Norfolk Southern

City of Possibilites

Designed from the ground up to present rail freight in a different light, Norfolk Southern: 'City of Possibilities,' showcases the transformative power freight shipping. Using a balance of cutting-edge visual effects and whimsical charm, the spot seamlessly blends mesmerizing CGI characters into a live action world.

Produced, designed and directed entirely by The Mill NY, Directors, Angus Kneale and Ben Smith, worked closely with RP3 Agency and Norfolk Southern on the overall storyline and sentiment of the commercial. The directors researched extensively all things rail and freight, and spent time on the ground in Roanoke, Virginia a major hub for Norfolk Southern. In addition, Mill Artists meticulously created extensive storyboards, character design and Pre-Viz prior to the shoot. 

"The project really showcases The Mill's expanding creative capabilities. It is a culmination of all the areas of expertise within the company," shares Director, Angus Kneale.  

Lead Designer, Tim Haldeen concurs, "It's that milestone project you dream about being a part of".

Since brand name toys were unable to be used, the biggest challenge was creating and designing the Toy cast of characters. Mill Artists let loose their imagination to come up with cool, impressive toys.  Every character was designed from scratch and animated to look and feel realistic. Over 40 individual toys and pop-up books were specifically designed for the spot.

"Our cast of characters is a contemporary ensemble of timeless and modern toys that includes robots, action figures, stuffed toys, dumper trucks, cranes, diggers, etc. Between the charm of the character designs, the fun, surprising ways they all collaborate to build a city, and the fact that they all act rather human, each toy, whether it's high or low-tech, has an expression, a personality, and a purpose," explains Kneale.

Also helping to bring to life this epic vision was veteran Director of Photography, Bill Pope, whose extensive VFX knowledge gained on the ground-breakingThe Matrixtrilogy and his expertise in shooting miniatures onTeam America, was invaluable.

"I am incredibly proud of the final result. I think we have created something really special," concludes Kneale.  

Tapping into our childhood fascination with trains, 'City of Possibilities,' presents freight shipping and The Mill's capabilities in a new light.

- The Mill

Compositing Breakdown


March, 2011

Lead Compositor

Angus Kneale + Ben Smith

RP3 Agency

Behind the Scenes