Full interview :
THE CREATIVE PROCESS OF ANIMATOR RONALD GRANDPEY
Hey, who are you?
My name is Ronald Grandpey, and I am a French animator, comics artist and illustrator.
I have been making comics for 20 years or so, and have been a freelance animator since 2005, mostly working on music videos and other music-related projects.
Many of my animated works have derived from comic book projects since the very start, with a lot of back-and-forth influence upon each other. The opportunity to release a flip book, followed by a carte blanche from Michel Cloup for a first music video (and then a second one), thus allowed me to extend a series of existing comics — a habit later pursued with American rap duo Yea Big & Kid Static.
That comics series, along with others signed under different aliases, have since benefitted from those experiments in many ways, narrative and graphical. And coloring and lighting, two major features in my comics work, have in turn become major features in animation as well.
Add a bit of illustration to the equation, and you will get an oversight.
What saucy projects do you have under your wings?
2016 definitely turned out to be an decisive year, where I had both the opportunities to make a music video for rapper Kool A.D. ("Prove It"), and to follow up on two Adult Swim bumps in a row, the second of which was released earlier this year.
I am currently working on a new music video, along with institutional commissioned jobs and the above mentioned comic book projects. Yes that’s a tight schedule.
Let’s talk about your project "Prove It", could you describe its brief ?
First I must say that the circumstances that led to this very project were improbable. It all started with an short exchange on Twitter from a highway resting area at 3:00am, right after a first liten to Kool A.D.’s 100-song album "O.K". However familiar to Victor’s prolific releases, the whole album struck me from beginning to end, and incidentally inspired me lots of comic book and animation ideas, a true meteorite shower. Being offered right afterwards to make a visual right afterwards for "Prove It" therefore was amazing, and the video itself turned out to be one of my most personal works.
The "Prove It" video itself, in a few words, displays two love stories, one human and the other animal.
The animal pair, Kool A.D.’s own dog and bunny hot characters, star a popular cartoon and experience an everlasting, perfect romance.
The human pair, on their part, seem to have reached a hingepoint in their history which leaves the guy astray, in search for a fair proof of commitment.
Both stories unroll simultaneously through various stages, the animal affair acting as a forever revived promise — although not necessarily an easy one.
Please break down the process in steps
The whole process, as often in my experience, was pretty much freehanded and improvised, with hardly any storyboard or other script than the song itself. One main difference with former projects, though, resided in the technical approach, which I try to make slightly different every time.
My prior achievements, at the time, mostly alternated 12fps frame-by-frame variants drawn on a homemade light box, and vector animation experiments on Moho : "Prove It" therefore seemed a good opportunity to move on and try Toon Boom Harmony with 24fps, frame-by-frame color animation. A bit of pen-to-paper animation, and the help of Moho for certain sequences and final compositing, also seemed both safe and relevant complements.
Hence a somewhat mixed-up and crafty work-in-progress, involving numerous back-and-forths between 1°) lightbox drawing, scanning and coloring sessions for both 12fps, FBF sequences and vector-rigged characters, and 2°) Toon Boom workouts for 24fps, FBF shots, themselves drawn and colorized directly on a Cintiq tablet. All types of sequences were exported as image strings, imported in Moho and composited, before the final edit in Final Cut Pro 7. Quite a cookery, but I have grown used to it.
Content itself was built up progressively, mostly in the chronological order, starting with a bunch of sequence ideas that kept intimately resonating after many listens. For the rest, I only had to let myself guide by my own interpretation of the song, without of course paraphrasing it.
Such sequences as the ghost birds in the park were even totally made on-the-go, and inspired by performances on Coachella festival’s livestream, one very late night. A couple other shots were "sampled" at convenience from various sources when it seemed relevant : the TV opening scene, for instance, is an outward reminder of the visual for "Amazing" by Kool A.D.’s former band Das Racist — same for the couple obvious Run the Jewels references. Others, like one of the drones for instance, are a bit more subtle. The whole process really was very free and intuitive.
If you could do it over again, what would you do differently ?
However perfectible some sequences may be technically speaking, I cannot say I have many regrets. Not the least, actually. The 2-3 months that this visual required were pretty intense, with loooong working days so as to deliver it as settled, but it also was a lot of fun. I did my very best to serve a song I love, and all I can wish now is for people to enjoy the result and immediately go check Kool A.D.’s outstanding catalog.
Any learnings from this process that other animators might benefit from ?
Have fun. Work hard. Make beautiful stuff. Repeat from start.
Another thing though, which I am not sure works with everyone, is that the more personally connected I feel to a song, the better the result seems to be. As much as it defies my expectations, this does feel really cool.
Where can people see the final music video ?
Pitchfork premiered "Prove It" on Youtube in june 2016, and the video has also been featuring several festivals, among which London NRFF where it was awarded it Best Music Video. The next opportunity to watch it on a wide screen will be French National Animation Fest in Bruz, Britany later this month. More should hopefully come.
Hope you have a nice watch!