“I Can’t Breathe” by Nick Criscuolo

Nick Criscuolo sent us his animated music video and is looking for feedback. As I am en route from Columbus to LA today, I thought I’d post it and ask our readers for their opinion.

He writes:

Dear Mr. Beck,
I am writing to see if someone of your experience finds what I do at all interesting. I have no formal training in animation, but I enjoy it very much. I majored in painting at school, and hope I carry something of value over to this media. That being said I realize my timing and drawing probably seem pretty raw to someone like you. Anyway, if you have the time and inclination; I would most appreciate any feedback you could offer.

This is my animated music video for I Can’t Breathe by Sharon Van Etten. I did get permission to make a video for this song, though the content was not specifically approved by Sharon and probably shares no topical similarity with the song. It’s just what it meant to me, I guess.

The video depicts and fictionalizes the story of Laika the Russian space dog, the first animal sent to space. It’s a sad story, but don’t assume you know how the video ends just because you are already familiar with the story of Sputnik 2 and Laika.

For me, for a first film, I thought it was very interesting. Quite haunting. What do our readers think?


  • Yay_For_Kari

    I really enjoyed that. I found myself much more emotionally moved than anticipated. Thank you for sharing that with us, Nick.

  • nnc

    I thought it was beautiful and it actually made me misty eyed..
    There are parts in the animation where it looks kind of cheap and rough, but that just fits in with the charm of it I think. I think it all works to add to how sad and haunting it is. It’s a beautiful interpretation of the song, and I think its fitting with the sound of the song as well. You did a wonderful, WONDERFUL job, especially for someone’s very first film. the colours are beautiful

  • http://exitplanetwhom.blogspot.com doctorwhom

    It kept my attention through the end, and the wide shots of the take-off and space were well constructed. Nice even pace, and despite the character animation being limited, I felt for the protagonist.

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron H. Bynum

    It is a little cryptic, but how can sending a dog into space for experimental purposes not be?

    I can definitely see the influence of paintings. The compatibility of foreground/background is incredible, whether in composition or color balance, I would say it’s pretty creative.

    …not sure what aliens had to do with it though. My knowledge of space exploration is a little rough.

  • Michel Van

    This a wonderfull piece of animation
    and as for a first work, my respect !

    sad the real Laika had not this chance…

  • http://www.josheckert.com Josh Eckert

    Haunting, indeed, and very well done. Laika’s story always gets to me whenever I think about it.

    Nick: I like that you included the scene when one of the scientists took Laika home and played with her before the launch. From what I’ve read, a lot of the scientists didn’t feel good about what they were doing. One of them even went on the record as saying they didn’t learn enough from the project to justify Laika’s death.

    Anyway, I prefer your interpretation of the events. ;)

  • http://stuartbury.com StuartB

    Wow. That was great. You have a great sense of visual story telling(timing and such). Now you just have to keep honing it in! The beginning shots where really beautifully rendered and like some of the other comments it kept my attention to the very end. And that is a pretty big deal to be able to keep anyone’s attention that long on the internet. The only technical “critique” I would have is that when the dog has wings and is flying I wanted there to be more weight and follow through conveyed through his body.

    Keep it up!

  • MichaelHughes

    As a historical note, Laika was a very, very bad dog, and deserved to die.

  • http://www.kustomkool.com kevin dougherty

    Nicely done. But that old film effect (I’m assuming it was an effect) was a bit overdone, giving the piece a distracting strobe. (The story of Laika was a graphic novel a while back.)

  • http://www.charlescarney.blogspot.com Charles Carney

    A surprisingly emotional and touching piece (applause).

  • Kent Osborne

    That was great. I’m gonna watch it again!

  • lola

    Eh, this experimental stuff has never been my cup of tea. The flashing colors and textures were very distracting and the ending with the aliens just seemed a bit silly. The guitar melody was nice, though.

  • http://strangespanner.blogspot.com/ Lazarus lupin

    This made me misty eye as well. I think that the wonderful composition with deep focus at the beginning helps anchor the scratchier animation later on. I think that as an overall work it is just wonderful.

  • http://rodtejada.wordpress.com/ Rod Tejada

    I think everything I would have said has already been said before… It grabbed my attention and didn’t let go till the end.

    For a first film, from somebody that hasn’t had a professional training, says a lot. Congratulations!

  • http://www.nickquest.com Nick Criscuolo

    Thanks to Jerry Beck for posting this, and for everyone’s comments. I am glad that drawing issues didn’t generally take away from peoples enjoyment of the song and the animation’s story. I’m definitely aware of a lot of technical issues, I just needed to be done with it before it became an eternal work in progress.

    I find the story of Laika very moving and sad, I just had to offer the possibility of a different outcome than history. I’m a big fan of “The Plague Dogs” only the sad open ended conclusion bugged me a little, especially since the book had a much happier ending. I re-watched it many times to try and decide if they made it to the island, or if there even was an island. These days I’m just a fan of happy or bittersweet endings.

    I suppose Laika’s story could have happened this way. It’s not like Sputnik 2 returned to earth to confirm Laika’s passing. It burned up in the atmosphere.

    I must say this isn’t entirely my first film. I’d say it is my first at all serious attempt at narrative animation. I did another animation for a friends band before this one. It only has the vaguest suggestion of a story, and has a lot of rotoscoped silhouettes. This one was more of challenge to do without rotoscoping, though I still wish I could have observed a real dog more and made some things more dynamic and polished.
    Anyway, thanks again to everyone.

  • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ Mick

    There is a great deal to like in the art… the song left me with a crinkled brow pretty much straight away.
    i imagine this would go over great with those hipster festival goers

  • nnnnathann

    This was great to watch!

    Made me think of another Laika inspired video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAQWpTIjusY

  • http://www.nicksieben.com Nick

    This is awesome, the effort and passion put into this is appearant. It is so good

  • http://www.bigdaddyanimation.com Lenord

    For someone who has never done animation before, I’d say this is a wonderful effort. I’m assuming Flash was used to do some of the animation, but very well done! I’m curious to see what you would do with the proper knowledge! Bravo!!

  • Wayne

    I was held rapt from beginning to end, because the music and animation fused together so well. This was a new, unique experience, beautiful and haunting. Wonderful.