Five days ago, Sweden won the top prize in this year’s Eurovision song competition, with Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw.
The Eurovision contest goes on for many days, and if you’re a diehard follower like both Mary (my other half) and I am, chances are you know many of the songs months before the contest comes together, as each country decides what song and artist to have compete.
Eurovision is known for it’s often extravagant performances and sometimes equally extravagant singers-often pulling out all the stops to garner the most votes. Whoever wins Eurovision is then the hosting country the following year. If you’re a fan of current trends in music and culture, Eurovision is a wonderfully interesting watch.. and you can see years of performances on youtube. This year, in comparison to many of the other performances, this year’s winning song – and performance – were quite simple in many respects, but very well done, and sharing a huge kinship with the pioneering days of animated filmmaking. I think it’s really interesting that, 100 years later, the ideas of combining animation with performance are strikingly similar in both look and technique to some of the most famous pioneers of animation.
Emile Cohl’s early efforts combine performance with a combination of live action and animation. Cohl’s films, like Georges Melies, were often projected in settings designed for live performance, with the screen basically imitating a proscenium stage. In this space, all sorts of magic could happen, even with the limited film language that existed in these early days. J Stuart Blackton’s early efforts have a similar interplay between the artist and animated images,setting the stage for so many others to follow. Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) was designed to utilize these same ideas in a live performance, with the ‘act’ being performed between McCay on stage and the animated drawing ‘on stage’ with him. I think it’s interesting that this new performance does both – it was a live stage performance there, and works as a combination of live action and animation as film in the taping of the performance.Zelmerlöw’s interaction with the animated character and effects clearly hearken back to all of these early films, but oddly, there doesn’t seem to be a mention in any of the press or publicity of these nods to history. Certainly the influence is clear, but I have to wonder if we’re at a point where only the film and animation history folks take notice.
Personally, I just like the idea of people enjoying the performance above all else. I like the fun interactions throughout – The only thing I would wish for would be a little finer animation.
Here’s a really nice copy of Fantasmagorie:
..and here is Zelmerlöw performing Heroes at Melodifest in Sweden in March, where the song won the national selection to represent the country at Eurovision. Note that the character is this earlier version has a pointed hat, bearing a stronger resemblance to Cohl’s Fantasmagorie. You’ll have to go about halfway through the video to see the performance:
Now, here is one of the live performances of Heroes at Eurovison. The character’s hat has been changed here, and the umbrella was changed to a balloon. If you look on youtube, you can see his other performances with the same animation. I think it’s lined up best here:
Have a great rest of the week everyone!