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The Tramp takes over Google

To celebrate Charlie Chaplin's 122nd birthday, Google's Doodle team creates its first-ever silent film project, an homage to the actor's famous hobo character updated for a modern world.

To celebrate the 122nd birthday of silent film star Charlie Chaplin, Google created a live-action Chaplinesque video (see below) to replace its standard logo Friday.

First came a great search engine. Then a world-beating ad platform, a hugely popular e-mail service, a great news aggregator, and then a customized Pac-Man game. And now, meet Google's latest masterpiece, it's first--and maybe last--silent film.

To help commemorate Charlie Chaplin's 122nd birthday today, Google's Doodle team decided to go where it's never gone before, and offered up, as a replacement for the search giant's standard logo, its homage to the Tramp.

A storyboard used to make the Chaplinesque short movie. Google

The short silent film that's gracing Google today was the brainchild of Ryan Germick, the Doodle team's creative lead, an attempt to celebrate Chaplin and portray him in a "respectful and authentic way" that also brings the Tramp squarely into 2011 and Google's world.

Made with the blessing of the Chaplin estate and the help of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Germick said, the film opens on a faux-Chaplin trying to make a home in a park "much to the chagrin of a police officer who escorts him out," Germick said.

Stumbling out of the park, the Google Tramp next gets in the way of an artist trying to paint a still life of a set of large letters spelling out "Google" and then somehow interferes with a humble muffin seller. But here, before wandering off at the end of the film, he manages to fleece the cop by tricking him into paying too much for a muffin.

According to Mike Dutton, a member of the Doodle team who played the Tramp in the short film, preparing for the role meant an intensive course in Chaplin films so that he could feel comfortable playing such an iconic character faithfully. Dutton said he wanted to play the Tramp in a way that honored the common themes from Chaplin's films: with dignity but also with a sense of living "under contradictory circumstances," and of course, with a "pretty lady he's trying to impress."

While the Doodle team has over the last year been ramping up the complexity of some of the animated logos it has produced--the famous Pac-Man game, a John Lennon animation, and a Jules Vernes doodle come to mind--the Chaplin project may well be the biggest project it's taken on yet.

"We're always trying to humanize the Google brand," Germick said. "In this case, we actually put humans in the doodle."

And will the team do another live action film any time soon? Dutton said that "the sky's the limit as to what we do next, but I'm going to go back into character now, and, like Chaplin, be silent [on the question] and say, Wait for it."

Related links
• Why is Google doodling about ice cream sundaes?
• At Google, doodling is real world
• Google gets Pac-Man fever