Celluloid Songs: The K-pop and Animation Connection (Part 2)

By: Leigh
02/01/2023
en
k-pop animation
Thumbnail courtesy of Xana Angelo

Did you enjoy our last list of parallels between animation and K-pop? Well, get ready for another!

Lyrics, melodies, and vibes can all create interesting parallels between songs and images, and K-pop is no exception. Recently, we’ve seen artists such as NCT, ATEEZ, ITZY, and more interact with animated characters through various mediums. Thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of this stopping, as more and more artists and groups continue to collaborate with big-name companies like Disney and Marvel. As countless idols and groups familiarize themselves with the world of animation, we can’t help but indulge in the crossover in awe!

1. Paperman (2012) and “Rose”

A more recent entry than the other productions on this list, Disney’s Paperman is a 2012 short film following a man’s pursuit of a woman he briefly interacts with on public transportation. After a short yet wholesome exchange between the two, the mysterious woman abruptly leaves to board the next train. Left with only her red lipstick on a sheet of paper and a sense of longing in his heart, the man proceeds to go to work, only to spot the woman in the building across the street from him! He then proceeds to spend the remainder of the day attempting to get the woman’s attention – through the use of paper airplanes – from across the street without getting fired. 

Similar sentiments of longing and mystery are expressed through “Rose” by NCT’s Taeyong featuring Red Velvet’s Seulgi. The events involving these two characters are expressed in multiple portions of the song, with the added bonus of each protagonist’s point of view (or voice, since the film has no speaking roles) being conveyed through Taeyong and Seulgi. Firstly, a link can be made between the title and repetition of the word “rose” with the woman’s ruby-red lipstick, which serves as the only instance of color/vibrancy in the short film. 

With the essence of the protagonists in mind, Seulgi sings about acknowledging her love interest’s pursuit of her and encouraging them to continue saying “You have fallen for me” and “You’ll be thrilled to make eye contact with me again.” Taeyong provides a voice for the male protagonist and his struggle while trying to get the woman’s attention, singing that “With no explanation, my heart knows that it wants you,” and “If I don’t dare to be hurt by the thorns then eventually that dream will be impossible.” The slow, careful, and almost dream-like nature of the song adds to the feelings of caution, rising anticipation, and acceptance. Thus, it parallels Taeyong and Seulgi singing the ending together, and conveying the idea that love can be risky.

2. A Goofy Movie (1995) and “Bad Dream”

Sometimes, the intrusive thoughts just never stop. Disney’s successful 1995 film A Goofy Movie has been praised by people from all over the world for different reasons. Fans appreciate the movie for accurately depicting 90’s teen culture, father-son relationships, and specifically, the hardships of dealing with problems internally. In the film’s opening scene, Max Goof dreams of his crush, Roxanne. Within his dream, he traverses endless fields of wheat and clouds until he finds her, and the two have a romantic time together, enjoying the flowers and endless sunset. This is all interrupted, however, when Roxanne suddenly morphs into Max’s father, Goofy, of whom Max is constantly embarrassed. Max abruptly wakes up, and, following a series of events involving him being involuntarily separated from Roxanne, can’t stop thinking about her and worries about the next time they’ll see each other. 

Here’s where EXO’s 2018 song “Bad Dream” comes into play. The members sing of a failing love story, which at first brought joy. The line “all of my good memories are dyed in the color of regrets” directly correlates to Max’s situation because, before he is separated from Roxanne, he lies to her and leads her to believe that he’s a different person. His past positive interactions with her have now all been canceled out by his huge lie, which adds friction to his physical and fictional journey. The line “You start flying around me / Woo, the empty sound of the wind / Gradually becomes a storm” also expresses Max’s inability to stop thinking about her, as he daydreams about her frequently and even envisions her in the clouds above him. His current actions overshadowed his past which resulted in his own bad dream.

