Ever since MTV devoted an entire network to airing music videos and record companies saw the potential for an all-encompassing marketing tool, visual imagery has become synonymous with music. While a bevy of musicians have embraced the medium to either make a fashion statement or sculpt an image, their more creative counterparts have effectively employed music videos as a means to an alternative creative perspective. When local filmmaker and writer Ted Mills presents a second installment of animated music videos at Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum next Thursday with “The Amazing Animated Jukebox Vol. 2,” it is to the latter that the curator will be paying specific homage.
“These are videos for musicians who don’t need to be the star of the video,” explained Mills. “You will see that, over the years, Radiohead appear in their videos less and less. When they first started out, they were your typical band and were in the videos. These days, if you see Thom Yorke you’re lucky. These tend to be artists that aren’t interested in themselves as rock or pop stars.”
While Max Fleischer was one of the first to successfully merry animation and music within his “Screen Songs,” Warner Bros. subsequently coupled both its promotional and creative power to promote upcoming films through “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies.” While for many it might have been A-ha’s “Take on Me” that introduced coinsures of latter-day popular music to animation, for Mills it was Tom Tom Club and Elvis Costello and their videos for songs such as “Genius of Love” and “Accidents Will Happen,” respectively. And not only did they help seed his love of music video as a legitimate form of artistic expression, but they also enlightened him into its potential.
“I’m a child of the ’80s who grew up watching music videos,” Mills confessed. “I think a lot of the best art is actually being done in this format. It’s still a place where directors, art designers and animators can get a broad audience for some pretty avant-garde stuff without having to justify it by any means other than having a song behind it.”
Having been among the first to curate a retrospective of Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michel Gondry’s music video work — which encompasses the likes of Beck, Radiohead and The White Stripes — at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s Mary Craig Auditorium, Mills subsequently broadened his curatorial reach with “The Amazing Animated Jukebox Vol. 1.” Not only did the undertaking afford him the opportunity to explore the entire spectrum of contemporary musical animation, but it also gave the videos a forum that Mills believes offers the medium the viewing experience it deserves.
“You could go to YouTube and see every single video that I’m going to show. However, I don’t want you to,” says Mills. “I want you to see it on a big screen because some of these videos, many of which are now done in high definition, just look incredible. And seeing them on a big screen with sound that does them justice and a crowd is another thing entirely. They are funny and goofy and silly and fun and colorful and fast and people will laugh out loud and applaud at the end of them. In the first installment we showed The White Stripes’s ‘Fell in Love With a Girl,’ which was done with Lego by Michel Gondry and at the end people applauded because it was so stunning to experience it that way.”
This year’s “Amazing Animated Jukebox” is being presented as part of CAF’s Forum Lounge First Thursday series. In addition to showing videos for artists such as Coldplay, Radiohead and Death Cab for Cutie, the “Jukebox” will also draw on works by acclaimed London-based directorial collective Shynola and grassroots undertakings like Dave Righton’s music video for the song “My Friend Ship,” by his own one-man band Roche Limit.
“A trend that I’ve noticed is that this year there’s a lot of different kinds of animation being done by people just working on their laptops,” Mills explained. “One of the animations we are showing was even done in Google’s SketchUp, which is a free Google tool similar to CAD for architecture where you assemble rooms and do fly-throughs. (Righton) puts caricatures of himself and a band and other people at a party and does these very cool fly-throughs with captions. And he made this incredible video for about 99 cents.”
‘THE AMAZING ANIMATED JUKEBOX VOL. 2’
When: 7 and 8:15 p.m. Thursday
Where: Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, 653 Paseo Nuevo
Information: 966-5373, sbcaf.org