After a three-year absence, earlier this week saw the return of Ask Jeeves with the Jeeves butler returning as Ask.com's brand icon. The butler is again the face of popular search engine, which will be returning to its original name, Ask Jeeves, in the UK.
In keeping with the times, Jeeves has changed his appearance a little -- not least in becoming a fully 3D character. The ever-helpful butler's new look required a little shopping expedition. Top Savile Row tailors, Gieves & Hawkes, crafted a suit for him, while design and animation were made to measure by Framestore.
A multimedia campaign has been launched to promote Jeeves' return, including six 10-second TV spots, Homepage takeovers on key websites, as well as print ads and associated events. Framestore says the project provided an opportunity to show off two sides of its business that it's currently expanding: the active creative role it can play in the development of digital characters and animation, and its ability to deliver a full media campaign from inception to delivery. These are designed to allow Framestore to offer a 'one-stop shop; for all associated digital peripherals tied to a TV campaign.
The return of Jeeves complements an extensive program of improvements and enhancements to the search engine, and is in response to research that showed that the butler was widely liked and felt to be approachable, trustworthy and, above all, helpful, according to the company.
It was with all of this in mind that Hanft Raboy Partners in New York first came to designer and animator Dale Newton in February of this year.
"The first four or so weeks were pure development," says Newton, "During which time we sketched and modelled over and over to get the three dimensional Jeeves right. The client gave us the original artwork, and we could see how the character had evolved from his initial conception to his most recent incarnation in 2004. It was our job to bring him up to 2009 and beyond. He's energetic, warm, friendly, intelligent and sharp.
"At the same time, any of the older connotations his name and station might carry -- aloofness, say, or poshness -- were ruthlessly excluded. Part of this was entailed in his sartorial rethink, with a natty suit and tie from Gieves & Hawkes replacing the old morning coat he used to sport."
With the look finalized, further depth could be added through movement. Working throughout in Maya, Newton's team started -- as animators so often do -- with his walk.
"He's relaxed," Newton says, "He leans back a bit and has a spring in his step. His walk tells you that he's at ease and can handle anything you throw at him without stress. It's a lot to pack into a walk..."
The TV spots which will be appearing over forthcoming weeks are essentially cameos, written to show how Ask Jeeves can help ordinary people deal with everyday situations, such as cookery, DIY, parenting and so forth. Jeeves performs in these vignettes on a white background, so all eyes are on him -- which, as Newton points out, is every animator's dream.
Follow Digital Arts on Twitter!@digital_arts
This story, "Jeeves Rejoins Search Fray With a New Look" was originally published by DigitalArts.