Sneak preview: Bananaz

Posted by on Mar 27, 2009 in Industry Events | 4 Comments


Article written by Justin Simonich.

Tuesday night I went to sneak preview of the documentary Bananaz, followed with a Q&A with the director Ceri Levy at the Apple store in SoHo.  The documentary takes you behind the scenes of the Gorillaz, “the most successful animated band ever.”  The Gorillaz as a band have always been surrounded in a bit of mystery.  The band is composed of four animated band members: 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel. The band is actually a collaboration between various musicians, created by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett back in 1998.

I love the entire idea of the band. The fact that the animated characters are not actually playing and creating the music, but that they are marketed as real is fascinating to me.  I was really looking forward to learning what went into creating the Gorillaz.  Unfortunately the film falls short and is really nothing more than 90min of fly on the wall footage.

The film follows Damon and Jamie from the very beginnings of the band back in 2000 to the concerts in Harlem back in 2006. It starts out with some good footage of the two of them speaking about how they were watching MTV and commented “What’s all this manufactured rubbish…So we thought we could do it a little better.”  Next they show a little footage of Jamie flipping through some of his early sketches and talking about how he refined the characters for a minute or two and then leaves it there.  From that point on nothing else is said about the artwork.  It just gets flashed up on the screen to keep the energy high to hide the fact that there is no real story.  The film doesn’t go anywhere.  You just go from recording session to back stage at one of their concerts watching the erratic behavior of the band members acting like big kids with out actually learning much about the band itself. The only real moment of drama in the film comes near the end when Damon is confronted by a teacher representing a Harlem children’s choir, who questions him about the lyrics the children will be singing on stage. It the first and only time in the film anyone really speaks about what they are trying to accomplish.

The film does do a good job of showcasing the bands music however.  You get to see some good footage of them collaborating with various artists to create their albums.  The amount of effort Damon puts into his music, and just how talented he is, comes through loud and clear.  If you are a big fan of the music, or always wanted to know what it would be like to hang out with the band, you’ll enjoy the film.  For me though, I’m going to go back to pretending that 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel are real, put on my headphones, and enjoy their music.


  1. linda beck
    March 27, 2009

    that’s disappointing to hear. sounds like it could have been something realy cool. thanks for the review!

  2. xeth
    March 27, 2009

    Too bad.

    I always wondered about Gorillaz. (Are they really more successful than The Archies, or Josie and the Pussycats, or what’s that metal death band on Adult Swim? Do the old Beatle cartoons count?… there must be other examples out there…?)

    I don’t know of an animator/musician who HASN’T talked about the idea of making an animated band. I’ve pitched more than a few myself (it would help to have a successful track record as a musician, of course, let alone some development people who see the potential, etc. etc.) Not to minimize their achievement, as it is.

    I’ve wondered why there aren’t a ton of ‘animated bands’ by now. To my mind, from what I’ve ever seen, Gorillaz barely scratches the surface of an ‘animated band’… where are the stories behind the songs, the fleshed out personalities?

    To be really “successful,” we should ‘know’ this band and the members as if they were real celebrities. Their career and adventures should be explained by the cartoons themselves, even if only to keep them mysterious. But that’s not the case. All I’ve seen of them are some unplotted music videos with fairly random animated imagery. There are plenty of beautifully animated music videos out there…

    Maybe I’m still wrong, but this review just seems to confirm that there really isn’t much depth behind the Gorillaz concept.

  3. chris siemasko
    March 27, 2009

    That is too bad. It’s understandable that they rarely do any behind the scenes of the animation, since they are representing the characters as a real band. But it would be nice to see some of that, since it is such a huge factor in the appeal.

    From what I understand all their videos have been directed by Pete Candlewood at Passion Pictures.

    Thanks for the review, Justin.

  4. chris siemasko
    March 27, 2009

    oops, Pete Candeland