Our Favorite Animated Music Videos of All Time

Our Favorite Animated Music Videos of All Time

8 min read

Ever since the early 1980s and the introduction of MTV, musicians have been releasing videos to accompany their singles. It’s hard to imagine Michael Jackson’s Thriller or Beyoncé’s Single Ladies without their famous videos, right? There are so many brilliant music videos from the 21st century, but there’s one particular genre that we want to highlight today—animated music videos.

Visualizing sound with animation can be traced back to Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies (1929 – 1939). The series of 75 musical short films combined playful cartoons with synchronized sound and perhaps inspired future generations of animators with a love of music. Throughout the '80s, '90s, and the early '00s, bands and musicians of all genres released iconic animated music videos that are still loved today.

However, as the new millennium progressed, the popularity of animated music videos dwindled in favor of high-production, live-action visuals. For those of you who watched MTV growing up, you’ll probably always remember the iconic music videos from Britney Spears, Fat Boy Slim, Blink 182, and others.

Flash-forward to the current day, and animation has made a comeback. Animated music videos experienced a recent boom in popularity during the pandemic when in-person shoots were no longer possible. Artists like Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, and The Weekend all embraced the meticulous art form to bring their songs to life with cartoon characters and fantasy worlds.

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite animated videos of all time. Check them out below—you’ll be dancing in no time!

The music video is now an art form in its own right, but animation takes the genre to a whole new level.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Accidents Will Happen

Released in 1979, Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ Accidents Will Happen is widely considered to be the first fully animated music video.

It was made by Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton who created a cartoon version of the band using 35mm stills as reference. The video also features animations of common accidents, such as burnt toast and a broken teacup. Later, the accidents become less innocent, including melting ice caps and a nuclear missile being launched.

Speaking of the video, Jankel said, “Accidents Will Happen inspired a visually focused conversation that threw up a bank of ideas to do with Accidents—from the mundane Domestic to the catastrophic no-going-back. Accidents of course can be "Accidents" which is what we are wrangling with now, 40 years later—in the current political climate.”

A-ha - Take On Me

The video for A-ha’s famous Take on Me song was created by director Steve Barron and animators Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger. The team used a technique called rotoscoping, which involves tracing over live-action footage, frame by frame. The resulting, sketchy style of the animation makes this A-ha video iconic, but it was no easy feat to produce. It took four months for Patterson and Reckinger to draw a total of 2,000 drawings!

Radiohead - Paranoid Android

Radiohead commissioned animator Magnus Carlsson, Swedish creator of the animated series Robin, to make the video for Paranoid Android. The whacky and colorful animation tells the story of two friends who go around the world and get into all kinds of trouble. MTV vice president of music Lewis Largent told Spin, “You can watch 'Paranoid Android' a hundred times and not figure it all out.”

Daft Punk – One More Time

The music video for One More Time features scenes that later formed part of Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, a 2003 anime film featuring the soundtrack of Daft Punk’s Discovery album.

Directed by Kazuhisa Takenouchi under the visual supervision of Leiji Matsumoto, the animation features a band of blue-skinned aliens performing the One More Time song to a crowd on their planet. Towards the end, ominous invaders of another planet invade and crash the party.

Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood

Fans of Gorillaz know that the band consists of four fictional animated members, so it’s no surprise their music videos are animated too.

One of the band’s most iconic videos is for their track, Clint Eastwood. It was directed by Jamie Hewlett and Pete Candeland and features the cartoon band members playing their music against a white backdrop. As the song progresses, the backdrop slowly develops into a dark and stormy cemetery where zombie gorilla hands rise up from the ground.

Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards

Tame Impala’s music video for Feels Like We Only Go Backwards was designed and directed by Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling. The colorful film is made up of over 1,000 separate, hand-made Plasticine collages that make up each frame.

Lorn - Anvil

The music video for Lorn’s Anvil was made by Hélène Jeudy and Antoine Caëcke (of GERIKO). The black and white animation explores a dystopian future, when in the year 2100, overpopulation results in universal loneliness and a robot takeover.

Dan Deacon -When I Was Done Dying

The video for When I Was Done Dying by Dan Deacon features animation by nine unique animators—Chad VanGaalen, Jake Fried, KOKOFREAKBEAN, Anthony Francisco Schepperd, Caleb Wood, Taras Hrabowsky, Dimitri Stankowicz, Colin White, and Masanobu Hiraoka. In the video, a cast of colorful characters go on a trippy journey through the afterlife.

Portishead - The Rip

Portishead commissioned Nick Uff to make their animated music video for The Rip. Uff was working as a gardener at the time, and made animated shorts in his spare time.

The surreal scenes were entirely drawn by frame, one at a time. “I don't storyboard my ideas, but let the films go where they take themselves,” said Uff in an interview. “There's all sorts of ideas in there - things that have happened, a bit of social comment - like a stream of consciousness you could say.”

The White Stripes - Fell In Love With A Girl

The music video for Fell in Love With a Girl is a stop-motion LEGO animation directed by Michel Gondry. It features Gondry’s own son, who starts building LEGO blocks at the beginning of the video. The red, white, black, and yellow blocks then start to take a life of their own and become LEGO versions of the band members playing instruments. The awesome video wasn’t sponsored by LEGO—instead, the White Stripes had to buy all the LEGO themselves.

