There's obviously a whole lot going on in Justice's retina-busting clip for "D.A.N.C.E." — nude girls, ads for headbands, royalty in riding gear, rotating crucifixes, psychedelic beards, star-spangled tuxedos. But there's probably even more that you're not aware of.
"Some of the animations are, like, references to T-shirts that were made in the past, and some are dedications to friends, like a way to say hello to someone and they're the only one who knows it," laughed So Me, the exceedingly French designer who created the animation used in the clip. "Some people notice these things and some people don't, and that's what makes the video fun. There are so many levels. Like, the girl with the riding helmet is Charlotte Casiraghi, who is the daughter of the princess of Monaco. She's a very cute girl, like 18 or something, so we thought it would be funny to feature her."
But So Me's copious animations — he contributed "something like 500," which bob and weave between T-shirts modelled by Justice's Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge — don't stop with inside jokes and tributes to barely legal fans of equestrian sports. He also had a much more nefarious idea for the clip, one born out of a three-year battle with French censors.
"It's funny because on TV here, you're not allowed to do advertising in videos," he explained over the phone from Paris. "Like, you can't show any brands or they blur it. I did a video back in the day for DJ Mehdi [another signee to Ed Banger Records, the home of Justice], and in the background there were some posters for his album, and the TV channel made me blur them. So with the Justice video, I said, 'OK, they want me to blur my brands? I'm going to make a three-minute advertisement for So Me T-shirts, and they're never going to notice and they're not going to make me blur it.' It was very sneaky and it worked."
Has it ever. Currently, four of the shirts seen being modelled by Justice in the video are available for purchase at ultra-hip boutiques and more will be coming soon. It's hard to blame him for looking for a little extra shine: From start to finish, the clip for "D.A.N.C.E." was a rather Herculean undertaking, one involving a whole lot of pre-planning, a ton of rehearsing and weeks of wrist-crippling animating.
"Justice and I did the concept based on record covers I've done for Ed Banger. Then we met with [directors] Jonas & Francois to discuss the key moments that had to be in the shooting. Like when Gaspard shakes Xavier, the letters fall down off his T-shirt; or when the girl plays the keyboard on her shirt and the keyboard falls to the ground," So Me said. "Those needed to be done because you can't go back and do that later, and there were like five or six really important instances like that.
"And then once the images were shot, we started to do the animation; we did like 500 T-shirts. They're wearing blank T-shirts in the video, and we did the animations for it," he continued. "They're all based on flat, 2-D graphics, which we had to animate. So it took me like three weeks just to do all the drawings."
So while So Me handled all the illustrations, the technical side was left to directors Jonas & Francois, who — like So — have been part of the Ed Banger family for a few years now. (They'd previously directed some promos for the label and helmed the video for Kavinsky's "Testarossa.") And though the entire video seems to hinge on a bunch of really high-tech techniques, the duo say that everything got its start with just four tiny pieces of black tape.
"We shot Xavier and Gaspard wearing plain T-shirts with four pieces of black tape stuck to them to follow the movement of the fabric in post production. That's it," Francois snickered. "At the same time, So Me was preparing the drawings — all very different and much fun — either because we had a special need, either because he liked them. Some designs were already on real T-shirts; it was fun to make them alive."
"We shot the video in a Parisian nightclub that also happens to be a movie house, and it's a huge labyrinth of endless corridors in the basement. Everything was wrapped in one day, from early in the morning through late, late at night," Jonas added. "We were a small crew of four people: the two of us for the animation and two persons who tracked the film — following the tape — then erased the pieces of tape from the image."
The duo claimed that they have no problem with the fact that their work on the video tends to be overshadowed by So Me's animated flurries, and everyone involved seems to relish Justice's underdog status at Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards (see "MTV VMA Race Is On: Justin Timberlake, Beyonce Lead Nominations"). Though it seems a long shot, there is a chance that the "D.A.N.C.E." vid could shock the world and take home the award for Video of the Year, which would be extra sweet for the animator.
See, So Me was onstage at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards, trying to accept the Video of the Year award for Justice vs. Simian's "We Are Your Friends," when Kanye West bum-rushed the stage and threw one of his patented tantrums (see "Kanye Admits To Having Had A 'Sippy Sippy' (Or Two) Before EMA Rant"). At the VMAs, "D.A.N.C.E." is pitted against West's video for "Stronger," which means that maybe — just maybe — So will have the chance to finally deliver that acceptance speech.
Or maybe not.
"When he came onstage, I just thought to myself, 'OK, don't say too much, because the guy's angry,' " So Me said. "I just sat there, relaxed and smiled at him because we were winners. He was wrong all the way, so I just let him talk.
"If we win this time, it would be great. We would've won both the European and the U.S. awards. If we do, it would be really funny, and maybe Kanye will jump onstage again."
Go behind the scenes with other Video of the Year nominees:
» Kanye Added Perfectionist Touch — And Venetian-Blind Glasses — To 'Stronger' Video: VMA Lens Recap
» Rihanna's 'Painful' 'Umbrella' Shoot Kept Her On Her Toes: VMA Lens Recap
» Amy Winehouse's 'Rehab' Was Really Just A Decrepit London Building: VMA Lens Recap
» Justin Timberlake Went 'Around' And Came Out With A Broken Finger: VMA Lens Recap
» Beyonce's 'Irreplaceable' Guy Had A Tough Time Getting Dumped: VMA Lens Recap
Wait -- don't cash out on the VMAs just yet! From Britney's sultry comeback performance to the big winners, you saw it all -- well, almost everything! Get yourself even richer with our wall-to-wall show coverage, party reports, videos and loads more at www.VMA.MTV.com. For reports, photos, video and much, much more from previous VMAs, dive into the VMA archives.