When I began this post, I was going to write about bands that had in some way animated themselves for either film or television. And while that’s still totally doable, I got caught instead on the notion of pseudo-fictional animated bands instead – bands that (while obviously having real-world musicians providing the sounds) exist primarily as animation.
Because really, if there’s anything better than listening to music, it can only be listening to music while watching cartoons.
After the live-action Beatles films of the 60s, or more accurately, the spun-off US-produced Beatles cartoon, the concept of a band that gets into crazy adventures in their spare time really took off. Leading the pack were two animation companies: Hanna Barbera (most famous for The Flintstones and The Jetsons [which was really just The Flintstones in the future (which makes you wonder just what was so dull about the early 70s that they’d set their two flagship family shows in the extreme past and the extreme future – why no present-day family? [unfortunately, at time of writing, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were unavailable for comment])]) and Filmation.
Hanna Barbera were responsible for feline hillbillies The Cattanooga Cats, (the suspiciously rotoscopic-looking) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids, Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, and Jabberjaw, the drumming shark. It was only after I saw a cartoon shark wearing a gi and attempting to break boards with a karate chop that I realised I hadn’t yet lived (but really, think about the fact that the shark fails to break the board, yet appears to be wearing a black belt. I’m suspicious, and doubt that Jabberjaw ever actually earned said belt.)
Meanwhile, in camp Filmation, Archie’s band The Archies actually had one of the most successful bubblegum pop songs of 1969 with Sugar, Sugar – four weeks at #1 isn’t too bad for what is, realistically, a fake band.
The success of The Archies pushed Filmation to create spin-off cartoons Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina the Teenage Witch (which while not featuring a band itself, did have its own spin-off, The Groovie Goolies, about a monster-themed band. It’s a cute idea, and inspired real-life monster-and-cheesy-horror-themed pop-punk group The Groovy Ghoulies.)
Now, with the exceptions of The Archies and The Cattanooga Cats, all of these bands spent their spare time solving mysteries. That’s absolutely the coolest thing ever, and the real mystery here is why more real-life bands don’t get in on vigilantism.
But we’re not talking real bands, so lets move to the distant future.
Produced by Japanese animation firm Toei, and a collaboration with French androids Daft Punk, Interstella 5555 (2003) is a feature-length accompaniment to their record Discovery. Supercool, and filled with what undoubtedly will be the future of music and blue people, you can actually check it out in its entirety online, here:
Japan’s less-than-prolific Genki Rockets are fronted by an 18 year-old animated girl from the future, Lumi (which I suspect is connected to the fact that one half of the real members of Genki Rockets is part of Q? Entertainment, a videogame company responsible for musical Tetris-em-up Lumines [gettit? Lumi-nes (incidentally, I asked for a copy of Lumines in the States one time, and was given Lemmings, as I was pronouncing it LOO-meens, when apparently it’s actually pronounced the same as the word luminous [yeah, I’M the idiot, because that’s so clear.])])
Honourable mention goes, of course, to Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz. Honourable mention, because the names behind the music have sort of eclipsed the fake band to the point where the fictional story behind the group doesn’t seem as interesting as when they started. :’(
Still, the clip for Clint Eastwood is both the bees knees as well as the cat’s pajamas:
But really, for present-day animated band, how could anyone go past Adult Swim and Titmouse’s fictional (but regularly touring) band from Metalocalypse, Dethklok.
Interestingly enough, while the majority of the animation is of the garden variety, the actual fret-fingering close-ups are rotoscoped from series creator Brendan Small’s own face-melting guitar playing.
And as we started with the Beatles, I’ll leave you with another non-fictional band (from now on I’m going to refer to anything real as being non-fiction) in potentially the worst animation ever. Looks bad, moves badly, it’s the Ramones’ version of the Spiderman theme song. Great song, terrible clip.