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: