“I studied graphic design, which gave me a kickstart. Most of all, it helped me structure my work. But I quickly found out that everything I designed or illustrated had to move. So I felt like animation gave me the freedom I needed to showcase everything that I had in mind,” says Canada-based animation director Vincent Bilodeau.
“In order to perfect my technique, I spent an infinite amount of hours in my new small apartment in Montreal. It was me, my computer, a slice of bread and a peanut butter jar. That lasted six months (and 23 jars of peanut butter).”
Since those days of desk time and peanut-based snacking, Bilodeau can now be found creating animated music videos and surreal shorts. Often using computer animation, Bilodeau’s style is reminiscent of The Sims mixed with the Dancing Baby from the 90s, but his way of storytelling through this aesthetic is unique, as is his whole view on the world.
For instance, this is how Bilodeau describes his style: “Imagine a purple dolphin browsing the internet for the first time while illegally sliding his skateboard on a Fruit-O-Long snake who ate something super sour. His stomach is upset but I think he wants more.”
But the confusion, bewilderment and downright weirdness you might feel when viewing his work is exactly what he wants. “I like when the viewer is intrigued and doesn’t quite get where they’re going,” says Bilodeau. “I’m happy when people tell me they had to watch it over and over.”
Two of his most recent projects, music videos for Canadian folk and country musician P’tit Belliveau’s tracks L’eau entre mes doigts and Stand There, epitomise this eccentricity perfectly.
“We’re in 2020, there’s a global pandemic. People are being forced to stay home for weeks, months, years? You start thinking about fulfilment, sailing away, leaving everything behind and starting all over again,” says the director on the inspiration behind L’eau entre mes doigts. The video follows an odd baby-man-thing in dungarees setting off on a new adventure on his boat, along with all the different characters and animals he meets along the way. It is both brilliant and bonkers.
“While finishing that first music video I started noticing that everyone was trying to connect via all the platforms like Zoom or even Tiktok,” says Bilodeau. “I thought it would be fun to represent that new reality in 3D, in my friends’ homes.”
So for Stand There, Bilodeau has created a compilation of animated Facetime calls, Zoom chats and Tiktok-like clips with images and videos of real-life homes as the backdrop. His characters are both familiar, yet oddly terrifying but under the guise of classic lockdown behaviours, start to feel ‘normal’ pretty quickly.
As might be expected, Bilodeau’s creative process is as puzzling as his work, and he says it can take him a while to fully focus on a new project. “I first take a bath, then go skateboarding for a few hours,” he says. “After that, I take a second bath, bike to the office, disturb all my colleagues, shop online, buy a monkey, realise I forgot my hat at my house, go back, choose between the blue and the red, follow the rabbit, eat a calzone, think about skateboarding, think about my monkey, think about my monkey skateboarding, go back to the office, start my computer, get a call. I’m meeting my friends in 15 minutes at the bar.”
When he does get going on a project though, he is fully invested in bringing his imagination to life. “They say, ‘find something you love and you’ll never work another day in your life’ … I find it’s hard to stop working when you do what you love,” Bilodeau says. “With animation, there’s no limit to what we can create. Look at my dolphin.”