David Knight - 2nd Dec 2008

After the opera and the album, and the Beijing Olympic BBC idents, it's the first proper music video from Monkey Journey To The West - created by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. And perhaps the reason that this received a mixed reaction on the ol' interweb when it was premiered a month ago is that some folks were expecting a rehash of Gorillaz.

Having said that, it's hard to understand how people could find this anything less than fantastic, unless they are particularly cloth-eared. It's hardly avant-garde, it's brilliant fantasy filmmaking, and Jamie does a fantastic job with the first video not featuring his drawings.

Instead Monkey Bee features members of the Journey To The West cast in a very handsome production: it was shot over three days in London, followed by several weeks of post. All 80 shots and 120 plates were key frame animated and composited together at Moving Picture Company, integrating the live action actors into the foreground with stylised backgrounds using Flame.

The CG backgrounds and set extensions by Zulu, were incorporated into wide shots and show the palace, volcanoes and mountains. Mark Horrobin did the TK, pushing colour and telecine as much as possible in primary grade and then added more contrast in DCP at the end.

So now here's some opera-style notes, to understand exactly what's going on: the hero Monkey (who at the start of the film is in the guise of a bee) is trying to cross the volcano fields of Princess Iron Fan. Monkey needs her magic fan in order to cool the hot molten fields. The Princess refuses and an epic battle ensues, throwing first trained assassins and then a colossal army of volcano soldiers his way in a desperate attempt to thwart his journey.

Now watch on...

David Knight - 2nd Dec 2008

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