When the idea for the Spotify Canvas shorts took root, Sean, a fan of animation and the Walrus short, along with Lenono project coordinator Simon Hilton, approached Levitan about getting involved. Jumping at the chance to once again produce a project involving his childhood hero, Levitan brought in Braithwaite and Raskin, and, as they say, the band was back together again.
Check them out here… but remember, they need to be viewed on a mobile device.
In 1969, if you recall, a 14-year-old Levitan snuck into the hotel where he thought John, Yoko and company were likely staying, and portable tape recorder in tow, knocked on every door on the top floor before a friendly maid told him of the room he sought. Finding his hero, the “walrus,” Levitan brashly insisted he sit for an interview, which Lennon promptly did. The two chatted for 40 minutes about Beatles vs. Bee Gees, how John was having trouble getting into the United States, what all those lyrics really meant, and how young Jerry was one day going to be the Establishment, man. The best five minutes of that priceless tape became the basis for the award-winning 2007 animated short. As Lennon suggests and the short captures, “Piss for peace, smile for peace, go to school for peace, don’t go to school for peace.”
Speaking about the shorts, Sean told AWN, “When you’re working on a project with a subject like my dad, it’s hard, because so much of the footage, and the photos, has been seen so much, and so much has been told about him, animation is a really good solution for creating visual content that’s fresh.”
Sean also shared about the project on his Instagram:
The stories in each 3-8 second animated loop were inspired by the song’s subject matter, with designs inspired by John Lennon’s own illustrations; taken together, they trace a boy’s life (not John’s, but there are parallels) through adulthood. Each one stands on its own as an engaging visual for the song. As a group, they tell a story that mirrors and complements the album. The production team believes this is the first time that the Spotify Canvas medium has been used in this way where a story is told through the loops.
In support of today’s release of the 50th anniversary edition of John Lennon’s classic first solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – The Ultimate Collection, Sean Ono Lennon and the team behind the Emmy Award-winning, Oscar-nominated short, I Met the Walrus, have created a captivating and innovative series of short animation loops using the Spotify Canvas medium. Written and directed by Sean in collaboration with producer Jerry Levitan, illustrator James Braithwaite, and director of animation Josh Raskin, the series of short scenes, known as “I Am the Egbert,” tells the story of a character named Egbert, whose life experiences strangely mirror the sentiments in the sequence of the 11 album tracks (plus the non-album singles) that includes “Give Peace A Chance,” “Cold Turkey” and “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On).”
With regards to the animation style, he adds, “On the one hand, you might have an instinct to just try to copy a psychedelic style, for example, so that you’re doing a tribute to John Lennon. Or you might try something completely original, with your own style, and sort of reject anything you’ve seen before. But I feel like what they [the team] did was much more nuanced and interesting. They drew within the vocabulary of what you understand to be something that made sense for my dad, the Beatles, and that whole period of time, without being derivative. I thought that was really interesting. There were references to things in my dad’s career, but none of it was copied. It was beautifully done.”
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.