Friday, January 18, 2013

5 Excellent Animated Music Videos

Synching animation or live footage to music has long been part of the filmmaking process. In fact, there are several well known early examples during the Golden Age of animation, like Fleischer's Betty Boop cartoons and Disney's Fantasia. However, it wasn't until the rise of MTV in the 1980s that the term music video came into use (The term used before was 'illustrated song'.) Since Youtube launched in 2005, it has become easier and easier for people to create and share their own material. (This can be a bit of a double-edged sword, though. Just about anybody can post whatever they please, which has led to a never ending plague of AMV and Vocaloid videos.) Some of the best and overlooked animated music videos are listed below by year.

On Your Mark (1995):

For those familiar with Hayao Miyazaki, it may seem surprising that he would animate a music video for a J-pop group. But he did just so at the request of the popular rock duo Chage & Aska. Whether your a fan of the music or not, the animation and nonlinear plot is hard not to be drawn in to. Miyazaki's drawings tell an intriguing story about two cops who discover a unconscious winged girl. They are pursued by military as they try to figure out what to do with her. This film largely references many of Miyazaki's works (especially his Nausicaa manga) and there are many implied different endings of the film. Do the cops and the girl live? Does the angel girl represent some sign of hope in a post-nuclear world? How can humanity survive in the future?

The Ghost of Stephan Foster (1999):

The Squirrel-Nut Zippers were a popular ska (gypsy jazz / swing fusion) group during the 1990s. Given the roots of their musical style, it only makes since that their music video is a tribute to the strange black-and-white cartoons of the Fleisher Brothers. There are a lot of great visual gags and some very creative old school animation. Overall, it's a blast. Likely one of the most memorable (and catchy) music videos out there. Who doesn't like watching cartoons about creepy haunted houses?

Destino (2003):

In 1945, Walt Disney wanted to make a collaborative project with Salvador Dali. However, their vision never got to see the light of day. Only about 17 seconds of animation was completed before the idea was canceled due to WWII. But 58 years later, a group animators at Disney Studios unearthed some storyboards from the film and decided to complete it. The result is far more comparable to Dali than it is to Disney. (If the studio even dared to show it on Disney Channel today, all of the tweens' heads would explode.) Destino is very bizarre and beautiful and is appropriately accompanied with a 1940s Spanish style song written by Armando Dominguez. It is about Chronos (the god of time) and his ill-fated love of a mortal woman. A must watch if you enjoyed Fantasia.

The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart (2007):

This music video is based off a French book of the same name. It is performed by musician Mathias Malzieu (who was the book's author) and his band Dionysos. The story is about a boy named Jack who is not supposed to fall in love. This is because Jack's damaged heart was replaced by a clock when he was young. Any strong emotions will cause his new heart to break. However, that's exactly what happens when he meets Miss Acacia. The short film's style is distinctively steampunk and heavily resembles the stop-motion movies of Tim Burton, despite the fact that it is computer generated. Apparently, an animated film based off the book is in the works and should be out in a few years. (I apologize in advance for the lack of subtitles for this video.)

Copying is Not Theft (2009):

Nina Paley is probably one of the most famous independent animators of our time. She received much acclaim for her film, Sita Sings the Blues, which she directed and animated entirely on her own. However, she ran into legal issues regarding the usage of Annette Hanshaw's jazz recordings. Annoyed with the inefficiency of copyright laws, Paley made Copying is not Theft to express her frustration. Even if you don't agree with Paley's views, this video is pretty entertaining and has a certain quirky charm to it. (Nina Paley also made another video called Credit is Due, reminding people to credit their sources.)