Lost Highway, USC School of Cinematic Arts Reimagine ELO's 'Mr. Blue Sky'

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Lost Highway Films director Mike Patterson and USC School of Cinematic Arts colleague Candace Reckinger have created a new piece for musician/composer Jeff Lynne based on Lynne’s 1977 Electric Light Orchestra track “Mr. Blue Sky.” With influences ranging from Bollywood to psychedelic imagery and English gardens, the sunny music video is an exuberant and rich interpretation of ELO’s upbeat and infectious tune.

Along with directing for Lost Highway, Patterson has been putting his talents to work as an associate professor of animation at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Michael has used his animation skills on iconic music videos including A-Ha’s “Take on Me,” Suzanne Vega’s “Luka” and Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract (with MC Skat Kat),” as well as for many spots with Lost Highway.

Patterson and adjunct faculty member Reckinger teamed up with a group of their animation students and Electric Light Orchestra musician Jeff Lynne to create a video for the song “Mr. Blue Sky,” a song featured on the band’s seventh studio album, Out of the Blue. Written and produced by Lynne, the song forms the fourth and final track of the “Concerto for a Rainy Day” suite.

In a BBC interview, Lynne talked about writing “Mr. Blue Sky” after locking himself away in a Swiss chalet and attempting to write ELO’s follow-up to A New World Record. “It was dark and misty for two weeks, and I didn’t come up with a thing. Suddenly the sun shone and it was, ‘Wow, look at those beautiful Alps.’ I wrote ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ and 13 other songs in the next two weeks.”

Prolific musician and composer Lynne, while best known for his band Electric Light Orchestra, has also worked with members of the Beatles and created The Traveling Wilburys, whose members included Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. Patterson and Reckinger had previously collaborated with Lynne on a Roy Orbison music video in the ’90s.

The song “Mr. Blue Sky” was featured on the soundtrack to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Patterson and Reckinger captured a similar dreamlike surrealism through a creative approach to the animation. “Mike and I enjoy a hybrid approach to media-making, a mixing of organic, handmade techniques with digital,” says Reckinger.

Paterson and Reckinger recruited a team of students who were particularly excited to work collaboratively and use a “blended media” approach to design the scenes and characters. “By blending 2D and 3D techniques, the result is often unique and more original. We wanted to highlight the students’ individual talents while giving the video a cohesive style and look. Many of the scenes became the work of more than one animator.”

The collaboration between student and professor, and the utilization of a huge cross section of influences and ideas, helped create something truly unique in “Mr. Blue Sky.”

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