When Falls City Brewing Co. unveils its new branding approach this coming week, it will in a way be a peek into the past as well as a look toward what’s ahead.
The brewery has teased the release of a new video that will tell the story of a character called Can Man. The short film, which is one minute in running time, will be unveiled at a special event on Tuesday, April 9.
What connects Can Man — who essentially is a Falls City beer can with arms and legs — to the brewery’s history is that the character is loosely based on one from the brewery’s heyday following Prohibition.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, with the rise of television, Falls City had a similar mascot that appeared in print and television ads and even made toy figures and promotional statues in his likeness.
The difference then was that character was a bottle, not a can, so one can speculate that Can Man is sort of a modernized version of the original character, with jeans, high-top sneakers and plaid shirt sleeves.
Bottle Man could be seen in ads carrying a golf bag on the course or carrying a case of beer and a badminton racket into a picnic, and on TV dancing to a Falls City theme song. And while Can Man has played football and been the chef at a cookout in still form, in the video he finds himself on an animated quest to come home — to Louisville.
The story is metaphorical to Falls City’s journey back to Louisville brewing. After the original Falls City brewery closed in 1978, the brand was acquired and carried on for a few more years being brewed in other cities, but it soon died away.
In 2010, the brand trademark was picked up by local businessman David Easterling, who released a pale ale under the Falls City name and opened a tasting room with a small brewery.
In 2015, he sold the business to Neace Ventures, and Falls City now has a larger brewery and taproom in the Phoenix Hill neighborhood, with plans to expand brewing operations in the near future. In that way, the brand sort of came back home and re-established itself.
“The reason we came up with Can Man in the first place was because it felt like a really good way to have creative seasonal marketing but also tie into the nostalgia of Falls City’s Bottle Man,” said Brian U’Sellis, Falls City’s marketing manager.
He said the idea for Can Man came to him at a news conference to release Falls City Classic Pilsner; Mayor Greg Fischer was wearing a Bottle Man lapel pin, and that sparked his first thoughts of Can Man.
The commercial is essentially a short film in itself, depicting Can Man’s journey. Designed and edited by Louisville-based Clovehitch Productions, part of the film was shot as live action using a backdrop of scenes from around the city, including the Falls City taproom.
Designers JohnBen Lacy and Mike Elsherif created a three-dimensional version of Can Man to provide the action in the scenes and tell the story. Altogether, from filming to final editing, they estimate the project took about 650 hours to complete.
Elsherif said U’Sellis presented Clovehitch with a two-dimensional drawing of Can Man that had been created by the local designer Brad Howard.
He said the goal from the start was to create a story for the character and incorporate the Bottle Man character and the Falls City taproom, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this week.
“We came up with a plan to bring all those things together, which involved bringing Can Man into the three-dimensional world,” he said.
“Mike and I worked very closely as a team in just about every facet of production — pre-production, post-production, every side of it,” Lacy said. “We kind of story-boarded and scripted this concept out together. Then we went out and captured all the footage we would later put the character into.”
The event on April 9 will feature the first screening of the commercial, along with a panel of guests talking about the making of the video and the history of Falls City Brewing. Also, with the launch of the new branding direction, U’Sellis said Can Man, whose likeness already has made it to pint glasses, will lead to other Can Man merchandise for sale at the taproom soon.
“He anchors our brand and allows us to give life to advertising in a way that some bigger beer companies can, but on a small scale,” U’Sellis said. “It’s really just a fun, new way to market new products in different seasons of the year or whatever the mood might be in the moment.”