Actor helps create web-based fantasy game
Forest Whitaker is doin’ the Dew.As his first foray into branded entertainment, thesp partnered with Pepsi-Cola North America to produce the web-based fantasy game “Dewmocracy,” that culminates in consumers creating a flavor of Mountain Dew to appear on store shelves next year. For the game that bows this week, Whitaker helped conceive the virtual world, plot, characters and mini-games, as well as directed a live-action short film that kicks off the gameplay. “Dewmocracy” is the latest entertainment venture for Mountain Dew after the company produced “First Descent,” a full-length snowboarding docu that Universal distribbed in 2005. In “Dewmocracy,” players complete challenges that give them tools to develop a Mountain Dew drink, including the color, flavor and label graphics. Three choices will be offered to consumers to vote on in February and the winning product bows in July. Idea for “Dewmocracy” was originally developed by Matti Leshem’s Protagonist, which creates entertainment concepts for Pepsi’s brands, as well as online agency WhitmanHart Interactive, that recently created the website for “Casino Royale” and just launched the dot-com for “The Water Horse” for Walden Media. Game’s purpose was to court Mountain Dew’s core consumer base — millennials who “don’t have that burning need for being rebellious or individualism” and are “more about choice and community,” said Rebecca Coleman, senior VP, client services at WhitmanHart Interactive. Mountain Dew had been looking for “somebody that was interested in new ways at telling stories,” said Frank Cooper, VP of marketing for the beverage brand. Whitaker “had a deep understanding of what consumers want to do in the digital space.” The beverage giant enlisted Whitaker early this year to play one of the project’s characters, as well as direct the short film, after he won the Oscar for “The Last King of Scotland.” “I watched the movie and said this guy is the best actor in America, and I really want to work with him,” Leshem said. But talks upped Whitaker’s involvement to become more hands on with the game overall after he sparked to the project. “Mountain Dew offered me an amazing opportunity to create a mythic universe using all forms of storytelling that will allow those who participate to develop their product,” Whitaker said. “Ultimately, the drink will be on the street and in stores where you get to see it, touch it, taste it, drink it, make it a part of you; bringing you from the virtual world to the real world.” Whitaker doesn’t shy away from the game’s political themes, especially given the upcoming presidential election. “This is about voting,” he said. “This is about taking a stance and making things happen. It’s about empowering people and allowing them to express themselves and create something that represents who they are.” Project’s screenplay was penned by Tony Bui, while matte paintings and game designs were produced by Syd Dutton of Illusion Arts. Whitaker next appears in “The Great Debaters,” followed by “Vantage Point,” and “The Night Watchman.” He’s currently lensing “Repossession Mambo” with Jude Law.