Monday, April 5, 2010

All This Time You Were Pretending...

Music has a weird effect on me - every time I hear a song, doesn't matter what song it is, my mind starts going to work on a visual accompaniment, like a music video. To that end, I guess you could say I share a lot in common with the classic Warner Bros. directors like Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones, who used music as a jumping-off point for so many of their cartoons. Freleng in particular did a lot of cartoons paired to music ("Rhapsody in Rivets", "Holiday for Shoestrings", "The Three Little Bops", etc.), and his sense of timing couldn't have been more impeccable - the images on the screen match up perfectly with the tune on the soundtrack.

I think music videos should be the same way, but it's hard to sync up live action to a prerecorded song with such precision. So a lot of the videos I play in my head lean towards an animated influence, and I come up with a lot of really precise gag ideas based on the song and the artist and whatever concept I gravitate towards. And one song that seems to have the strongest connection to that Warner way of connecting audio and visuals is Avril Lavigne's "My Happy Ending".

No, it's not a great song, but it spawned a concept that I love. The first time I heard it (back in 2004, when it was new), I thought about the line "So much for my happy ending", and I was reminded of Tex Avery's 1941 Merrie Melodie "The Heckling Hare", in which the ending gag was excised by the studio brass and the resulting fit that Avery pitched to Leon Schlesinger ended up costing the Texas-born director his job. So I thought "Wouldn't it be clever to do a video for a song about a relationship that didn't end the way it was supposed to with a shot-for-shot tribute to the Bugs Bunny cartoon that also doesn't have its intended ending?"

So now, every time I hear the song, I picture Avril Lavigne and her desperate ex-boyfriend clashing in a battle of wits that plays out the same way it does in "The Heckling Hare", only with a number of obvious spoofs here and there. For instance, the famous gag where Bugs bashes the dog in the head with a club - I changed that to Avril bashing her boyfriend with her electric guitar, and the moment of impact occurs right at the crashing guitar note immediately after the first "So much for my happy ending" in the first chorus.

Or the gag where Bugs squishes a tomato in the dog's hand, making him think he crushed the little bunny rabbit - in my version, Avril grabs a pen from her songwriter Butch Walker (who pops up solely for the sake of this gag and then disappears) and squirts ink in her boyfriend's hand, who then tries to wipe it off on his pant legs...and while he's distracted, Avril bashes him with the guitar again.

The infamous ending gag, where Bugs and the dog fall off the cliff, is reproduced fairly faithfully - boyfriend falls, and Avril observes and walks away while singing the quiet "It was everything, everything that I wanted" immediately after the bridge...then as the guitar and drums thunder back up on the next line, she falls down the hole and off the cliff too. But I made one big change at the end - Avril skids to a stop in mid-air while the instrumentation briefly cuts out on the third-to-last "So much for my happy ending", while her boyfriend crashes into the ground, after which she hops down to pull him out of the crater his body just made, and proceeds to beat the snot out of him for the last couple of lines of the song. Iris out on Avril beaning the poor dope with the guitar one last time, and over the Merrie Melodies rings, we get the parting scrawl "That's Avril, Folks!"

Avril Lavigne is not a great musical artist by any stretch of the imagination. But I figure if you've got a bad song, the least you can do is try to make it look fun. With this and other animated music video concepts I've devised, I can enjoy a song even when it wouldn't be entertaining otherwise. If I ever go to one of those fancy animation colleges like CalArts, I'd sure like to turn this into my year-end project.

Stay tuned, 'cause as my sense of celebrity caricature improves, I'll be sharing other music video concepts I've devised. Sometimes, I even take the opportunity to heckle the artist whose song I'm depicting - wait till you see what I did to Amy Winehouse.


  1. Having listened to this very song just recently, I can totally imagine your version being a better MV than the current one produced. Another fascinating addition to your portfolio, ah reckon 8-)

  2. Great idea. Thank goodness I'm not the only one who thinks of visual accompaniment to songs.

  3. Those are all great all ideas. I should try it myself.

  4. Wow. I thought I was the only too. I imagine animated music videos to all of my favorite songs too. If not for the fact it's a long process, I'd actually animate them.

  5. Interesting. The only Avril song I'm thoroughly familiar with is "Complicated", which, like you just mentioned with many other songs, I can visualize with different scenarios.

  6. Holy crap JB, I had a couple of "song visions" like that too. Only it wasn't Avril, nor set to WB toons...

    I can't recall the song that set it off (gah, was it by Sum41? Or maybe Gorillaz?) but I remember trying to fit random characters in my head playing the musical instruments. And for some reason, the drummer turned out to be none other than your own Maxine Mink! Of all the luck, eh?

    Of course, I drew what was in my head at the time, and ultimately wound up sticking it on DevArt (which was that Maxine-on-Steve's-drumkit pic) before adding deviations of the other "instrumentalists" shortly after.

    You know, I think you've just given me a brilliant idea. Give me a week or so, and keep an eye open for another gift!

    Peace, M the H.

  7. So what's your visual accompaniment with In the Dark of the Night? ;)

  8. When I listen to electronic or disco-flavored music, I usually imagine the intros or outros to animes because so many of the older anime series use dance music or disco music as their theme platform.
    For instance I'll hear one of Mariah Carey's remixes by Hex Hector or David Morales and I'll imagine Mariah being some wacky Lum or Usagi-esque anime character and the remixed song being the opening to the show.