Contrary to what all the health and fitness freaks say, summer is the best time to stay inside and binge on the boob toob. But long gone are Saturday-morning cartoons and actual Music Television (at least until MTV unveils it’s MTV Classic channel). Back in the days of endless budgets and wild imaginations, great animated music videos like A-Ha’s wild hand-drawn “Take On Me” short or the wacky stop-motion reverie of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” captivated audiences and dominated the airwaves. Don’t worry, though, a few directors and artists are still carrying the cartoon torch and preserving this fading artistic medium. Back in 2010, we took a look at the best animated videos, but technology (and music!) has of course changed since then. So, here are 10 more amazing animated music videos.
1. Radiohead, “Burn the Witch”
Remember that classic claymation Christmas movie, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer? What about The Year Without a Santa Clause? They both look eerily similar to a video for Radiohead’s new single, “Burn the Witch,” off this year’s highly anticipated album, A Moon Shaped Pool. But trust us, it ain’t no holiday special. The song references an archaic nursery rhyme about baking birds into a pie and evokes imagery of a good ol’ fashioned witch-hunt. The video, however, takes direct inspiration from The Wicker Man. No, not the terrible remake with Nicolas Cage, but the 1972 cult horror original in which a police sergeant goes searching for a missing girl and stumbles across a bunch of fire-loving pagans.
2. Sturgill Simpson, “In Bloom”
is one of the strangest stars to ever reinvent the genre of country music. So it makes sense if the video accompanying his soulful, yet twangy rendition of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” is a little weird. In it, a shirtless kid with a cannon for a head shoots a heart at a gloomy, black sea monster and restores happiness to the world around him. Regardless of what you think about the plot, the video is beautifully rendered by artist Matt Mahurin, who’s made a lot of memorable videos and even did a few portraits of Tom Waits. Using ink animation, computer graphics and live footage, this master illustrator brought Simpson’s stirring cover to life.
3. Gorillaz, “Clint Eastwood”
The Gorillaz aren’t Alvin and the Chipmunks and they’re probably from an entirely different planet than The Archies, but they are an amazing virtual band made up entirely of fictional cartoon personas. The real creative geniuses behind these colorful musicians are Blur frontman Damon Albarn and British comic book god Jamie Hewlett (who created the renowned Tank Girl comic strip). In 2001, the duo dropped the Gorillaz’s self-titled debut and brought the band to life using a series of animated videos, including one for the earworm hit single, “Clint Eastwood.” In it, a ghost (voiced by featured rapper Del the Funky Homosapien) interrupts the band’s bland video shoot and makes a bunch of zombie gorillas dance to the beat “Thriller”-style. Only in the world of animation, right?
4. DyE, “Fantasy”
French electropop musician DyE (Juan de Guillebon) rose to fame when the animated video for his sexy 2011 single, “Fantasy,” went viral. Created by artist Jérémie Périn, the clip’s very buzzy twist ending makes it pretty hard not to click. It starts on a high note of nostalgia, as a foursome of teens break into a pool, hoping to have a little not-so-harmless fun. Eventually, hormones overtake two of the kids, morphing them into horrific, lust-filled monsters, who gorily devour their shocked friend. The other finds an escape route, but it’s probably not the exit she’s looking for.
5. Lil Dicky, “Professional Rapper”
Lil’ Dicky (Dave Burd) is like the Weird Al Yankovich of rap. He loves to parody the genre and is extremely clever in his satire. Oh, and he’s super white. In “Professional Rapper,” he spits rhymes about doing a job interview with Snoop Dogg at “Rap Game Inc.” If he can win over this legendary hiring manger, he might just get hired as a legit emcee. Only through an animated video could a concept this zany be properly depicted. Fortunately, artist Douglas Einar Olsen (who created the Major Lazer TV series) was the right man for the job.
6. Rossonian, “Sidewalks”
As Denver band Rossonian knows, growing up in the suburbs can actually be kind of hard. It’s the type of place where people are raised to feel special, even if they’re living in the most unexceptional environment imaginable. Despite where we came from, we’re all the same in the end, right? Using the same rough lines and scribbly animation of, say, Schoolhouse Rock! or Fat Albert, artist John Grigsby expresses such existential dread with a simple animated tale about a young suburban boy who blasts off into space and rises above the monotony of his home life.
Rossonian – Sidewalks – Late Kids EP from Seth Evans on Vimeo.
7. Bloc Party, “Ratchet”
Even though this video doesn’t involve any cartoon illustrations, clay figures or paper cutouts, it’s amazingly animated. In it, freaky British artist Cyriak takes snippets of Bloc Party’s old music videos and manipulates them using Adobe Photoshop to create disturbing mutations that pulsate and multiply with each downbeat of the snare. When frontman Kele Okelerek sings the catchy chorus “Hey, yeah! Make a scene, make it real, make them feel!” his mouth and eyes expand into a creepy kaleidoscope collage of various images. Very cool, indeed.
8. Modest Mouse, “King Rat”
While on tour Down Under in 2007, Modest Mouse crossed paths with Australian actor, Health Ledger. When he pitched his concept for an animated video to accompany “King Rat,” a still-unreleased single off 2009’s No One’s First and You’re Next EP, the artists became quick friends. Ledger was adamantly against whaling off the shores of his native Australia and wanted to depict what it’d be like if whales hunted humans for food. It turns out animation was the perfect platform to pull off such an eye-opening idea. Ledger died unexpectedly just months before the video went to production but, fortunately, Los Angeles artist collective The Masses animated his wild storyline in the style of antique maritime charts.
9. Justice, “D.A.N.C.E.”
One of main ways people represent their identities these days is by wearing t-shirts. Everything from brand loyalty to a certain ideologies can be represented by a little ink splashed on a thin piece of fabric. This specific garb is what inspired Parisian graphic designer So Me and director Jonas et François while making the animated video for “D.A.N.C.E.” by French electronica duo, Justice. It shows two dudes (presumably the musicians themselves) strolling through a club as various cartoon cultural iconography dances across their respective tees.
10. Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy”
Way back in in 2005, producer Danger Mouse and soul man CeeLo Green came together to create a fun, carefree project called Gnarls Barkley. Little did the duo know that their first single, “Crazy,” would end up taking over the world and becoming a timeless hit. Befittingly, the song’s rotoscoped video shows Green singing inside various inkblot figures commonly associated with the Rorshach psychological test. Does that make him crazy? Probably.