Lee Hardcastle’s grotesque claymation music video for Mark Stoermer’s track Filthy Apes and Lions is not for the faint-hearted, with plasticine blood, guts and melting flesh being spattered across the screen throughout. The video tells the tale of a mad scientist working in a dilapidated zoo who goes on a rampage and turns the animals against humans.
The project began with Lee sculpting Mark’s ideas into a narrative he could work with. “I was given a bunch of key points of what the plot could be about and the sort of things they wanted to see in there,” explains Leeds-based Lee. “With the song, it felt it was quite straightforward how the video would play out. That opening shot with the scientist covered in blood in the jungle and the creatures and stuff, I put forward that idea for the opening shot kinda expecting to get shot down but I was given the trust to take free rein of the story so I got to go wild with it.”
Lee’s style is inspired by films and he’s continually working in references to his work. “The opening shot came from a Rick and Morty parody of A Clockwork Orange I worked on. I had to examine that shot in the film in such detail for the project I couldn’t resist copying the same thing and used an intimate shot, with focus on the windows into a person’s soul that pulled out wide. Most of the music videos that I’ve made, I like to treat them as cinematic nuggets and I attempt to squeeze a complete 90 minute ride into a four minute music promo.” As a result the perspectives and shots Lee plays around with fit in with this filmic take on claymation. The animator’s ability to make the audience squirm at the sight of clay limbs falling off is as powerful as live-action and he creates a sense of drama and tension, which is offset by moments of dark comedy.
The project took around two months to complete, with half of that time being spent on building a large connected set that had a camera set up in the middle of it. “I wanted to build the set first before storyboarding, that way I could run a lot of tests and pre-visualise a lot of things before deciding what I wanted to shoot on the day,” says Lee. The set came with its challenges though, mainly in the form of lighting. “It was a nightmare – I attempted as much as I could to light it all in real time so all the light on set was octant throughout the video,” he says.
While Lee sees himself as simply executing the ideas of his collaborators, it’s clear he fully invests himself in each project. “I’m the gun for hire, the puppet guy who tries ridiculously hard to keep you entertained for four minutes,” he says. “But I guess a lot of the emotions I had going on in this video were coming from the fact that humans and animals should be friends.”