Articles >

Kia Soul Hampsters Lead Anette Cseri To First CDGA Nomination

Finding material that would move and drape over the hamster bodies was important to costume designer Anette Cseri. (photo courtesy of Kia)

Anette Cseri was so certain she wouldn’t receive a Costume Designers Guild Awards nomination that she threw away her notification. Nominated in the Excellence in Commercial Costume Design category for her work on the Kia Soul Hamster Commercial (Animals), the costume designer needed a bit of coxing to accept the recognition.

“I ignored the first email I received. I thought it was a mistake,” said Cseri. “They sent an email with requests for things they needed, but I thought it might have been intended for someone else. When I received a call from them, I knew it was real. I’ve been working in commercials for years and never expect anything like this. I am beyond happy.”

Cseri began her career in 1995 assisting costume designers, working primarily on music videos and commercials. Her first opportunity to step into the costume designer position came in 2000, and she has been working steadily in the commercial world ever since. While she keeps her eyes open for opportunities in longer format productions, the California based mother of two enjoyed the benefits of having a flow of projects close to home as her children grew. She also found the commercial world provided a fertile ground for creativity.

“Many commercials are little films that you have literally a week to pull off,” said Cseri. “Sometimes they require period costumes, sometimes a lot of building is required. I grew to love and became good at, solving the artistic challenges.”

With a background in puppetry, Cseri was excited to land the job designing costumes for the hamster bodies for the latest installment in Kia’s hamster campaign. “Animals” follows four science/tech genius male hamsters who utilize the Kia’s energy to turn pet shop hamsters into human-sized sexy female hamsters. In addition to outfitting the four male puppets, she had to design wardrobe for fourteen female characters. All eighteen designs had to be completed in one day, with production set to begin immediately after the design phase.

Cseri had a fitting with the dancers who were cast as the hamsters. Some had portrayed different incarnations of the hamsters in the past, so she was confident they would be able to move comfortably in the foam bodies and walk with an exaggerated stride. Because the hamster’s dimensions have changed through the course of the campaign, ranging from fluffy to very thin, new bodies were being constructed. Cseri didn’t have a completed hamster body to work with, so had to frequently communicate with the company designing the foam body to ensure sizing was accurate.

While she would have preferred a muted palette, Cseri wanted to incorporate the prior incarnations of the hamster’s outfits which featured bright, solid primary and neon colors. She created button down shirts and sweater vests to provide a nerdy vibe, while incorporating patterns including black on white polka dots and an aqua and fuchsia striped prints matched with coral pants. Accessories such as red suspenders, buttons, bow ties, glasses and blue socks further accented a warm, upbeat color palette. While Lycra was a useful fabric to ensure a full range of motion for the dancers, Cseri also employed a variety of knits.

“The hamsters are scientists, so I wanted to maintain a quality in the fabric. I used a heavier fabric that was double lined for its ability to hang and drape,” said Cseri. “I had to design a cooling system to keep the actors from over-heating and sweating through the clothing. We had no time for duplicates”

Small battery operated fans were inserted into the midsection of the outfits, and were given hand-held fans they could hold up to their face in between takes. While finding fabric that moved naturally and keep the dancers from overheating required heavy brain power, one of the production’s greatest challenges came in outfitting the female characters. The client wanted the women to look sexy without exhibiting hamster qualities: there could be no visible fur on the legs, neck or arms.

“They had to be sexy but covered up,” said Cseri. “My first thought was a body suit idea because it was more uniform, much like a science experiment; however the client wanted more diversity. Doing something sexy that didn’t reveal skin became a real challenge.”

Cseri ultimately went with short skirts and leggings, skinny jeans, turtle necks and form-fitting jackets. As with the men, the fur hands were stapled into the edge of the shirt sleeve hems. She was pleased the client was happy with her ultimate decision and with the look of the costumes in the finished product.

“When you are doing contemporary costumes, there are 101 million ideas of what the clothing should be,” said Cseri. “Kia was very supportive through the process, and I’m glad the customer was very happy with the outcome. I’d love to make another hamster commercial, but that campaign is entirely up to Kia.”