Kanye West’s New Video Inspired by Bakshi’s American Pop

Kanye West writes on his blog that this new video for “Heartless”, directed by Hype Williams, was inspired by the rotoscope-animation in Ralph Bakshi’s American Pop. The Jetsons also make an appearance in the vid. West says, “WE RECORDED REAL PEOPLE AND THEN HAD 65 ANIMATORS IN HONG KONG HAND DRAW OVER EVERY CELL [sic] . INSPIRED BY THE MOVIE “AMERICAN POP” . HYPE SHOWED ME THE MOVIE AND I WAS SOLD.”

(Thanks, Jeremy Bernstein)


  • http://cartoondavid.blogspot.com david

    meh. It’s too bad they wasted their efforts on a bad/annoying kanye west song.

  • Gobo

    I can see the American Pop references and some clever visual cues in the background, but the video’s so dull, it could be called “Lifeless”…

    A rotoscoped character isn’t going to be very interesting when he’s just wandering down a street looking angsty.

  • http://www.rauchbrothers.com Tim Rauch

    I’m usually a rotoscope-hater but this I enjoyed. The design was very well conceived (thanks in no small part to the very apparent extent of Bakshi’s influence and even a little straight Bakshi-bites). The only thing that struck me as odd was the sequence with the Jetsons paintings. Visually that just sorta threw me off by having such a strange juxtaposition of visual styles. Anyways, a lot of the other sequences were really fun and it makes me want to go stick my brother’s copy of American Pop on VHS into the VCR… never a bad idea.

  • http://goldenagecartoons.com Matthew Hunter

    Why does EVERYONE use that annoying vocal synthesizer when singing now? It’s annoying! Kanye West has done far better material. As for the animation, it’s interesting, but it’s such a dull song I have up on it half-way in.

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    Kanye’s interest in and appreciation of art and animation continue to make his videos stand out from the crowd. The Plympton video for “Heard ‘Em Say” is still my favorite.

  • Sterfish

    I like the look of the video. I just wish it was applied to something other than a pretty typical Hype Williams video.

  • Steffen

    I dug this video…and I agree with Floyd’s point. Also, any exposure to audiences as broad as Kanye’s I think, is a boost for getting people to appreciate animation that is not of the blockbuster production kind that has a certain mainstream aesthetic.

  • http://brazilianmonkey.blogspot.com andre

    I do agree with those who said it looks dull.
    If you do some work using american pop references why not use those wide angle lens, a good storyline and crazy camera movements too? The graphic treatment in this case is not enough to make it great.

  • http://brazilianmonkey.blogspot.com andre

    About wide angle lens I meant those extreme ones that give american pop the psychedelic feeling. Just to make myself clear. :)

  • http://highlyrecommended.blogspot.com Satorical

    As for the vocoder, I blame Cher. More to the point, if Kanye West is so technologically adept, why can’t he turn Caps Lock off?

  • slowtiger

    This should be seen against the “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” sequence in Yellow Submarine – then you’ll see how much work was just wasted here. The dancers in their star patterned dresses – why wasn’t that pattern used for some interesting effect? The character’s colours – why do they stay so comic-book realistic? And the BGs don’t fit at all, IMO.

  • Altred Ego

    I really dug this song after about halfway. It’s a bit of a throwback musically as well as visually.
    It’s a pretty slick track and a nice departure from the cliches that have started to ruin Kanye. I think Graduation is a brilliant video…wish that song was a little better though.
    On the whole, it’s good to see people trying new things. Interesting that he went to HK for the animation, do people not know how to draw in America, or do HK people work for autographs?

  • http://www.spiteyourface.com tony mines

    I don’t think I especially liked that overall, but it was really interesting in a certain way. What was interesting, was to see that sort of slavish rotoscoping applied on two’s and often threes. It seemed to avoid all that boiling and awkward distracting secondary (third?) movement that most rotoscope offers. Course, that’s mostly because there were no outlines, and the overall effect was not far off what could have been acheived with video filters – but still, I think it revealed a potentially interesting way to approach rotoscope. The power of full-limited wins again!

  • http://rauchbrothers.com Mike Rauch

    For me, the coldness of the computer loses a lot of the warmth and soul that’s in Bakshi’s “American Pop”. Also, they’re really just biting a few specific parts of American Pop. Parts which aren’t necessarily it’s best moments, but also parts that are made strong by context and STORY! As far as I can see, this video is just a stylistic bite, but lacks much substance. If it was live action, it would just be another boring music video. As it is, I would say it’s another boring video made less boring by some “inventive” imagery.

  • http://www.undercardproductions.com rob

    I know a lot of great animators in the US who would have loved to work on that. Music video budgets are usually astronomical, I worked on a few as an electrician. They took the cheap route. Cool idea though.

  • http://mrseanlane.com Sean

    So whatever, rotoscoping blah blah blah… it looks okay.

    But the real problem is that they went to Hong Kong and paid 65 guys there and then brag about it. Why not give Americans jobs?

    And yeah, that vocoder thing is trendy and bland, but I wouldn’t expect anything else from corporate rap music.

  • http://www.georgeconkin.blogspot.com george

    yea, why not give americans jobs Kanyeezy? That fact alone ruins vid for me

  • I like to draw

    I was bored with it all pretty quickly.. the hyper bright colors dont help but rather hurt my eyes and why is he aimlessly just bouncing through the bg.. tell a story man.. give us somethign other than a moving image…. isnt that what videops were intended to do … tell us something about the song??.. Kahk!! pure KAK!

  • Scotty A

    Kanye West doesn’t care about American animators.

  • julian

    nice-well hes using the artform ……more

  • http://siskavard.blogspot.com Corey

    I agree, it looks really REALLY cool & retro, though I don’t know why bragging about sending it overseas is necessary.

  • http://www.coffeeandcookies.blogspot.com Jesse Jordan

    I wish, instead of using CG, they would have animated the smoke the way someone like Eduardo Risso would have illustrated it. Fantasy: do the WHOLE THING the way Risso would have illustrated it. Mmm…

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    Kanye’s as awful as Diddy, except Kanye ruined a Daft Punk song and Diddy ruined a Led Zep song.

    Oh, the animation in the video. As good as thoughtless rotoscope can be, I guess.

  • theInvertabrat

    Wow that sucked, and I kinda liked the song until I saw that video. Why dont people push the animation envelope with our talented artist’s here? just give them the song and let the animators do there thang like how they did it on Fantasia, brainstorming and amazing ARTWORK. dare I say it? (video killed the radio star)

    I will say I loved the Murikami video as well as Plymptons, but this was a huge step backward. Hey Kanye next time why not ruin the video with Mocap?

  • http://rblitz.blogspot.com/ rblitz7

    Ok so there’s nothing that’s really pushing the envelope of animation here….but I think the video works really well. There rotoscoped animation works and it kept me entertained. The backgrounds were pretty nifty as well. I don’t know what you guys want in a music video to keep you entertained. I mean isn’t it just a visual component to the song..I don’t like music videos that try to tell some big story or anything.

  • Birria

    Not too bad, for a Chinese corporate urban music knockoff, though the late John Sparey’s mega camera calculations are sorely missed. And it wasn’t a wide-angle camera lens that imparted scope to “American Pop”‘s bgs, it was Barry Jackson’s American painting skill.

  • http://www.jessica-plummer.com Jessica Plummer

    Eh, this was alright, though I’ll echo others words that it’s a shame it had to be outsourced. I did find the whole thing way too upbeat for the song (the color palette especially), and wish it looked a whole lot moodier throughout. And the Jetson’s in the background totally threw me off. =(

  • Brad Constantine

    I thought the roto work was well done so hats off to that. The video just wasn’t very imaginative. It could have gone anywhere and it “stayed put” the whole song. When the smoke effect is the best part, then the rest is not good. The Jetsons art made it worse….He should have been in the Jetson’s apartment instead..eep ork ah ah.

  • Kanye/Animation Fan

    I’m a pretty big Kanye fan but I still found this video to be kind of meh. The angles chosen are not that interesting and the static camera work does nothing for me. And am I crazy or is there some float in a few scenes?

    The Jetsons pieces, however, are based off of some Murakami paintings that Kanye has in his house. Do yourself a favor and look up some online articles about Kanye’s house. He has some really interesting tastes in art and his house appears very beautiful in the spreads I have seen.

  • http://www.youtube.com/kustomkool Kevin Dougherty

    I thought it was a nicely designed piece of work. I’m a huge fan of “American Pop” so I’m a little biased. I think ‘Pop’ is an incredibly uneven film but some great ideas make it to the screen. And just like “Lord of the Rings” it has that Bakshi touch of “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks.” No money? No problem! Lets just shoot a painting on a rostrum camera!

  • Chuck R.

    Bakshi? Hype Williams is flattering himself.

    This video answers the question: “What would Patrick Nagel’s art look like if it could move?”
    The correct answer: “Who cares?”

  • Dave

    I was hoping for the Jetsons to step out of their pictures and let give Kanye a few whacks or something.

  • Tsimone Tse Tse

    Are their any other R&BHip-Hop/Rap artists today that utilize the artform of animation as much?

    re:”As for the vocoder, I blame Cher.”

    Roger Troutman, anyone?