Pearl Jam - Do the Evolution

The animated music video for "Do the Evolution" was co-directed by Kevin Altieri and Todd McFarlane and produced by Joe Pearson, the president of Epoch Ink animation, and Terry Fitzgerald at TME. Over a four-week period, a team of more than 100 artists worked to deliver the finished animation.

The epic video begins by telling the story of evolution, from the “big bang” and the smallest cell to the extinction of dinosaurs and the beginnings of mankind. The video then cuts back and forth throughout human history, detailing violent wars and criminal activity. The poignant, animated video depicts humankind as brutal and unchanging throughout the ages.

Billie Eilish - my future

My Future was directed by Australian director Andrew Onorato and produced by the Australian animation company, Chop Studio.

It features an animated Billie wandering alone through a twinkling forest at night in the rain while she contemplates her future. During the second verse, the sun rises, the rain stops, and the forest begins to bloom in full color. Tree roots and branches begin to wrap around Billie, and then she’s lifted up to the sky.

Billie Eilish - you should see me in a crown

Billie Eilish collaborated with legendary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami to create her animated music video for you should see in a crown. It features Billie as an animated character inside a cyberpunk world, along with the singer’s Blohsh figures and Murakami’s signature Flowers.

Murakami said of the collaboration in a statement: “Eight months from start to finish, I sprinted throughout the production process with my animation team striving to realize Billie’s vision in an unprecedented way.”

Ezra Furman - Every Feeling

The official music video for Ezra Furman’s song Every Feeling was directed and animated by Sivan Kidron. According to her, the hypnotizing, purple and pink animation is inspired by “an up-all-night feeling and American motel rooms.” She continues, “This video observes emptiness and the dream-like realms of exhaustion.”

Kanye West - Heartless

The music video for Heartless was directed and produced by Hype Williams. He showed Kanye Ralph Bakshi's film, American Pop, and the pair decided that it should be the inspiration for the video. Williams first shot real footage of Kanye and then used the rotoscoping technique to render an animated version of the artist. Williams also employed the help of 65 animators in Hong Kong to draw over every cell. Amazingly, the team had only 10 days to deliver the entire video after the original footage was shot. They worked around the clock to finish it, resulting in over 3,000 frames of hand-drawn animation, plus background artworks.

Kanye West - Good Morning

Kayne West commissioned Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami to work on the music video for Good Morning. It was made in the style of Superflat, a post-modern art movement founded by Murakami that’s influenced by Japanese manga and anime.

The animated short features Dropout Bear, West's teddy bear mascot, who journeys through a futuristic, pastel-colored city.

The music video for Good Morning is considered one of Kanye’s most artistic videos and was met with universal acclaim from fans and critics.

Elton John, Dua Lipa - Cold Heart

Filmmaker, animator, and illustrator Raman Djafari (of Blinkink) directed the video for Dua Lipa and Elton John’s Cold Heart. He and his team combined 3D and hand-drawn art styles to create a psychedelic world where surreal cartoon characters and animated versions of the pop superstars dance through a glittering galaxy.

Djafari describes the video's glamorous, sci-fi setting as a landscape "full of celebration, dance and joy.”" Created over lockdown, he and his team wanted to evoke "a post-lockdown feeling to get back to a place where we can once again enjoy and feel music together in a fresh 2021-kind-of-way."

The Chemical Brothers - The Darkness That You Fear

Another experimental take on animation is found in the video for The Darkness That You Fear by The Chemical Brothers. Directed by Ruffmercy, and produced by My Accomplice, the video combines archive rave footage from the '90s with hand-drawn animation and textures.

Want to See More?

When it comes to music videos, more and more musicians and bands are opting to visualize their songs with animation. The playful trend is not only fun for us music fans to watch, but it also means more of today’s animators are getting jobs doing what they do best.

There are many different styles of animation, but no matter which technique is used, animators, illustrators, and cartoonists are proving that the genre is a powerful one for storytelling. Musicians and visual artists can work together to visualize their own magical worlds that pulse to the sound of their own beat.

This list is just some of the best animated videos we love, but there are so many more that we haven't mentioned. If you want to see more, we suggest checking out the video for Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Outthe collage technique is super cool. Another video worth knowing is Ode to the Mets by The Strokes created by director Warren Fu—it features the work of 8 different animators! And the video for Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer (directed by Stephen R. Johnson and produced by Adam Whittaker) includes an impressive mix of claymation, pixilation, and stop motion animation techniques.

If you're a Studio Ghibli fan, you might know that Hayao Miyazaki directed the animated music video for On Your Mark by the Japanese rock duo Chage & Aska.

Other legendary music video directors and animators include Porter Robinson, Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, Chris Ullens, and Sugimoto Kousuke.

If this list has inspired you to create your own cartoon music video, check out our previous blog posts on Disney’s 12 Principles of Animation and The Best 2D Animation Apps for iPad. And if you’re just starting out your animation journey, there are tons of online animation courses to help you master the art form.

Did you know you can animate vector illustrations in a program like After Effects? Import your Vectornator creations into the platform to bring them to life!

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