The painful process of grief and the grace of organ donation punctuate the latest music video “Organs” by rock duo The Uncluded. Produced at Bent Image Lab (bentimagelab.com) and directed by Rob Shaw, the video weaves together a dark tale of loss and love as performed by whimsical stop motion insects.
Set as a children’s stage play, a grasshopper and a cicada (anthropomorphic versions of Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson respectively) sway, strum, and sing about “the importance of giving away your pieces” as the tale of a grieving mother beetle and other ill-fated bugs unfolds around them.
“The story came from a mother listening to the heart of her little girl,” says Shaw. “I thought that was such a sad but beautiful moment and a good structure for the whole thing.”
The theme of mortality influenced the creation of The Uncluded’s new album Hokey Fight, in which”Organs” is featured. After hearing the song, Shaw was inspired to create the stage play concept and pitched it to the band and their management at Rhymesayers.
“Kimya is emotionally raw, and Aesop is more lyrically tricky. This video works with their aesthetic. He is the magician in a magic show, pulling out all the organs. She is dealing with the death of her baby which is really depressing,” says Shaw.
Influenced by legendary stop motion director Ladislas Starevich and his talent for using animated bugs to tell his stories, Shaw was excited to work with insects for this project. However evoking an emotional connection to black eyed, hard-shelled, antennae spiked bugs provided a challenge for the Bent team both through fabrication and animation. Working closely with puppet fabricator Kimi Kaplowitz, Shaw found that adding tiny accoutrements to the bugs such as wigs, hats, running shoes, and a pearl necklace for the mother beetle helped the insects become more emotionally accessible. Animator Suzanne Twining provided their charming articulation which cemented their human mimicry.
“I had been geeking out about bugs for a long time,” says Shaw. “But trying to get emotion out of the bugs, without putting a smiley face, eyelashes and bows on them was hard. The fabrication and the animation of the puppets way exceeded my expectations and how much they could emote. They really are so tiny and disgusting when they are not moving.”
A dark color palette combined with 2D “childhood inspired” backgrounds set the tone of the piece.
“I love cut out paper that gets inked and still looks very card boardy,” says Shaw. “Artist Jesse McManus has a beautiful illustration and inking style. It hints at childhood diorama stuff but its much more refined then any kid can do, but it still works in that way.”
Ultimately Shaw hopes that audiences enjoy the “Organs” music video, the message and its vulgar but lovable characters. “I hope people find the video funny, and weird, and touching,” says Shaw. “And if it starts any conversations about donating your organs, that’s not a bad thing either.”