Fitz and the Tantrums: Roll Up courtesty of Elektra Records

in 2D/3D Hybrid Animation

One of the most exciting things about attending a Fitz and The Tantrums concert is the band’s energy compelling each audience member into motion. With the reputation of accepting nothing less than high energy response from their audience, imagine Fitz and Noelle singing to an audience of zombie faces lit from bluish-green cell phones. Now take a look at the band’s latest music video, “Roll Up,” animated by Grasshorse Studios.

The video opens in a world inter-populated with people and monsters. Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, appearing as Cupid, resorts to drastic measures when his arrows lose their effect. The unfolding video is interspersed with performances by Noelle Scaggs as a lonely vampire and the other band members Joe Karnes, James King, Jeremy Ruzumna and John Wicks.

Fitz felt it important for this video to evoke Roll Up’s lyrics of longing, desire and loneliness. It portrays barriers we raise between each other, whether they be cell phones, social networking or being too scared to dance. The barriers aren’t important. The isolation and damage they cause are.
When Fitz and The Tantrums approached Grasshorse to collaborate in making this animated video it almost seemed predestined. The character animation studio had previously created a mobile app as an outlet for kids to talk about issues they weren’t comfortable discussing in other ways. “It became the launching point for this video,” director Steve Jennings grinned, “a music video made of assets from a smartphone app warning people not to pay too much attention to smartphones. It seemed meant to be.”

It was important to the band that this video convey their deep sincerity and understanding about putting yourself out there. “They want their audience to know we all feel like monsters sometimes,” said producer Kathy Buxton.

As a studio, Grasshorse specializes in hybrid production utilizing 2D and 3D technologies. On first glance, it would appear this project should have been entirely created in 2D. However, Blender gave Grasshorse an advantage with its non-linear animation toolset, allowing their 3D animators to focus on cycles that could be re-used in multiple scenes. In turn, it allowed 3D animation production to occur while 2D character design and 3D character rigging were in progress. Nonlinear animation technology gave Grasshorse flexibility and the capability of switching dance cycles from characters they were originally animated for to other ones.
Separating the performance between 2D and 3D animators and delegating it generically allowed Grasshorse’s crew to create and animate many more characters than they have in the past. “Typically for a 3 ½ minute piece we would have a maximum of 4-5 characters,” said Buxton. “We shattered that ceiling with a total of 17.”