Todd McFarlane — the comic-book artisan behind “Spawn” and the entrepreneur who’s built himself an action-figure empire — has accepted the rather thorny task of directing the video for Disturbed’s hard-rockin’ take on the classic Genesis hit “Land of Confusion.”
As videos go, “Land of Confusion,” which debuted in 1986 and starred the horrifyingly lifelike Spitting Image puppets, was a memorable one, long considered one of the most twisted clips ever to hit MTV’s airwaves. It’s also regarded as a groundbreaking political satire that poked fun at the state of international affairs during the Reagan administration.
McFarlane hopes Disturbed’s video will leave as lasting an impression with today’s MTV audience. But he’ll be taking a different aesthetic approach to his “Land of Confusion.” Rather than working with puppets, he’s got a team of animators to help bring his treatment to life.
“Music videos try to tell too nice a four-minute story, and I think there are only a handful that are effective,” said McFarlane, who helmed Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution” and Korn’s “Freak on a Leash.”
“So you come up with symbolic stuff and metaphors for things, and you play it to the music. And they’re digging the music and digging the video, and whether it all makes complete and utter sense is less of a concern to me than that, at the end of it all, the [audience] goes, ‘Ah, that was wicked.’ ”
According to McFarlane, the video will feature several of the miscreants who grace the cover of Disturbed’s latest album, Ten Thousand Fists. McFarlane worked with Greg Capullo on the album art and says that a number of the characters were inspired by actual people, including Zakk Wylde, Hunter S. Thompson and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. The video’s hero will of course be “The Guy,” the humanized form of Disturbed’s menacing logo.
The entire clip will be “a big view of the corporate world and how it all ties into just one big beast for me,” said McFarlane. “That the world is run by one giant thing, which is driven by greed and lust.”
The video’s action will unfold across different continents, with legions of threatening soldiers wearing armbands bearing what appear to be dollar signs descending on the civilian masses. Like the original “Land of Confusion,” McFarlane’s will also feature a bunch of world leaders: President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The video’s villain, he said, will be a bloated fat cat who represents corporate greed. Toward the end of the clip, the thousands of characters who appeared on the cover of Ten Thousand Fists will band together to defeat him and will then stand together, fists raised in the air, in victorious unison. Considering that it takes 24 drawings to complete one second of animation, McFarlane and his team will need a few months to finish the video, which he said should be ready to air in June.
McFarlane also has his latest toy line, inspired by some of music’s most memorable album covers, to keep him occupied. The first in this series of 3-D wall-mountable, 7-inch by 7-inch figurines will be in stores this month: It’s a re-creation of Led Zeppelin’s 1969 debut. The toys will also feature retractable easel backs, for those who’d like to stand them on their desks.
“We do the figures [of professional athletes and musicians], so we’re not always able to get everybody we would like,” McFarlane explained (see “McFarlane Hopes To Roll Out Busta, Kid Rock, Zombie Figures At Toy Fair” ). “Sometimes people just don’t want to do it or they think it’s silly. So you go, ‘We’re never going to get that guy or gal — too bad.’ Then you have to try to find back doors. ‘How do we get to these guys without getting to them?’ We run into it with actors and actresses too. ‘What if we just did the movie posters and the album covers of the movies and the music? Then we could get the Rolling Stones without doing Mick Jagger’s likeness.’ ”
So far, McFarlane said, his company has been given the green light on just a few album covers: the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols, which should land in stores in May; Metallica’s Master of Puppets; and the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced? He plans on rolling out new toys on a fairly regular basis, as more merchandising agreements are inked.
“We made a list of our top 100 albums, and some of these we can do fairly quickly and some will be more involved,” he said. “We’re not limiting ourselves to time on any of this. I mean, we’ve even got Frank Sinatra on the list.”