celebration.
Contestants were invited to re-create Union Pacific's classic 1970s television commercial, "We Can Handle It," and add a contemporary spin using music genres such as blues, pop, and rock among several others. The contest brought in 180 entries.
Grand Prize recipients Brock and Nellie Boyts, of Los Angeles, Calif., also were June contest winners. In their remake, they used Brock's 3D animation skills and Nellie's musical talents to bring Union Pacific's story to life.
"The wooden toy style came from my childhood memories of playing wooden blocks at my grandparents' house," Brock said. "Nellie and I both have fond memories of playing with the little Weeble toys as kids. Nellie chose her favorite people from the original ad and sketched out caricature Weeble versions of them."
Brock has eight years of motion design experience and works as a freelance motion designer in Los Angeles. He recently started taking classes at Animation Mentor to pursue his dream of becoming a character animator.
The contest awarded more than $35,000 in prizes. Six semifinalists received $1,000. Monthly prizes of $1,000 also were given to contestants who received the most "likes" on up150.com the previous month. Three finalists competed for the Grand Prize and were flown to Omaha for the awards ceremony. The other two finalists received $5,000.
Myk Friedman, first runner-up and May contest winner, adds his fun spin to the original commercial, giving tribute to Union Pacific's history and employees in his remake titled "The Choo-Choos."
"As soon as I heard the song, I knew I could have fun with it," Friedman said. "I always try to make something that is visually dynamic and include hidden things in the background to keep viewers engaged."
Friedman, of Dallas, Texas, began his career doing caricatures and his creative work includes graphic media for comic books, PC game designs, and scoreboard animations. Clips from two of his cartoons have been featured on the "Conan O'Brien" show.
Jarrod and Jaime Gollihare, of Tulsa, Okla., were second runners-up in the contest, using household items as instruments to make their audio unique.
"Jaime and I recorded a bunch of sounds around our apartment and created a music bed with them," Jarrod said. "I added a few elements like a ukulele, bass, xylophone and guitar, but all the percussion you hear comes from household items."
Jarrod is a full-time musician, playing drums, singing and composing. Jaime enjoys accompanying Jarrod, and they are currently working on a few recording projects.
Three celebrity judges critiqued the videos and interviewed the finalists to determine the winning entry at the contest awards ceremony. Judges included:
Trev Alberts is the University of Nebraska at Omaha's athletic director and is well-known in Nebraska for his football career with the Cornhuskers. He received the Butkus Award in 1993 as the best linebacker in college football his senior year. Alberts also is a three-time academic All-American and former football commentator for CNN, ESPN, and CBS.
Nik Fackler is an Omaha filmmaker and musician who made his screen writing and directorial debut with the 2008 feature film "Lovely, Still," starring Oscar winners Ellen Burstyn and Martin Landau. This release earned him an Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best First Screenplay.
Mary Maxwell, of Omaha, is a highly sought after public speaker and social media phenomenon. Since her "Funny Prayer about Getting Old" talk was uploaded to YouTube, it has been viewed more than 9 million times.
Union Pacific awarded $1,000 prizes to six contest semifinalists:
- Clint Bowers, Salem, Ore.
- Darrin Dick, Anderson, S.C.
- David Huante, El Paso, Texas
- Jesse Newman, Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Jeff Sanders, Cedar City, Utah
- William Scherer, Foothill Ranch, Calif.
Monthly $1,000 prize winners included:
- January: "Rise and Shine" (Bobby Kunkle), Omaha, Neb.
- February: A.T. (Aaron Thomas), Denison, Texas
- March: Anthony Pernice and Brian Meisner, Upper Saddle River, N.J.
- April: Mark Reiter/Bob Blom, McHenry, Ill.
- May: "The Choo-Choos" (Myk Friedman), Dallas, Texas
- June: Brock and Nellie Boyts, Los Angeles, Calif.