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'Family Guy' recreates a-ha’s “Take on Me”

Ellen Besen is on the lookout for good examples of emotionally real performance and finds it where youd least expect it

Seth MacFarlanes Family Guy is known for its throwaway pop-culture gags that burlesque movies, old TV series and anything else the shows writers can shoehorn into the shows plot.

A recent episode had son Chris fall into the world of a-has 1980s video Take on Me, turning into sketchy black and white that perfectly matched the videos rotoscoped animation until his return to the shows real cartoon world. If the a-ha scenes looked indistinguishable from the original music video (save for dorky Chris replacing the pretty heroine), it was because the shots in Family Guy were carefully traced from it, frame by frame essentially, a rotoscope of a rotoscope.

We got the rights to use the original video, said Kurt Dumas, the episodes director, but we had to redraw two thirds of it create new animation where we put Chris in and removed the girl. We couldve used the original footage of the two wrench guys chasing them, but we were concerned that you could tell the difference. We redrew them as well so the pencil style matched all the way through.

The amazing simulation was achieved by sending a digibeta of the video to the shows Korean animation studio, Yeson Entertainment. The studio printed out each frame of the video as a template for its animators to follow. We also did our own faux greenscreen, Dumas added. We shot video of our artists dancing [as reference for Chriss performance within the video] and provided that as well. If you look at Chris dancing in the video, the animation is a little smoother its more realistic motion than in the show itself, which is 1/4 or 1/3 of normal action.

When the animation came back from Korea, a few electronic tweaks were added to match the original video as closely as possible. We diffused the line work and gave the overall picture a slight color tint. We also tried to match the film grain by knocking down the contrast and line detail.

It was such a funny gag and we wanted it to look excellent. We were a little nervous about sending it overseas, but they did really great job on it. We put a lot more time into it than the typical cutaway.