Honestly, I wouldn’t even know who Pharrell Williams was if it weren’t for the fact that he kinda became the voice of Daft Punk in 2013; he does the lead vocals on both “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself to Dance.” But he’s a musician and producer in his own right (just not in the styles of music to which I normally listen).
But Pharrell did something innovative and exciting and, well, pretty awexome. A week before Thanksgiving he released a video for his new single, “Happy” (for the soundtrack of Despicable Me 2). Thing is, this is a very unusual video: it lasts 24 full hours. For reals. Here’s how it works:
The song “Happy” is just a couple seconds short of 4 minutes long. The whole video consists of a series different “sections,” each of which lasts exactly 4 minutes, over which the song is played. So there are 360 sections total. Most of the sections consist of someone dancing towards a camera that is slowly backing away from them. There are of course variations in number of people and movement of camera (and there are several sections that are all about motor vehicles). Each section usually features a different person than the previous section. Each section is done in one continuous, unbroken take. For the most part each section is linked geographically to the previous section, meaning that it takes up in the same location where the previous section ended. Over the course of the 24 hours of the video, about an 8-mile stretch of Los Angeles is shown. Periodically the video will enter a specific location and linger there for several sections (like a supermarket and a bowling alley, for example).
Also, Pharrell Williams himself shows up in the first section of each hour, so he appears 24 times total for 4 minutes each.
And, yes, I watched all 360 sections of the video. Full disclosure: I didn’t always watch all 4 minutes of each section. If it failed to catch my interest I used the on-screen controls to just skip to the next section. But I have chosen my “Top 50 Sections” of this 24-hour video, and I present them here for you in chronological order. Click on any of the screenshots below to be taken directly to that section. At the bottom of this article I’ll have some more thoughts for you.
And there you have it, my Top 50 Moments. I promised some more thoughts, and here there are!
I think it is really cool that this thing exists. This is a for-real video that last for-real 24 hours. Nobody has ever done anything quite like this before.
I also really like how amateurish a lot of it feels. Many of these people are not professional dancers. They’re just people moving around and being happy. Since each section was done in just one take, there are some charming flubs as well. That doofus skateboarder who flubs all of his tricks comes instantly to mind, but there are many smaller instances. For example, in Pharrell Williams’s noon section he hands a flower to a little girl all smoove-like, but the little girl immediately drops it! The steadicam work isn’t always spot-on, either. Sometimes the subjects are too dark or out of focus. But this lack of gloss gives a really nice immediacy to the video and makes it all seem much more real.
I really loved the interactions with the innocent bystanders, too. The filmmakers obviously did not tell most of the people they passed what they were doing, so there are some really cool honest reactions from people on the street. Some of seem really into it, and some of them seem incredibly annoyed. This is Los Angeles after all, so people must be kinda used to random film crews running all over the place all the time.
I was rather surprised at the number of special guests who appear in the video. Steve Carell kinda makes sense, seeing as how this is a song from Despicable Me 2 (Steve Carell voices the main character of the movie). But there were a bunch more! If you click the “credits” button you can see who all made this video, and there’s a “Special Guests” section that includes a bunch of names with which I am completely unfamiliar:
But I know what Sérgio Mendez and Kelly Osbourne look like and I don’t remember seeing either of them! If you find them, can you send me their timecodes? Thanks!
The whole experience of this video is infectious. The vast majority of the people involved look like they’re having the a great time, and it’s hard not to have your happiness increase while you’re watching them. And I really appreciate how inclusive this video is. There are people of all ages, races, sizes, and abilities in this video (there’s even someone in a wheelchair starring in one section). It seems like a very good cross-section of modern-day Los Angeles is represented in this video.
The song is relatively catchy, but it doesn’t have a lot of variety and is rather repetitive. I guess that kinda works for this video, though, in that it helps all the sections blend together a bit better.
But one of the main things I learned from watching this video is this:
- Whoever chose the outfits for all the participants really, really, really loves late-1980s fashion.