Work / Animation

How Amanda Bonaiuto’s animation for Chocolate Moon turned into a piece of personal reflection

The last time we talked to New York-based animator Amanda Bonaiuto, she was deep in world-building for an Anima! music video, photographing individual drawings she made with a 4B pencil, and revisiting the collection of ideas she keeps in her head. Since then, her creative output has seemed unstoppable, working on commissions for documentaries, live-action shorts, some TV series, and also picking up a part-time teaching position at a university.

One of these projects is a music video for Chocolate Moon, a song from Ricardo Dias Gomes and Star Rover’s collaborative album that was released just last Friday (18 October). The music video features Amanda’s signature world-building techniques and is rich with snippets of fluid visual ideas. “The idea for making a music video for Chocolate Moon started a year ago when I met Jeremy Gustin of Star Rover backstage at a Rubblebucket concert in Los Angeles,” Amanda tells It’s Nice That. Jeremy, who saw Amanda’s animation for Rubblebucket’s Annihilation Song, approached her with an idea to work together on a music video for the album. “It took a couple of months to start working on it because of our crazy schedules, but I’m so psyched that we got to collaborate,” she adds.

The animation features a pulsating world with a pace akin to a stumbling walk across a windy city alleyway. Disintegrating flowers, flowing plastic bags, a faceless person wrapped in wither clothing, and walking rooftop doors bounce along to the short track. The colour palette, like it was drawn on a takeout brown paper bag, combines with the experimental track to create a brief moment of ennui. There is no clear narrative, but the piece is lush with ideas and recurring characters like a cow’s udder and a milk box, Amanda’s way of engaging with the musicians’ own approach to creating the record, which was written and made in just four days in Lisbon. “The way they approached the project felt so poetic and unusual; it was appealing to me to approach the animation in a similar way,” she explains.

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Amanda Bonaiuto: Chocolate Moon

“A voice comes in at one point in the track and says in Portuguese: ‘I am a good cowboy,’ and this image of a man in an orange jacket tethered to a cow on a leash, real or imagined, popped in my head,” Amanda says. “I imagined a scenario where this man and cow move from a natural environment to an urban cityscape and try to sell milk,” she adds, but later felt that it was too involved for a song that lasts only a minute and a half. “I focused more on an environmental shift through the piece with recurring images of an udder, milk cartons, plastic bags, and flowers.”

The concept started out with a proposal of a loose collection of ideas, where she suggested this concept of the “cowboy figure, milk, and trash” to Jeremy Gustin when they met at her studio. As she teased out ideas for the project, she started to resonate with it more and more, first on an environmental level as reflected by the shifting landscapes and stumbling litter, and then eventually on a personal level. “I notice plastic bags floating through the air nearly every other day, which feels so surreal in contrast to my experience living in Pasadena, where I would see squawking flocks of parrots more often than a plastic bag,” she says. The transience of the plastic bag in her animation is a reflection of this change.

For Chocolate Moon, Amanda used TVPaint instead of working with pen and paper, something that she, as a “very tactile person,” found difficult at first. But after getting used to it, she started to see the benefits: “It just means a little more time for play and less time cleaning up.” Working with physical materials is still incredibly important for her, however, and it’s a method that she will stick by when making personal work. With Chocolate Moon out in the world, Amanda is now focussing attention back on these tactile techniques, working on an upcoming short titled Confetti and also the release of Hedge, her graduate project from CalArts

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Amanda Bonaiuto: Chocolate Moon

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Amanda Bonaiuto: Chocolate Moon

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Amanda Bonaiuto: Chocolate Moon

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Amanda Bonaiuto: Chocolate Moon