Growing up in the ’80s, the surrealist illustrations of vintage science textbooks always fascinated to me, but this animated music video takes the cake. A collage of drawings from old schoolbooks of 50 years ago, it’s like the dreams you might have after sniffing glue in science class, then passing out facedown in your textbook.
The video is for “Cell Song,” a track off of London-based indie band Fanfarlo’s 2014 album, Let’s Go Extinct. The album itself is themed around the concept of evolution: The band’s lead songwriter Simon Balthazar describes it as an exploration of “the weirdness of being this thing we call a person and the double weirdness of other people.”
If Balthazar wanted a video to convey the inexplicable alienness of nature, he couldn’t have found a better director and animator than Ewan Jones Morris. Prowling the pages of “the dustiest of science journals, encyclopedias, and magazines,” Morris cut them cut out illustrations to create a trippy living diorama for amoebas, insects, planets, microscopic flagellum, and more.
Morris is no stranger to this technique. In an interview, he says Fanfarlo approached him to do the video after seeing a similar video he did for Pinkuoizu’s “I Chi”. Unlike for the earlier video, though, for this project Morris incorporated the band’s performances.
The end experience has a hallucinatory quality to it: part Fantastic Planet, part Oingo Boingo. Much of that quality is imparted by the printing techniques used by old textbook makers that made even the most mundane creature in the natural world look like some bizarre, otherworldly alien fauna.