David Knight - 13th Mar 2009

Walter Robot (that's Christopher Louie and Bill Barminski) made their very first video for a contest for Modest Mouse (they won) which was featured in the very last issue of the published-on-paper, hold-in-your-hands PROMO.

They've only been together since '07 but Walter Robot have since completed numerous narrative and experimental projects in live action and animation. They have worked with Gnarls Barkley and French electronica guys Vitalic and their latest short film, Joel Stein's Completely Unfrabricated Adventures, was accepted into this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Their latest video, for Death Cab For Cutie, is very good indeed. A charming-looking faux-2D animation that also happens to be gripping and heartfelt (with a successful non-audio manifestation of dialogue). And due to the subject matter, it's timely and resonates deeply.

It may be animation, but you really do get the sense of a fire threatening a whole community - the fear, the panic and the tragedy that results.

? Shown at BUG 12

Walter Robot's Christopher Louie on making the video for Death Cab For Cutie's Grapevine Fires

"The song is obviously about Ben's experience seeing the CA wildfires up close, so from the onset we knew we wanted to try and capture that kind of devastating tragedy and the forced optimism that's tied to it.

"We wanted to use the four minutes to tell a story - use the video as a means to make a short film. We knew we wanted the fire to be an antagonist in a story, some force of impending danger that our protagonist would have to face off with at some point. So we came up with this idea of a wise-beyond-his-years boy who in a sense saves his family from the fire.

"We modeled all the characters after us, or our family members. Billy, the main character, is combination of Bill and my brother. I was going through a breakup when we were writing the story, so the older brother is supposed to be me and the blonde girlfriend is my ex-girlfriend.

"I thought it'd be somewhat cathartic - and funny - to burn her up in the video...it adds a big surprise because it's not what one expects in an animated video. I thought burning her would be like sweet revenge and it ended up more like me mourning her. I spent a lot of time animating the brother's reaction shot to her getting burned up and it kind of made me really sad. So yeah, it wasn't very cathartic but it'll be really nice to look back at and laugh...hopefully."

David Knight - 13th Mar 2009

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