Parisian animator and graphic artist Alice Saey has created an animated music video for Rotterdam-based musician Mark Lotterman and his track Happy. Alice became involved in the project after the musician saw her first music video Shaking Godspeed for She’s Young in 2015. “Before we started the project Mark took me to the zoo. He goes a lot and we sat on a bench and stared at the ducks and geese,” explains Alice. “Rotterdam is full of Egyptian geese that I had never seen in France. They are just part of the surroundings and people seem to take them for granted.” Finding their mysterious appearance intriguing, Alice found parallels between this exotic animal and the tone of Mark’s song, seeing both as balancing “the mystical and the ordinary” and fluctuating between “sincerity and cynicism”.
“The animation begins with images of a colourful cosmos, which turns out to be the eye of the goose. So the video follows the structure of the stories in the song; starting from the infinitely small and zooming out to a form of macrocosm made of the remaining pieces of the dancing geese, drawing small particles in space,” explains the animator. “My idea was to allow Mark’s stories to breathe during the chorus and have a more observational approach to the goose, in order to let the more surreal dancing kick in once his voice is gone during the instrumental chorus. The idea is to create an immersive atmosphere of discovering, observation, leading up to surprise, awkwardness, and wonder.”
The animation’s creation started with observing geese and sketching, which can be seen below through Alice’s detailed and colourful sketchbooks and this research aspect was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process for her. “The sketching was so much fun. I loved adding in the colours at the end, for which I looked at a lot of woodblock prints from Kuniyoshi,” she explains. “I drew everything in the frame with indian ink on paper. For the second chorus I drew a collection of 25 isolated movements, that I layered in After Effects. The drawings are photographed to keep the shading and the texture of the paper, the colour was added in a later stage in After Effects, once the compositing was finished.”
As the video ends “Seeing the massive choreography come together at the end, after days of fine-tuning every detail to make it feel as organic as possible.” The movements and gestures of the birds was the most challenging aspect of the project and required observing and watching videos of the geese to get it right. “Some of the trickier parts were rotoscoped. The abstract feather parts are purely graphic and made up” says Alice. “Once I knew the morphology of the goose well enough, I could imagine movements and animate them, especially for the dancing parts.”