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Animation and Sound

A long time ago (2009-2010?) Dave Allen from Animation Forum WM asked me to throw in my two pence worth for an article in Imagine Magazine about the relationship between animation and sound. So I thought I might as well share out those two pence before they disappear into the ether.

AFWM – Why do you think animation works so well with music?

Animation lets you do absolutely anything you want, so when it comes to interpreting/accompanying some music you’re limitless. Animation obviously isn’t real-life either, so when people watch it they’re more willing to suspend their disbelief, meaning you can push the boundaries of ‘weird’ or ‘unusual’ a lot more than with live action. Animation can also be used to create purely abstract interpretations of music which can capture the essence of the music in a much more interesting way than more literal imagery can sometimes.

AFWM – What are your all-time favourite animated music videos?

Bit of overload with the choices here but I’m quite indecisive… I think.


A Colour Box (dir. Len Lye, 1935)

For historical context.


Coffee & TV – Blur, (dir. Hammer & Tongs)

It takes the song and makes it a soundtrack to its own story. Funny too.


Most of Chad VanGaalen’s videos

Trippy madness, being a good example of how far you can push taste with animation.


Let Forever Be – Chemical Brothers (dir. Michael Gondry)

More effects based, but it twists your brain trying to work out how it was done.


The White Stripes – Fell In Love With A Girl, (dir. Michael Gondry)

Doing stuff no-one would have the balls to do with Lego, although there is some CGI cheating in there. Also shows you don’t need any structure, story or literal interpretation to pull off a video when you’ve got some music to hold it together.


Feel Good Inc. – Gorillaz (dir. Jamie Hewlett)

Best and most animated examples of the Gorillaz’s videos.


Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel (dir. Stephen R. Johnson)

Not really a favourite, but that video took some pulling off.


AFWM – How dependent is your animation on having a good quality soundtrack?

Just about any animation could do with some sound, even if it’s just the atmosphere of an empty room or the rustle of clothes. Sound adds extra information to what you’re watching. You don’t NEED sound for an animation to be good, it just makes making an impression a lot harder. On the flip side, if you have bad sound you’ll potentially ruin all the hard work of the animation. I’ve seen lots of work where that’s happened and it’s just a shame. It makes the animation unwatchable.

In terms of music, I try to make the physical acting do most of the work. Inappropriate music, or even any music can interfere with that acting and make it not as strong. But nearly every animator has had times where a character doesn’t move a pixel for over 5 seconds. Without any sound, that’d just be a picture. With sound it’s an emotion, an event or a story. The same applies to abstract animation. The music gives you extra information to bind everything you see together.

There we go. There’s been a been a huge amount of videos made since that I love and there’s many more live action music videos I love too. Check out Adam Buxton’s BUG round up for more awesome moments in music video history. For any more videos we like, head over to our YouTube Channel or Tumblr.

Aha! Here’s a bonus Take on Me with added literal interpretation lyrics:



Uncle Grandpa by Peter Browngardt

This is about as excited about a potential cartoon series as I think I’ve ever got. The concept is brilliant and potentially endless and the writing makes this one of the most quotable things I’ve seen in a while. It’s been made by the ever so slightly under-exposed Peter Browngardt and is crammed full of amazing lines and visual gags.

For me it’s a toss up between the slob mother and the super realistic flying tiger. But then again mistakes ARE God’s rainbows.


It’s probably not going to happen for a while though as he’s working on a serires called Secret Mountain Fort Awesome.

A Little Lie Down

As a little treat, here are Robert Popper’s silly phone calls that he introduced live at the last Popcorn Comedy. If you don’t already know, Popper’s alter-ego is Robin Cooper, author of the utterly brilliant Timewaster Letters books. The first clip is a phone call to Sky TV maintenance guy. He’s very patient. Have a listen.

The next two vids are Popper doing his ‘65% good’ (his words) impression of Margaret Thatcher calling the House of Lords about her lost bag. Enjoy.

If you get a call from Maggie Thatcher, I’d advise you ask if it’s Robert Popper first. It’ll save you a lot of time.

The Great Animation Challenge

The last week involved a few lovely screening/social events. Here’s the first.

On Tuesday was The Great Animation Challenge at the Lighthouse, Wolverhampton, which started off with brilliant round up of animations from last year’s Flip Festival. My personal favourite was about a man who’s slipped coordinates in 3D space and is trying to fix it by being hit by asteroids. I can’t tell you the name of it yet as I don’t know… (Skhizein, directed by Jeremy Clapin) I also missed the first half of it. Maybe that added to the feeling of just watching a snippet of someone’s life, rather than going through the whole process of setting up the character. I quite enjoy watching films half way through or without the sound on. You have to piece together a story which is probably no where near as interesting as it seems because it’s turned into a puzzle, everything they do suddenly becomes potentially important.
After that bit of reflection, came the screening and announcement of the winner of the Animation Challenge itself. The prize rightly went to Joe Lea’s interpretation of Underwater Fax of Death, which thanks to other people’s attraction to the song means I’m still singing that song in my head 4 days later. Afterwards, I got to catch up with some familiar faces and chat to some new ones… which was nice.
P.S. I’ll find out the name of that animation and see what I can link to.

Machinarium, Beautiful New Game by Amanita Design

In true Video Wall tradition I don’t normally post videos up on their own (You’re too busy for that nonsense!), but this needs savouring. Machinarium is a beautiful new Flash animated computer game brought to us by Amanita Design. I don’t really waste much time playing computer games anymore but I’d happily sit in front of this for hours I think – Just as long there’s no overblown loading times. Clicky, Clicky Mr. Close Button.
Mmmm… suck it in.

Video Wall 7

Some crackers in this one.
Her Morning Elegance by Oren Lavie – Directed by Oren Lavie, Yuval and Merav Nathan. One of those that slowly build, and you start thinking, ‘Wow. I wish I’d thought of that.’ Found via the Flatpack Festival’s blog.

How To Tell If A Relationship Is Over – Tony Roche. Tight ‘as a toiger’ sketch/short film from people who’s names you wouldn’t have recognised in 2003, but would have said, ‘Give them a Job!’. Someone did. Tony Roche has now now worked with Armando Iannucci and written for ‘The Thick of It‘. Whilst more clearly starring The Mighty Boosh‘s Julian Barrett. I do think he’s a bit better than Noel. Maybe he just hasn’t SO obviously sold off his integrity. Maybe Noel doesn’t give a flip about integrity and just wants a laugh and some fruit loops.

Snake by Frightened Rabbit – Bluestar Animation. For some reason when I saw the front image of this I wasn’t too bothered. But for some other reason I decided to click on it. Glad I did. Very fun.

Owen Benjamin Ep2: Bad Breath Friend – Crackle Comedy. Bit of fun here from the Americans. Surprised there hasn’t been more of an innitiative in the UK for well funded comedy content for the web.


Long Awaited Video Wall 6

No particular reason for not putting up this video wall, just didn’t make the time.  Soz. If you want to see most of what goes on here first. Check out our favourites on YouTube.

Star Wars: Retold By Someone Who Hasn’t Seen It – Joe Nicolosi  In his own words “…I took out my voice recorder and asked her to start from the top. I then created some very basic animation in Final Cut to go along with her narration.” Interpretative goodness.

Green Grass – PhylactereCola. This company’s based in Quebec and they have some really, really nice ideas and techniques. This has got a making of that I’ve included at the bottom of the post, which makes the video even better. 

Presto – Pixar. Awooga! What more do you really need to say. It was oscar nominated and it’s by Pixar. Possibly their best short yet? It really harks back to the Tom and Jerry times of writing.


New MacBook Wheel – Onion News Network. These people are just amazing. The resources that go into it out strip any comedy that appears on TV in the UK at the moment. Why’s it all so cheap and rubbery now? Anyway. I get annoyed with all the Mac obsessives queuing up to do indignant favours for Steve Jobs. He has lots of money now, just give him a steak sandwich. Yes, Mac does a lot of things incredibly well, but it does make some poo too, which people are more than willing to swallow (I won’t make a link for that one).

Video Wall 5

Did someone say, “Veritable fun feast for the eyes”? No? Well, it’s on your plate now. See what you can manage. Now we’re at the start of a working week again, here’s some audio-light displays which I feel may help ease those uneasy work sensations.

‘All I Want For Christmas Is…’ – Paul Rayment. A Christmassy highlight for yow. This guy made a very nice music video for the Super Furry Animals in a similar style and got featured on da ChewYube.

‘I Met the Walrus’ – Josh Raskin. Academy nominated animation made to the recording of a 14 year old’s impromptu interview with John Lennon. If you don’t like the Beatles, don’t worry, it’s all about the intense interweaved animation and spot on cue hitting. Here’s the story about it.

‘Superhero Fashion Emergency’ – Mike Parker (or at least he has the most credits).  Made for College Humour TV. Good little mickey take and the site is also good for general smut and funnies.

‘Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! – [adult swim] – Chan’. Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim are endless powerhouses of wierd chuckle nuggets. There really must be an inbalance there – they make A LOT of stuff.  Good stuff. Really Good Stuff. I’m stuffed. Adult Swim is also well worth perusing.

Video Wall 4

Argent Content (Easy Money) – Philippe Dussol. This was shown during Gigbeth, with The Guillemots improvising a score for it. Interesting that whilst still shot in this decade it looks quite old. Amazing to think quickly low budget film making technology has improved. Still, can’t beat an old pair of roller skates. 

Economiclassics – Eva Becker. One of new subscribers on YouTube made this. I don’t know what any of the words mean, but that’s probably just as well. It’s nonesensical loveliness, complimenting the fact that 81% of statistics are useless.

The Shining Re-Cut uploaded by neochosen. The power of editing turns The Shining into the next big feel good comedy of the year. Don’t know who made this though.

Sheep Worrier 5 – Craig Hindmarsh (Animaxy). Part of series of ‘Sheep Worrier’ cartoons, this is my personal favourite.

Video Round up 3

O.K. Its the video wall again. Woop and indeed Di Doop.

‘Grey’ by Ivan Rusev. This has really inspired me. The way that everything’s drawn and animated finally makes me shake off all the snobbishness I picked up studying animation and the world of Richard Williams. The thing about Flash animation it really helps retain styles of illustration that would normally be deemed ‘incorrect’ in terms of it being a 3D object. It also means you just get to spend more time worrying about the most important thing, the story! So thanks, this has really given me a kick up the bum. But remember kids, Flash can make you lazy.

Fight scene from the undefendable, ‘Undefeatable’. If we’re going to be naming and shaming, ‘Godfrey Ho’ directed it. In the words of the YouTubian who posted it “This fight is complete with knife licking, shirt tearing, gratuitous shirtlessness.” I think special thanks to all the cast involved is needed too. “Yeah. See yer.”

Food Fight by Stefan Nadelman of Tourist Pictures. Brilliant video, racking up well over 3million on YouTube so far. Its a food reinactment of the major wars of the last century so it’s meant to be sobering I guess, but funny, ‘cos it’s food. Here’s more details about it.

Hogan Knows Depression by WTF-TV for (expensive domain name for sure). It’s funny and it’s like something we would make, but I get annoyed by the faceless ‘Blam!’ logos they put on these. It’s all about the brand, and that’s just a smiley face. How am I meant to interact with that?