Dumb Ditty Dumb

Japanese Pop Sensation’s New Video is a Delicious Mix of Live Action and 2D Animation

Snow White meets Japanese schoolgirl in an animated wonderland that would rival Alice’s, in Crystal Kay’s latest music video on today’s The Plus. The Japanese singer worked with award winning director Tani Ikeda and animator Laura Yilmaz to create a visual playground that melds the human body with unexpected and warped, animated extensions and decorations.

Laura and Tani have worked together previously through imMEDIAte Justice, a nonprofit that teaches girls filmmaking.

‘Approaching this video as a collaboration was a great experience’ Laura told us. ‘Both Tani and I have very different skill sets, but share a common aesthetic and sensibility. This meant we could split our roles efficiently, trusting each other to find the right people and make the right choices to bring our vision alive.’

The video’s visuals nod to the fashion and energy coming out of Crystal’s home city, Yokohama, whilst also taking into account the U.S. pop sensibility. ‘I’ve seen a lot of Western artists like Avril Lavigne and Katy Perry who exotify Japanese culture in really alienating ways,’ explained Tani. ‘So I wanted to create something that felt aesthetically Japanese American.’

We asked Laura and Tani a little more about their collaboration:

The Plus: What was it like to collaborate with Crystal Kay?
Tani Ikeda:
Crystal was great! She is huge in Japan and blazed the trail for R&B music there. As a Japanese American, it’s exciting for me to work with a Japanese artist who is breaking into mainstream media in the U.S.

TP: Did you have any particular sources of inspiration?
Laura Yilmaz:
Yes, the seed of the idea was riffing on classic Snow White and the magic mirror imagery, but with a Japanese pop twist. The idea expanded and developed, so whatever hints of the Snow White mythos might remain are blurred under layers of kaleidoscopic shapes and weirdly deformed limbs!

TI: Also, the Japanese schoolgirl has become a very iconic image to American audiences that embodies quiet, subservient cuteness. We wanted to create imagery of schoolgirls who came alive on screen with explosive energy and dance moves that subverted that stereotype in visually shocking ways.

TP: Were there any particularly difficult aspects of making this video?
All the animation for Crystal’s dress is hand drawn frame by frame, meaning we had to track our animation to the live action footage by eye. It was a nightmare to manage the workflow and keep all the animation tracked properly.
In the end we had to compartmentalize the team a bit so each animator could really take ownership of one element: the dress, the schoolgirl arms and faces, etc.

TP: What’s next?
I’m in preproduction to direct a larger project this fall, and I think both Laura and I are looking forward to more opportunities to collaborate in the future.