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How Dua Lipa Turned into Sailor Moon for '80s Inspired ‘Levitating’ Video


Dentsu Inc.'s art director Kenta Orisaka reveals the details of creating the retro sci-fi animated piece and an ode to '80s Japanese animation, writes LBB’s Zoe Antonov

How Dua Lipa Turned into Sailor Moon for '80s Inspired ‘Levitating’ Video

‘Future Nostalgia’, the second studio album by British pop artist Dua Lipa, was released in early 2020 and won the singer a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album of 2021 as well as Brit for British Album of the Year that same year. You don’t need to be a fan of the singer to know that she’s walking the main stage right now and it doesn’t seem like she’s anywhere near done.

Late in 2021, Dua Lipa released the Official Animated Version of one of the lead tracks of the album, ‘Levitating’, following her journey to becoming the first pop star on the moon! Production company TOKYO collaborated with animation studio NOSTALOOK and Dentsu to create the video for Dua Lipa’s hit - the fully animated video is screaming '80s anime and you can’t help but notice the nods to the ever-loved (by Japan and the rest of the world alike) ‘Sailor Moon’, as well as other childhood nostalgia bombs. And really, that is truly what defines the ‘Future Nostalgia’ in the ‘Levitating’ music video – a blast from the past with dance moves on loop, some dope-looking outfit changes ala Sailor Venus and choppy animation so classic for that decade.
A refreshing angle on Western pop culture that has had a fixation with what’s new in animation - smooth transitions and ultra-realistic CGI - the ‘Levitating’ music video is certainly a breath of fresh air and aims to expand Dua Lipa’s fanbase beyond Europe and America, while still appealing to their own childhood memories. 

LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to the Dentsu Inc.'s art director Kenta Orisaka to find out more about the creation of this nostalgic masterpiece, the animation and the main inspirations for it.

LBB> What was the brief of the video and what were the initial conversations surrounding it?

Kenta> The brief was simple with a clear message: to promote Dua Lipa, with the aim of increasing awareness of the artist in Japan and expanding her fanbase around the world. We needed to come up with something that appeals to a Japanese potential audience and to the world alike.

LBB> Why did you decide to lean into an animated video for Levitating, tell me more about the process.

Kenta> The concept of the album is ‘Future Nostalgia’ and we wanted to create a Japanese interpretation of it. ‘Levitating’ is the lead track on the album and a song with SF motifs and 80s sound, a perfect match for a Japanese sci-fi animation with the 80s/90s anime vibe. We also thought it would be mouth-worthy for a world-class artist to choose the fan-art expression and create a serious piece through it.

LBB> The video is definitely giving Sailor Moon and kind of retro anime vibes! What was the inspiration behind the style of animation and characters?

Kenta> As a Japanese person and someone who has lived in Japan, I am sure that there is no doubt that all of the crew, regardless of consciously or unconsciously, have been greatly influenced by Japanese animation. In particular, this music video was influenced by ‘Sailor Moon’, as you mentioned. It's a masterpiece that has never faded away. There are also a few others that may not be so well known in other countries, such as the 1983 animated hit ‘Creamy Mami, the Magic Angel’ and many others - we are standing on the shoulders of giants!

LBB> Do you believe we will see this type of animation more often when it comes to Western music videos, as well as overall creative work? What do you think the advantages of it are?

Kenta> I've heard that not only animation but also Japanese games and pop culture are very popular abroad. I think it's important that the concepts of the work match to adapt, but I hope there are more possibilities for good collaborations. I'm curious to know how Japanese pop culture is seen by creators outside of Japan, please let us know!

LBB> Talk us through the process of the character development for Dua's animated self, as well as the development of backgrounds in the video?

Kenta> The setting is based on the idea of ‘Concert on the moon by the space diva Dua Lipa’. From there, we spoke to the animation studio, NOSTALOOK, to put this idea into every piece of the images.  

The most challenging part of the project was the design of Dua Lipa’s character. Overall, for the look, we referred to the design of the album cover art for ‘Future Nostalgia’, and created several patterns of head design and hairstyles, referring to various animations. 

As I mentioned before, the design is based around the 80s anime vibe, so we had to search the right spot and refine the character design to be recognised as Dua Lipa as clearly as possible. For the costumes, we researched what she had worn in the past and adapted them from there. For the choreography, we studied the videos of Dua Lipa dancing in the past, too.  

To generate the vibe of 80s anime, we decided to animate the video with 8f/s to 12f/s, less number of drawings in, which is a characteristic of Japanese animation in the 80s.

LBB> Do you think there is a trend in animation (as in other media forms) to revert back to the 80s-90s and do you believe this will hold up in the future?

Kenta> I think it will remain popular as a genre of expression, not a fad. I think that ‘nostalgia’ is one of the powerful things that move people's feelings.

LBB> Any final thoughts?

Kenta> We hope you will enjoy watching this music video as many times as possible and love it as much as we do! Thank you, Arigato gozaimasu.

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Dentsu Inc., Wed, 23 Feb 2022 15:06:15 GMT