These are always fun to revisit. (And it’s nice to note that not all animation looks like Disney’s.)
by Margaret Eby
Wilco’s new video for “Dawned on Me” combines some of the things dearest to our hearts: Jeff Tweedy and old black-and-white Popeye shorts. It’s a clip that’s both fun and visually interesting, not to mention the first hand-drawn Popeye cartoon that’s appeared in the last 30-something years. But Wilco is far from the first band to hit upon the idea of including animation in their music videos. Cartoons in videos stretch back from the days of a-ha’s “Take On Me” through Björk and Radiohead. After the jump, check out ten of the best animated music videos we’ve ever seen — tell us about your personal favorites in the comments.
“Take On Me” by a-ha
A-ha’s pencil-sketched 1985 “Take On Me” clip was one of the first animated music videos to air on MTV. It’s also the one we watched multiple times throughout our teen years.
“Leave Me Alone” by Michael Jackson
Jackson’s “Leave Me Alone” takes his tabloid stardom literally, as the King of Pop sings the song from the front pages of various newspapers with blaring headlines about his surgeries and his relationship with Elizabeth Taylor. (Note the shrines to Liz you can see in his trailer home.)
“Paranoid Android” by Radiohead
The video for “Paranoid Android” was illustrated by Swedish artist Magnus Carlsson. Apparently he came up with the idea for it after locking himself in his office for 12 hours, staring out the window, and listening to the song on repeat. Now it all makes sense.
“Fell in Love With a Girl” by the White Stripes
Director Michel Gondry shot this LEGO-tastic animation frame by frame, building the scenes out of the colorful toy blocks by hand. Apparently LEGO refused to strike a deal to provide their product to the White Stripes, informing Gondry that they don’t advertise to people over the age of 12.
“Ankle Injuries” by Fujiya & Miyagi
This Fujiya & Miyagi video borrows a little bit from Gondry’s idea, using shots of dice arranged to make pictures. It’s a striking animation, and the portraits formed by the dots are uncanny.
“Wanderlust” by Björk
Björk has quite a few animated videos, but our favorite is this beautiful one for “Wanderlust,” shot in stereoscopic 3D. The video uses a combination of puppetry and animation to make a scene fit or a fairy tale — or a Björk song, anyway.
“Move Your Feet” by Junior Senior
The art collective Shynola made this pixelated animation for Junior Senior, playing off video game structure and traditional cartoon slapstick with the help of a frenetic squirrel.
“One More Time” by Daft Punk
Though the animation in Daft Punk’s “One More Time” wasn’t created specifically for the band — the scenes are cribbed from anime film Insterstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem — it seems like a completely appropriate complement to their work.
“My Drive Thru” by Santigold, Casabancas, and N.E.R.D.
This video was part of a Converse campaign, yes, but the work that the artists did to make it appear as if the musicians are unfolding like so many paper dolls or flip-book figures took 10,000 cut-outs and something like four months to achieve. Plus, it looks incredible.
“I Can Hear the Trains Coming” by Mathieu Santos
Ra Ra Riot’s Mathieu Santos worked with director Albert Birney to create this animation, which feels part-video game, part-Candyland dreamscape inhabited by sharks.