Celebrate 50 years of the Beatles' White Album with two inventive new videos made by Trunk for some of the album's most beloved tracks.
White and yellow. Two colours that can mean many things to different people, but which have a special resonance in 2018 to any fan of the Beatles.
Earlier this year saw the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four's animated classic Yellow Submarine, and this month marks the same half century celebration of the group's seminal White Album, with some brand new videos coming out in celebration of the LP. Glass Onion, one of the album's best known tracks, was given a very ambitious stop-motion promo from animation house Trunk, and today sees the launch of their lyric video for Back in the U.S.S.R.
Reaching out for an interview with Trunk directors Alasdair Brotherston & Jock Mooney, we learnt a bit more about each video, both of which are embedded below.
The video for Glass Onion takes as its inspiration a poster that came with the self-titled LP on its release back in November 22 1968 (shortly before it was dubbed the White Album by the world at large).
The collage featured a montage of images including photographs, strips of film, drawings, and hand coloured elements, all of which were provided by the Beatles to pop artist Richard Hamilton and Paul McCartney. The pair then assembled a varied and detailed collage that reflects the eclectic nature of the album's tracks, and which Alasdair and Jock brought to life for the video above.
After completing Glass Onion, the pair were asked to do a video for Back in the U.S.S.R., with which they chose to focus on one technique from the many used on Glass Onion - scratching and painting on film - and expand and explore it over the course of a full video.
"It seemed like a very natural thing to explore the 'scratch film' technique," Jock tells us. "At a very early stage we knew that the two videos should be like 'sisters' of one another. The scratch film stuff was also very fun and vibrant and has an energy to it that really suits a song like Back in the U.S.S.R."
Obviously, working on both films was a treat for the duo.
"Doing both of these projects was a huge honour and privilege," Alasdair says. "It doesn't get any bigger than the Beatles in terms of popular culture and so we were quite aware of the importance of approaching both projects with that in mind. The Beatles mean an awful lot to an awful lot of people and we wanted to make work that felt like it respected that legacy."
Alasdair explained to Digital Arts about the importance of the original collage piece from 1968 for his and Jock's work in 2018.
"At the outset of the project we heard an interview with Paul McCartney," he says, "in which he explained how important it was that the collage he made with Richard Hamilton was created real scale - no elements were scaled up or shrunk down during the creative process and this gave rise to particular juxtapositions and techniques that informed the finished piece.
"We were adamant that we would approach this project in the same way, in the full knowledge that it would cause us some problems on the shoot. (As such) I am most proud that everything you see in the video was created at the scale originally intended and we embraced the challenges that those constraints threw up and that overcoming those really informed the look and feel of the finished piece."
Such problems came from the pair's determination to shoot as much as possible in camera using techniques including stop motion, live action, hand drawn 2D on paper, 3D modelling, rostrum cut out replacements, pixilation and hand painted artworking..
"There were some things that it just wasn't practical to capture on the main shoot - the 2D animation of John & Yoko escaping the U.S censors pencil for example," Alasdair continues. "It would have been crazy to attempt that live in camera. But even with that we animated at the same scale as the original drawing and was artworked in pencil on paper. The vast majority of what you see was captured in camera, which is largely thanks to the skill of the art department at Trunk and the crew at Clapham Road Studios."
Asking both directors whether there were any other visual influences from the Fab Four's rich and illustrious history, Jock mentions the Beatles' second foray into the world of cinema.
"Early on when we were talking about footage possibilities we really loved the idea of using Paul, on an organ, from the scene in Help! The camera itself was also talked about 'as a character' from a fairly embryonic stage. That feels incredibly '60s to me."
"Less of a subtle influence," Alasdair adds, "but I did a shameless lift of a shot from the video for A Day In The Life where the editor cuts in on Big Ben and does a really simple camera shake to go with the alarm clock on the track. I used exactly the same technique to cut in on some footage of a jet mid-flight to crudely suggest turbulence."
And on the music itself, I ask both directors what Beatles songs they love the most.
"We are all massive Back in the U.S.S.R fans anyway, and I still am," says Jock. "It's very rare to have to listen to a track over and over again, over some late nights, and to still love it. My total ultimate favourites Beatles song is probably Something though."
"Oh boy," Alasdair replies when asked the same question. "Half of my family is from Merseyside and so I grew up listening to the Beatles and it is really really tricky to pick. However, I'm a huge sucker for a great string arrangement, so any of Across The Universe, Eleanor Rigby or A Day In The Life. Oh, and I love Strawberry Fields of course, and you can't forget Dear Prudence and - oh damn, you can't really narrow it down."
The 50th anniversary 2018 mix of the Beatles' White Album is out November 9th.