Chipotle chief on The Scarecrow and why Fiona Apple's take on "Pure Imagination" was perfect

Chipotle chief on The Scarecrow and why Fiona Apple's take on "Pure Imagination" was perfect

A few years back, Chipotle premiered Back to the Start, a two-and-a-half minute animated short. The evocative clip, which focuses on the practice of factory farming and the necessity of a sustainable farming system, was imbued with an underlying sense of poignancy thanks to Willie Nelson's stirring version of the "The Scientist" by Coldplay, which served as the soundtrack. Last week, Chipotle introduced another powerful piece with The Scarecrow, and this time it's Fiona Apple providing the pathos with her affecting take of "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

See also: Chipotle unveils Back to the Start, a short film about sustainable farming

Apple is a far cry from Willy Wonka's Gene Wilder, but when Chipotle premiered its latest ad, produced by Moonbot Studios last week, it was Apple's voice that rang out in a striking rendition of "Pure Imagination," lush with the ever-changing undertones that epitomize her sound. "We wanted a modern figure doing something classic," explains Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle's chief marketing officer. "In Back to the Start, we used Willie Nelson, a legend on a modern song -- this time, we felt it worked to reverse that."

Crumpacker wasn't totally sold on "Pure Imagination" at first, he says. He had listened to the Gene Wilder against the landscape of the film, and the message Wilder conveyed seemed too bright. "Gene Wilder was happy -- it wasn't doing enough," he reasons. "It needed tone contrast; it needed angst. Fiona Apple was the artist who could make this happen. I thought it might be a gamble; when she records something, she 'll give you what she wants, not vice versa. I respected her for that, and in the end, the recording we got from her was perfect."


In case you haven't seen it yet, The Scarecrow is an ad for the restaurant's new, app-based game of the same name, which centers on the idea of bringing real food back. "The app and the film have the same objective," Crumpacker notes. "It should encourage people to think more about the origins of their food, and encourage curiosity towards this issue."

The distressed film paints a grim picture, visualizing a harrowing tale of our food origins: a salt-of-the-earth scarecrow drifting through a looming factory city run by "Crow Foods," a factory farm; cows and chickens introduced to antibiotics, and animal welfare among industrial food producers questioned.

From the onset, Apple's voice provides an air of melancholy that narrates the somber scenery, but towards the end, grim turns to light: As the scarecrow returns to his farm, he spots the vegetable that will spark a necessary revolution. Taking matters into his own hands -- aided by a suddenly sweeping, illuminated turn of vocal tone from Apple -- the story ends with the passing of a distinct red Chipotle basket to a curious passerby.

In the end, The Scarecrow manages to address a continuously incendiary issue in a thoughtful and heartfelt manner that effectively delivers a resolute message of thinking more and caring more about where our food is coming from. Thanks to Apple, that message is striking.

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