Buried deep within this New York Times story about Robert Downey Jr. providing the first-ever voice for Planters mascot Mr. Peanut, here's a local nugget: Portland studio LAIKA animated and helped design the character and his advertisements.
To be precise, the puppet animation was done by LAIKA/house, the advertising wing of Phil and Travis Knight's cartoon empire. The company makes about 30 commercial spots a year (WWwrote about them in February 2009), and is best known previously for its talking M&Ms.
But the Planters spots, made with the ad agency BEING, have a more handmade texture that recalls Henry Selick's James and the Giant Peach. (Selick made Coraline, LAIKA's first feature film, but left the studio last year.) The ads starring Mr. Peanut were directed by LAIKA/house's team of Mark Gustafson and Ringan Ledwidge.
Also in the Times story (and, in fairness, this has little to do with LAIKA), a Planters marketer and a BEING creative director take hilarious pains to explain that even though Mr. Peanut speaks in the urbane, dulcet tones of Downey, and has a little male peanut friend who is always hanging around, Mr. Peanut is so very much not gay.
In addition to getting a voice, Mr. Peanut has a new sidekick, much like the Jolly Green Giant has Little Green Sprout. Mr. Peanut's buddy is named Benson, and to make sure that snackers understand the pecking order between them, Benson is shorter than Mr. Peanut — one nut in his shell rather than two.
“Benson is quite enamored of Mr. Peanut,” Mr. Levine said, but they are, as the saying goes, just friends. Benson does not live in Mr. Peanut's house, Mr. Wixom said.
So glad we cleared that up. The two talking peanuts do not live together in a same-sex talking-peanut home, because that would be unnatural.