Childish Gambino’s “Feels Like Summer” directors break down the spectacular animated video
Greg Sharp and Ivan Dixon discuss Donald Glover’s star-studded effort.
Childish Gambino videos are starting to feel like events. First there was the viral success of "This Is America" in May, and on Sunday, Donald Glover followed it up with the charming animated visuals for "Feels Like Summer." The video catches Glover walking through his neighborhood, coming across various artists and cultural icons. Drake chases after Future rides a bike, a crying Kanye West is comforted by Michelle Obama, and all three Migos shoot hoops in their yard. It's a mixed-up snapshot of the cultural conversation in 2018 filled with blink-and-you-miss-it cameos — there's a brief moment where Lil Uzi Vert gets his hair braided by Oprah.
Glover worked on the video with co-directors Greg Sharp and Ivan Dixon, animators whose previous work has been seen on The Simpsons and Adult Swim. Amusingly, the character designs came courtesy of Justin Richburg, whose work featured in a brief sight gag on Atlanta earlier this year.
Sharp and Dixon explained over email to The FADER how the video came about, and went into detail about the process of making it happen. They also spoke on the "premonition" which led them to include a scene involving Nicki Minaj and Travis Scott falling out with each other.
How did the idea for an animated video originate and how did you both come to be involved?
Donald is a fan of animation. When he toured Australia a couple of years ago he reached out to us to chat about collaborating on something. It took a while, but he eventually had a project that he wanted us to work on. Donald authored the brief and already had an illustrator onboard to design the characters.
What was the original concept for the video and did that change at all during the creative process?
We don’t want to dilute the discussion by revealing Donald’s intentions with the clip. We just focused on doing what we were tasked with doing. We interpreted his brief into a comprehensive storyboard with artist Felix Colgrave, before going to full color design and animation. Donald gave us a lot of freedom to interpret his brief creatively. He was most concerned with capturing the hazy, hot, polluted atmosphere of the clip. Ivan worked closely with background artist Andrew Onorato to create a street scene environment that felt like it could be straight out of Atlanta only with apocalyptic colors.
What was the most challenging aspect of making the video?
Cohesively cramming so many people into the one clip was tricky. We decided early on to employ a one-point perspective shot of Donald walking towards the camera and cut away to other moments as he turns left and right. Justin’s designs were a little more realistically proportioned than what we’d typically animate, but that was a fun challenge to rise to.
What do you feel is the significance of the Kanye West/ Michelle Obama moment?
Were there any additional characters that didn't make the final cut?
No, we managed to fit everyone that Donald wanted in the clip.
The Nicki/Travis scene feels very topical. How long ago did you finish work on this?
We don’t want to ruin anyone’s interpretation of this moment, but if you know anything about animation production, you’d know that it takes a long time to plan, design and animate shots. So call it a premonition if you want.
Have people misinterpreted any of the references on social media?
Of course, but it’s no fun to explain the art. We’d prefer to let people interpret how they wish. Honestly, the truth behind the meaning of many of the decisions lies with Donald and we’d like to respect his prerogative to explain it or keep it a mystery.