The Scarecrow (2013 film)

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The Scarecrow
Directed by
Produced by
Music by Fiona Apple ("Pure Imagination")
Edited by Calvin O'Neal, Jr.
Moonbot Studios
Release date
  • September 11, 2013 (2013-09-11)
Running time
Country United States
Language English

The Scarecrow is a 2013 animated short film and advertisement by the American restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill. The film features Fiona Apple singing a cover version of "Pure Imagination", originally performed by Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.[2]


Fiona Apple (pictured in 2012) performs "Pure Imagination".

In a dystopian world,[3] the main character, Scarecrow, starts work at the "smoke-spewing" Crow Foods Incorporated. He sees a tube extracting a substance labeled "100% Beef-ish", but being marketed to consumers as "all natural". He then witnesses a robotic crow injecting a chicken with green fluid to promote expansion, followed by cows being held captive in small metal boxes while machines continuously milk the cows forcefully.[2] Scarecrow returns to his small farm, seemingly upset by what he witnessed during the workday. He picks a red pepper, which inspires him to harvest other vegetables and open a burrito stand in the city. Above his stand is a banner that reads "Cultivate a Better World".[2]

The computer-animated film features a cover version of "Pure Imagination" (Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley) by Fiona Apple,[4] a song originally performed by Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), itself an adaptation of Roald Dahl's book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964). According to the Los Angeles Times, Apple's performance "scores scenes of dark devastation" and offers "stark contrast between the world of pure imagination of the lyrics" and the animals being processed.[4] In the film, when Scarecrow returns home from work and picks a red pepper, the song transitions from "mournful" and "menacing" to a "happier" tone.[2] Apple released the recording on iTunes, with proceeds benefiting the nonprofit organization, Chipotle Cultivation Foundation.[4]

The Scarecrow ends with a brief teaser for a mobile app game available for iPhones and iPads, where the player can take down the fictional Crow Foods.[3] Chipotle described the film as a "companion" piece to the game.[4]


Chief Marketing Officer Mark Crumpacker stated that because his company "is on a mission to change the way the world thinks of and eats fast food," they wished to inform the public about how the food they eat is raised. Brand Voice Lead William Espey added that they wanted to create "this experience, this film and mobile game that would help us support that mission."[5] Crumpacker also stated that the film depicts the "elaborate facade that's been created by the industrial food producers," who have done a "very good job of creating a rosy picture of their industry."[5] The film reflects Chipotle's marketing strategy of avoiding television advertising; the company's goal is to come across as an alternative to factory farming and a more "highbrow" option over other fast food restaurants.[6][7]

The Scarecrow was animated by Moonbot Studios, a small firm co-founded by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2012.[8] Moonbot liked Chipotle's food and ethos and created a video centered around scarecrows, which "normally protect food," but in this film they protect "something we call food, but it's something that seriously overproduced on a dramatic scale... which is not that far from the truth."[5] Co-directors Oldenburg and Limbert Fabian found inspiration from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, as well as from Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis.[1]

Chipotle originally selected Frank Ocean to perform "Pure Imagination" for the commercial, but he asked to be removed after the chain declined to remove its logo from the spot.[9] He was ultimately replaced by Fiona Apple.[10] In March 2014, Chipotle sued Ocean for the $212,500 advance that they had paid him to perform in the commercial.[11] The lawsuit was dismissed later that month after Ocean repaid the advance in full.[12]

Release and reception[edit]

The short film was released on September 11, 2013. By September 19, it had been viewed 5.5 million times on YouTube.[1]

The Scarecrow has been praised as innovative marketing and a "beautiful" work of art.[6] AdWeek felt that the effective animation and Apple's voice "connects the viewer emotionally to the story," but felt that it was "not quite as magical" as Chipotle's similarly-themed "Back to the Start" video.[8] The Los Angeles Times' Randall Roberts called the film surreal, direct and "visually magnetic", and wrote that "the song as covered by Apple is gorgeous, filled with electronic flourishes and rococo arrangements. The images imbue her version with a melancholy, but, taken on its own, the song shimmers."[4] Slate's Matthew Yglesias complimented the film's animation and music, and called the scene in which cows are seen in small crates "the most poignant moment you've ever witnessed in fast food marketing".[6] He wrote that, if Chipotle's goal was to create "high-quality high-impact stuff that really gets attention and is designed to be memorable", the company was successful.[6] Marketing reporter Bruce Horovitz, contributing for USA Today, named it the fifth best advertisement of the year.[13]

The film won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding New Approaches – Original Daytime Program or Series and for Outstanding Directing in an Animated Program at the 41st Daytime Emmy Awards.[14] It also won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions in June 2014.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Cheney, Alexandra (September 19, 2013). "The Story Behind That Fiona Apple Chipotle Ad". The Wall Street Journal. New York City: News Corp. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Weiss, Elizabeth (September 23, 2013). "What Does "The Scarecrow" Tell Us About Chipotle?". The New Yorker. New York City: Condé Nast Publications. ISSN 0028-792X. OCLC 320541675. Retrieved September 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Barclay, Eliza (September 12, 2013). "Taking Down Big Food Is the Name of Chipotle's New Game". National Public Radio. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Roberts, Randall (September 13, 2013). "Fiona Apple covers Willy Wonka in striking new Chipotle clip". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tribune Company. ISSN 0458-3035. OCLC 3638237. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c "The Scarecrow – Behind the Scenes". YouTube. Google. September 11, 2013. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d Yglesias, Matthew (September 12, 2013). "You Want to Watch Chipotle's Amazing "Scarecrow" Video". Slate. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ Morrison, Maureen (March 12, 2012). "Chipotle Bucks Fast-Food Convention While It Still Can". Advertising Age. Crain Communications. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Nudd, Tim (September 12, 2013). "Ad of the Day: Chipotle Makes Magic Yet Again with Fiona Apple and a Dark Animated Film". Adweek. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  9. ^ Beltrone, Gabriel. "Frank Ocean Gets the Last (Four-Letter) Word in Spat With Chipotle". Adweek. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  10. ^ Whitehill, Gaby. "Fiona Apple claims Frank Ocean was due to sing Chipotle TV advert | Gigwise". 
  11. ^ Coleman, Miriam. "Frank Ocean Sued by Chipotle Over Ad Deal". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  12. ^ Newman, Jason. "Frank Ocean Settles Chipotle Lawsuit". Rolling Stone. 
  13. ^ Horovitz, Bruce (December 24, 2013). "Horovitz: Best and worst ads of 2013". USA Today. Tysons Corner, Virginia: Gannett Company. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  15. ^ "The Cannes Lion for PR Is Home at Last". Edelman. Retrieved August 5, 2014. 

External links[edit]