Vallée Duhamel explains its graphic novel-inspired animated video for Katy Perry’s Daisies
The Canadian directors known for their distinctive live-action films have turned to animation for the first time during lockdown, creating an empowering visual message for the crisis.
- 28 May 2020
- Jenny Brewer
- Reading Time
- 3 minutes
The lockdown has prompted many creatives to venture outside their comfort zone, and acclaimed Canadian directors Vallée Duhamel are no different – except the fact they’ve used a commission from one of the world’s biggest pop stars as a platform to do so. Invited to pitch on Katy Perry’s video for new song Daisies, with “no brief at all” but the global situation to consider, Julien Vallée and Eve Duhamel – who are best known for their glossy live-action films for brands like Apple, Hermès and Google Android – saw the restrictions on production as an opportunity.
“Animation is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while now,” Vallée tells It’s Nice That. “As live-action directors coming from the world of graphic design and visual arts, we are big fans of graphic novels,” he says, describing their inspiration in the lighting and angles of these titles, and the “colour science of Daniel Clowes.”
From Vallée Duhamel’s reel, Katy Perry and her team had picked out the Hermès project – a live-action animation – as a visual reference, but Vallée says that level of quality wouldn’t have been possible under the restriction. Instead, they pitched an animated visual treatment that sat visually between their existing style and that of the graphic novels, and a storyline that sees a faceless female protagonist (with a loose Katy Perry likeness) battling and eventually destroying large rocks attacking her house. Winning the pitch, Vallée Duhamel then had a little over four weeks to assemble a huge team and deliver the video in time for the release this week.
“The timelines was just insane,” Vallée says. The team was truly global, too. With Vallée Duhamel in Montréal, the Partizan producer Sara Nix in Amsterdam, SixnFive – who worked on mock-ups of the house scenes – in Barcelona, Moving Colour’s producer and creative director Brian Covalt in LA, and the animation studio 2Veinte in Buenos Aires. In turn, 2Veinte enlisted 35 animators to deliver the project in less than half the time scoped, including 32 animated scenes.
“Because we were all spread out in different time zones, and also because everybody was working remotely from home, we had to create a system for reviews and approval that had no room for waiting, and just ran at full steam. That’s why Eve and myself had to split our schedule to cover the full 24 hours a day. One would stay up until the middle of the night, and the other would wake up very early in the morning to keep the pace up.” No mean feat, especially because the couple are also parents managing childcare during lockdown.
Visually, the video is dreamlike and surreal, going from a home setting to a more abstract one, using vivid, otherworldly colours and disproportioned scale, which makes the most of the animated world they’ve created. For the set design, the directors included pieces from personal projects, for instance, a set of stairs and a mirror from A Very Short Film and the floating apples from Strangers. “As fans of graphic novels, we wanted each scene to be one that we would print into what could be our graphic novel.”
Inspired by the lyric about sticks and stones, the directors used stones “to embody the obstacles that just keep coming.” Though the rocks break into the house, and keep growing and crumbling her surroundings, the protagonist adapts and overcomes the attack, and destroys a huge rock into a cloud of daisy petals, finally “floating above it all”. Look closely at the pages of the book in the video and you’ll also find a reference to the myth of Sisyphus. “For us, the meaning of this song is about resilience and believing that you can get through the obstacles or overcome the people that don’t believe in you,” Vallée explains.
Katy Perry debuted the track on the finale of American Idol last week, performing a live-action version of the animation using extended reality.