Watch 1970s Animations of Songs by Joni Mitchell, Jim Croce & The Kinks, Aired on The Sonny & Cher Show

The Son­ny and Cher Show aired in the years right before I was born. Not only do I have no mem­o­ry of it, of course, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an entire episode, either in re-runs or on the inter­net. Nev­er­the­less, I imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­nized the style of the show’s ani­ma­tor, Eng­lish artist John David Wil­son, when I encoun­tered these music videos Wil­son made for the singing com­e­dy duo’s vari­ety hour. Though a much less famous name, Wilson’s work seems to have ani­mat­ed the 70s in the way that R. Crumb’s illus­trat­ed the 60s. The open­ing sequences to icon­ic pro­duc­tions Grease and The Car­ol Bur­nett Show are Wilson’s, as are ani­ma­tions for Laugh In and cheesy Sat­ur­day morn­ing kids’ show The Hud­son Broth­ers Raz­zle Daz­zle Show (best known now, per­haps, because of Hud­son broth­er prog­e­ny Kate Hud­son). Though Wilson’s career stretch­es back to the 50s—with work on Mr. Magoo, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp—and into the 90s, with Fer­n­Gul­ly: The Last Rain­for­est, he seems to belong to the decade of “I Got You Babe” more so than any oth­er.

Drawn “in a sim­plis­tic, funky-look­ing style” and with goofy sound effects added (prob­a­bly by the Son­ny and Cher pro­duc­ers), Wilson’s ani­mat­ed films for Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yel­low Taxi” (top), Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” (above), and The Kinks “Demon Alco­hol” (below, sung by Wayne Car­pen­ter) enhance songs already rich with nar­ra­tive. This, the blog Media Fun­house points out, was by design: “Wil­son was wise to con­cen­trate on the ‘sto­ry songs’ of the time, in order to cre­ate repeat­ing char­ac­ters and have the view­er ‘con­nect’ with the piece in a very short span of time.” In most cas­es, Son­ny and Cher’s vocals were dubbed over the orig­i­nal tracks, but in many of the ani­ma­tions that sur­faced on VHS in the eight­ies and now appear on Youtube, the orig­i­nal songs have been restored, as in the two above. If you grew up with the show, you’ve sure­ly seen at least a cou­ple of these ear­ly music videos, a form Wil­son is wide­ly cred­it­ed with pio­neer­ing. Begin­ning in the sec­ond sea­son, Wilson’s com­pa­ny, Fine Arts Films, pro­duced a total of four­teen ani­mat­ed shorts for the show.

The sto­ry-songs above of envi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion, tough street char­ac­ters, and the depths of addic­tion seem so very char­ac­ter­is­tic of the peri­od, though Wil­son cer­tain­ly ani­mat­ed more light­heart­ed pop fare, such as Melanie’s “Brand New Key” (sung here by Cher). For more of Wilson’s ani­mat­ed music videos, see Dan­ger­ous Minds or Media Fun­house, and for the full range of Wilson’s long career in ani­ma­tion, check out the web­site of the pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny he found­ed, Fine Arts Films.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Joni Mitchell Per­form “Both Sides Now” on the First Episode of The John­ny Cash Show (1969)

Watch the Funky, Oscar-Win­ning Ani­mat­ed Film Fea­tur­ing the Music of Herb Alpert & the Tijua­na Brass (1966)

A Short His­to­ry of Amer­i­ca, Accord­ing to the Irrev­er­ent Com­ic Satirist Robert Crumb

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (4)
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  • Anthony says:

    Son­ny & Cher did a won­der­ful mov­ing ani­ma­tion of Three Dog Night’s “Black and White”

  • Martin Pardys says:

    can some­one please add to this post the car­toon-video of cher singing “Brand New key”?

  • Dyann says:

    While i love these old ani­ma­tions and am glad theyre not lost to the annals of time(like so much others),i also can’t help but watch & say, “Wow”,to some HUGE ras­cist bits in the Bad,Bad,Leroy Brown one,like the Water­mel­on roof Eldo­ra­do along with the ani­ma­tion to match the ras­cist phrase“Don’t mix Black&White unless you want a fight”,amongst oth­ers.
    Shows you how media helped shaped the minds of cer­tain gen­er­a­tions well into the 70’s& 80’s,huh ?
    Sad­ly it was­nt any­thing new,since many of the images,rascist and Cultural,are hold­outs from ear­li­er gen­er­a­tions.
    Heck,even the basic“Pimped out“image,most think of as being from the late 70’s,like also shown in this vid,isn’t. It’s a cul­tur­al fash­ion Holdover image From paper mock­eries of Aris­to­crats from the late 1800’s !

  • Rikki says:

    Agreed. I want­ed to share the nos­tal­gia but the visu­als are appalling.

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