John Lewis Christmas advert: Behind the scenes of the film starring Elton John

‘We saw 300 scripts, but this one really stood out’

Olivia Petter@oliviapetter1
Saturday 17 November 2018 12:51
John Lewis & Partners Christmas Ad 2018: The Making of 'The Boy and The Piano'

It might have come out a few days ago, but the John Lewis & Partners Christmas ad, which this year starred Sir Elton John, remains a hot topic among fans.

The short film takes viewers on a retrospective look back over some of the highlights of the iconic British musician’s career, from pub performances in the 1960s to stadium tours in the 1970s.

Now, the retail chain has revealed how the advert was made in a behind the scenes clip.

(John Lewis
(John Lewis

The short YouTube video features a number of key players who helped produce the ad, including David Furnish, who is married to the iconic musician.

The John Lewis Christmas campaign is an iconic part of Christmas now and has had so many warm memories and associations for us, with all of our Christmases, so to be asked to be part of that was a huge honour,” says Furnish, who is co-chief of the film company Rocket Pictures with John.

“Seeing the accuracy, and the work that has been put into to creating everything, the attention to detail is fantastic, so it is very exciting to see, it is like taking a step back in time.

Richard Brim, who is the chief creative officer at adam&eveDDB, the ad agency behind the film, reveals how the script was chosen from 300 submissions.

The cast who star in the ad's plane scene that sees Sir Elton John performing while travelling in between tour locations.

This one really stood out,” he says in the video. “And it’s the story of how a gift changes a little boy’s life. But the little boy just happens to be Elton John. From playing in pubs to laying down the first notes of ‘Your Song’ and then from there, it went stratospheric.”

The ad was directed by Seb Edwards, who has also shot campaigns for Vodafone and Hovis.

“He’s a brilliant director,” Brim adds. “He has a very subtle way of telling emotional stories and they just feel effortless. So, he felt like a natural fit for this script.”

The advertising executive, who has worked on several John Lewis Christmas ads, also explains how the process of choosing a song for this year’s ad was slightly different from previous years.

“The track is always actually the thing that comes the last, just before we are about to play out, we’re still debating and still listening to demos, normally.

“And this year, the questions are a slightly different question, it’s like, which one of Elton’s amazing tracks are we going to use to tell his story. There had to be one clear winner, and that’s ‘Your Song’."

John Lewis’ director of marketing Becky Brock explains how truthful the ad is in terms of relaying actual events from John’s past.

“Everything that we have got in this script is based on what really happened and we’ve really lovingly recreated the journey from a small boy with his mum and grandma, getting his first piano, all the way through to the superstar, that we now know.”

(John Lewis

Andy Steele was one of the 14 3D artists to work on the film, who helped digitally create all of the different sets we see in the ad. In the behind the scenes clip, he recalls creating the stadium scene.

“This was a major part in Elton John’s career, and this part in the film had to represent that scale and epic feeling of the concerts in the Seventies.

“The hardest challenge is making the large-scale props such as a stadium, feel like it was, meant to be in the 1970s, to make it believable.”

One of the highlights in the behind the scenes film is undoubtedly when the child who plays baby Elton, who appears in the final scene to unwrap the piano, speaks about his involvement.

“I was, just you know, running down the stairs, into the lounge, standing there until they say… cut!”

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