George Hrab Music Video — God Is Not Great — Created By Octavio Valdes

Those who might look at this and say ‘that animation is really clever’ — you’d be right. It’s also pretty familiar too in some parts, you might be thinking?

Before reading over the blog of the animator, Octavio Valdes, about the making of this short film/​ music video, I recognised a few elements that he mentions that indeed served as inspiration.


Some late-​​breaking (and fantastic news) — here is a blog interview that Ocatvio has kindly done about his work — just for the Young Australian Skeptics!

Apparently about the time that he was finishing the storyboard, Milton Mermikides interviewed George Hrab for the Token Skeptic podcast and on the extended version that featured on the Geologic Podcast, George mentioned that some filmmakers had approached him with the possibility of making music videos for the new album. On the basis of that, he contacted George!

Young Australian Skeptics: Firstly — how did this project get started — why make a music video for this song?

Octavio Valdes: I’ve been a fan of George’s show and music for some time and always found his material highly visual, when his new album Trebuchet came out I was taking some classes on motion graphics and thought it would be interesting to make some animation based on one of the songs to practice some of the techniques I was learning. After some consideration I decided on “God is not Great” mostly because the song’s “Celestial choir” intro brought to mind the animations Terry Gilliam did for Monty Python which of course was the inspiration for the style. It was during the writing process that I realized how strongly the themes of the song appealed to me and how much I really had to say about it.

What kind of animation is this kind called? Have you done others like it in the past?

The formal name is CUTOUT ANIMATION; it’s one of the oldest animation techniques and ironically has been gaining popularity lately mostly because it is cost and time effective using modern video editing and animation software, actually most cel animation done for TV and web use it in one way or another (most notably of course South Park). This is the first time I have used this technique to this extend, it made necessary to create most of the art as full digital paintings that where then cut to pieces.

Do you have any interesting facts about the making of this music video that we might not realise upon viewing it (for example — is it difficult getting all the elements together)?

About the elements; my original idea was to have all the video done in cut outs of famous religious paintings, I quickly realized this was not only going to be hell (pun intended) but that would be incredibly limiting in terms of story. I settled on painting as much as I could except for what I actually wanted to have as realistic elements or where to complicated, probably the hardest was to gather the pictures for the “celestial choir” as all had to be from similar angles.

As an interesting if sad fact is that the easiest pictures to gather were the ones from the picture montage during the bridge, I only had to do a single search for “religious intolerance”.

Two funny facts: the only person I asked permission to use on the video (apart from George) was PZ Myers; during his visit to Mexico for the Primer Coloquio Mexicano de Ateísmo event I briefly spoke to him, his response was “Do I have to sing?”

My wife Amy and my brother C. Augusto contributed with gag ideas, during writing I spent most of an hour discussing with my brother who is funnier, Ray Comfort or Kirk Cameron.

Finally, are there any other plans in the works for more films (either like this or others) that people can check out?

Definitely. although I’m mostly limited by my free time I intend to have more stuff done during the year and I intend that at least one includes skeptical themes. The fact that New Media makes it possible for artists with a skeptic inclination to be widely known works for our advantage. As it is important that people be aware of these ideas, not as proselytizing or preaching, but simply to put them out there, in order to demonstrate that critical thinking is also capable of expressing creatively.

Octavio’s YouTube Channel, which features ‘God Is Not Great’ is at http://​www​.youtube​.com/​u​s​e​r​/​t​a​v​oman and you can follow his Twitter account at @Tavoman.

For further information about the progress of the video in Spanish, you can read even more at his blog El Tablog — I found that with Google Translate (despite it being an online translation-​​device!) you can find more very interesting facts, including this about my favorite image:

“Finally I decided to also take a look at Gerald Scarfe, particularly for his handling of color, texture and composition” . You can see this in the nod to a Pink-​​Floyd-​​element in the picture posted here, and more stills feature on the blog-​​post called ‘Cosa Fácil’ (‘Sew Easy’?). What you might also notice is that the blog-​​post is dated September, 2010, so this has been a work-​​in-​​progress for quite some time!

Thanks very much for the interview, Octavio and I hope people enjoy the final product!