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Musical Comedy Collaborators’ New Rock Band Shadow Academy Gets Animated

Music producer Jim Roach and Ninja Sex Party singer Dan Avidan’s pandemic-inspired new project, showcased in two music videos directed and animated by Simon Macko, channels the pair’s shared love for big music, big guitars, and even bigger songs.

After spending years producing the musical comedy duo Ninja Sex Party (singer Dan Avidan and keyboardist Brian Wecht), Jim Roach and Avidan turned their shared love for older bands (big music, big guitars, and even bigger songs) into a new rock band, Shadow Academy. Their debut album releases April 21.

The pair have established careers in the music industry. Avidan is the lead singer of the Billboard chart-topping band Ninja Sex Party and co-host of the YouTube channel Game Grumps, which has amassed over 5.3 million subscribers. Roach is an Emmy Award-winning record producer and songwriter who is finally venturing out from behind the scenes. 

From the outset, their goal was to make a big rock record with blisteringly heavy songs that could take paint off the walls as well as songs with lush soundscapes filled with synths, pianos, and orchestration. During the early days of the pandemic, Roach started sending Avidan new music to work on mainly to pass the time, and in turn, Avidan would work on lyrics and melodies that were primarily inspired by the classic books he was spending his downtime reading. From “Dracula” to “Moby Dick,” many of their song themes were inspired by these well-known tomes.

After writing their first song, “White Whale,” together, the artists knew they were onto something special - and Shadow Academy was born. 

Animated music videos soon followed. Simon Macko (known as Shoocharu online) was the sole animator on both music video production; he handled everything, including directing, storyboards, editing, animating, and character designs, with each video taking roughly 3-4 months to complete, from start to finish.

Check out his work on Shadow Academy’s Once and Never More and White Whale:

On Once and Never More, Macko’s art style was very much an attempt to visualize the “very soft, very simple, and extremely emotionally driven” sound of the song. “From the beginning, it was important to me that the characters in the video would be abstract and almost androgynous,” he shares. “I wanted everybody, no matter who they were, to be able to insert themselves in this story. My previous animations up until this point had been very ‘cartoony,’ so I wanted to make sure people knew this would something different in tone.” 

The style on White Whale, on the other hand, took its cue from Roach. “He wanted a low-framerate, old looking and ‘raw’ style,” Macko notes. “I had the idea of making the video's aspect ratio be 1.19:1 to further convey the old-timey and quaint feel of the world in the video. I was very inspired by the short film The Old Man and The Sea by Aleksandr Petrov to have the video almost look like it could have been painted.” 

Both music videos were animated with Clip Studio Paint EX. “Before I used Adobe Flash, but that software is only good at very cartoony animation,” he explains. “I was looking for an animation software that would be easy to learn, and one that could easily be used to create a ‘painterly’ feel to the animation, so CSP worked perfectly.” 

According to Macko, the biggest challenge on Once and Never More was the ending. “I think we changed the ending up to four times - all versions completely different. On White Whale the biggest challenge was definitely finding a convincing and easy way to animate the water in the ocean. Almost every shot has water in it, and I think every animator knows how hard water is to animate. I ended up using large brush strokes to simulate movement when the water was calm, and then just freehand animating the big, wild waves. That took a bit to get right.”

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.