Truba Animation’s Greg Sharp on creating a series of stylish animated bliss for the Kiwi band
For many young people flying the nest, backpacking around foreign lands marks their first big adventure in the big, wide world. This forms the basis of an absolute stunner of a music promo for Kiwi bad Unknown Mortal Orchestra. ‘Hunnybee’ is a song written for and about frontman Ruban Nielson’s daughter. Greg Sharp, creative director at Truba Animation, also originally from New Zealand, foresaw “the loveliest hopes for a young woman's future” in the adventure of travelling through Europe.
The animated film - which is actually the fourth music video that Greg has created for UMO’s latest album ‘Sex & Food’ - is a dreamy train ride along the Adriatic Coast that’s made up mostly of blissful happenings, with a splash of drama thrown in for good measure.
LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Greg to find out more.
LBB> What did Unknown Mortal Orchestra initially approach you with and how did it lead to the final script?
GS> I'm a huge fan of UMO, so it's a big thrill when someone you admire wants to work with you. But it was interesting for me to learn that Ruban and I both went to art schools in New Zealand - in that respect, we share a certain knowledge of critical theory that made it easy to get ideas across. After a long conversation about each song, I was given complete freedom from Ruban, which is fantastic. This is the fourth video for the album, and there is a theme that ties them all together, which, if you watch them all, you'll begin to see (check the out at the end of the article).
LBB> When I showed this to my colleague immediately said, “I always think I’m in a music video when I’m on a train”. Did this idea come to you while travelling on a train? Can you give us some background into your inspiration?
GS> The song is for and about Ruban's daughter, specifically her future. So, since it is about a real, living person I felt a need to be respectful (something I am never obliged to do in my usual work) which is why it is the sweetest thing I've ever made, albeit with some danger at the end, but that's life. I was imagining the loveliest hopes for a young woman's future and came up with travelling through Europe.
LBB> Where is the story set? I’m getting French Riviera vibes at the beginning but swaying towards Japan as the video progresses…?
GS> I live in Serbia, so this starts at the Adriatic Coast, goes up through Montenegro towards Beograd. One of the animators threw in BEG onto the luggage tag as a gag.
LBB> Tell us about the narrative? What else is happening? It’s all quite blissful at the beginning but things get a little hairier towards the end…
GS> I think I touch on this above, but in terms of the hairier moments at the end, I did feel the need to inject some drama into what was otherwise a very sweet, idealised scenario. This inspiration came from the guitar solo, which felt very dark - and the solo finishes and passes over like a rain cloud that never broke - so it felt right that we could have a sequence of increasing tension and accelerated cuts that reveal the potential danger all around, danger that doesn't necessarily eventuate. All the YouTube comments question whether the suitcase falls on the woman, or if the wheel come off the track, etc. - but I can say with certainty that everything turns out okay.
LBB> You pan to her rucksack on numerous occasions - is there reasoning behind that?
GS> Just a nod to New Zealand with the brand name KIWI! Also, it specifically refers to backpacking which is usually the first mode of world-travel that a young person will undertake away from their childhood home, so it's emblematic of adventure and crossing the threshold towards adulthood and independence.
LBB> From a directorial and animation perspective, what kind of techniques were involved here?
GS> Well all the videos are done in more or less the same style, which is quite realistic. All the videos are very minimal in their animation - the concept for the series is: nothing happens, but it happens stylishly. It's a different approach to focus on setting up a scenario and letting the audience contemplate it. In this respect the videos are more like video-art than films, and production-wise it means we can put more effort into making it beautiful.
LBB> One thing I noticed from a stylistic point of view were the little black blotches that appear, giving the effect that it’s been shot with an old camera. What was the inspiration behind that?
GS> It's because I am a sucker for nostalgia and grew up watching animations shot on film, so I do anything I can to make my digital workflow appear more analogue. I'm sure younger viewers don't share that nostalgia.
LBB> What were the biggest challenges that arose during
GS> Frankly I don't want to answer this question because it brings up bad memories!
Check out the rest of Greg’s UMO ‘Sex & Food’ videos: