Local kids pronounce commercial experience 'grrrrrreat!'

Tony the Tiger will be inserted later

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By DIANA OLESZCZUK

Tony the Tiger has officially visited Oak Park. Camera and production crews from Leo Burnett, a Chicago-area ad agency, swarmed first to Stevenson Skate Park, then to the soccer field at Taylor Park Monday to shoot footage for new Frosted Flakes commercials. Tony the Tiger will be CGI-ed into these commercials, which feature kid athletes and the slogan, "Eat right. Work hard. Earn your stripes." (Stripes ... tiger ... Tony the Tiger ... get it?) They've pulled in celebrity atheletes such as Mia Hamm and skateboarder Tony Hawk to be role models for the young atheletes.

"It's about never giving up," said Julian Smith, 12, who did skateboarding tricks such as "Rock to Fakie" (rocking over the edge of the ramp and back) and "Boneless" (touching the skateboard with his hand), as the commercial star, Chazz Ortiz, 11, showed off a few of his own skateboarding skills, then fell gloriously and chowed down on a bowl of Frosted Flakes.

Smith, Ortiz and fellow actor Jordan Miller pronounced the experience tiring but fun. Although previously Miller starred in another Kellogg commercial, this is the first time Smith has been able to market his skateboarding skills. They estimated the 30-second commercial slot took 50 takes since the cameras had to capture the scene from so many different angles.

The 'boarders heard about the film shoot from Rob Mutert, who works at Warp Skateboard Park in McHenry. Mutert came along for the ride and loved it: "They're real rippers," he said about the boys.

Even though they had to be cooped up in the production van for three hours as they waited for Monday morning's drizzle to cease, shooting began in the early afternoon and finished quickly. "I think it was a great experience; they were very professional," said Lisa Miller, Jordan's mom. "They were great with the kids."

The real drizzle actually delayed the fake rainmakers at Taylor Park, which created a downpour for another Frosted Flakes commercial, this one focusing on young girls playing soccer and vying to be the next Mia Hamm. They picked Taylor Park because it still has a green field, in contrast to the dying grass throughout most of Chicagoland.

Three members of the Strikers, a traveling Oak Park soccer team, passed the series of tryouts that narrowed the commercial wannabes from about 350 local soccer players to nine finalists. Oak Parkers Alex Neumann, Olivia Bird and Stephanie Sullivan scrimmaged in the background as two main characters fought for the ball and ended the scene in a choreographed slide tackle kick.

It was convenient for the Sullivans, who live catty-corner from the park and came to watch the action. They've been calling Stephanie "Tony the Great" for the last few days, and "it'll be nice to see her on the TV," said Matt Sullivan, Stephanie's dad. Filming began around 4 p.m. and lasted until about 8 p.m., and they'll be back for a few more takes next week.

Marcella Albuquerque, 11, was a bit disillusioned when she saw that the commercial was painstakingly choreographed. "We had to do it take by take," she said, and the crews yelled "cut!" just as the girls began to get into the game. "Really, without the magic touch, I don't think it looks like soccer."

But her dad, Oscar, coach of the soccer team Chicago Storm, thinks this campaign is an attempt to catch the wave of a growing sport and to target an important audience: soccer moms (and dads). "It's a fantastic opportunity for any girl or boy to be viewed nationwide," he said.

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