3. The Incredibles (2004) and “the Aerialist (Wonderboy)”

In the world of The Incredibles, pretty much anything can happen. The 2004 film documents the ever-growing conflicts between Supers – those born/gifted with superhuman abilities – and those without. Bob Parr (or Mr. Incredible) struggles to conform to society’s wavering trust in superheroes after an array of recent tragedies and tries to live a normal life for the sake of his family. In their adulthood, Bob’s wife, Helen takes notice of this struggle and empathizes with him, while also pushing him to be a positive role model for their kids. When Bob gets contacted by a secret company to continue his superhuman duties, he happily agrees but realizes how out of shape he is. This pushes him to physically improve his appearance and train without his family’s knowledge. 

Bob’s boldness is apparent, providing a connection to GWSN‘s “the Aerialist (Wonderboy)“. Many of the words used in the song relate to Mr. Incredible himself as he strives towards personal wellness, such as the repetitive use of “magical” and “logical.” Though it would seem that his sudden random change in appearance is almost magical in nature, the idea is quite logical because he is functioning off of his own determination and inner strength. The song continuously mentions “flying” which can allude to Mr. Incredible working his way toward becoming a new and improved Wonderboy. 

4. Brother Bear (2003) and “Umm (나도 날 잘)”

Brother Bear is a wholesome film that demonstrates the tight bond between brothers. Forced to face atonement and gain a new perspective due to his violence against a mother bear, Kenai himself is turned into a bear by the spirit of his late brother, Sitka. In order to turn himself back into a human, he must confront Sitka’s spirit on top of a mountain. Not knowing how to get there, Kenai is accompanied by his self-proclaimed “little brother,“ Koda. Kenai is reluctant to allow Koda to join him at first, but he eventually accepts when he sees how knowledgeable Koda is in the area. 

Their journey together mirrors “Umm (나도 날 잘)” by So Soo Bin. The phrase “now look at me and hear and feel / now I want to be different / I’m not sure anymore” could serve as a direct plea towards Sitka to see Kenai’s desire to change, even if he’s not sure how to go about doing it. In an effort to be rewarded with his humanity, Kenai tries to remain optimistic during his long trek with Koda. In particular, the repetition of “I’m not sure anymore” in the song presents Kenai’s apprehension about being about to face the world as a changed man. While his transformation back into a human was his initial priority, he later contemplates his transformation into a changed man in a more complex way. Conversely, just as the song repeats the phrase “keep try,” Kenai doesn’t give up his endeavor towards self-improvement.

5. Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001) and “Round and Around”

With 2001’s Barbie in the Nutcracker, we can see the parallels between K-pop, animation, literature, and ballet! Based on the 1816 short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King with music from The Nutcracker play, the film tells the story of young Clara, who goes on an adventure with a nutcracker when she becomes shrunken down to his size on Christmas Eve. The Nutcracker rescues her and vows to help her return to her rightful size. In the film’s final act, Clara and her friends successfully defeat the Mouse King, after which all is restored, including The Nutcracker, who was actually King Eric. After this, it is revealed that Clara is the true Sugarplum Princess and the two treat their subjects to a dance. 

Jo Yuri is no stranger to the creation of fairytale-sequel music, and her track “Round and Around” is no exception. In this waltz-y tune, Jo Yuri expresses feelings of anticipation and anxiousness when dancing with a love interest. Following Clara’s transformation into the Sugarplum Princess, she seems apprehensive at first about dancing with King Eric, paralleling Jo Yuri’s lines saying “a shaky space between / I’m quite anxious that I can see it or not.” The phrase “my heart that has bloomed to the fullest” also highlights her romantic feelings for King Eric, as well as the restoration of the world around them, bringing a happy ending to this enchanting love story.

6. The Lion King 2 (1998) and “서울의 잠 못 이루는 밤 (Sleepless in Seoul)”

In this clip from The Lion King 2, Kiara, Simba’s daughter, sadly walks through the jungle, disappointed that her father disapproves of her relationship with Scar’s son, Kovu. Though she only met him as an adult recently, she has already begun having romantic feelings for him. Then, unexpectedly, Kovu appears, and the two begin a romantic walk together, solidifying their bond. 

The romantic vibes of the clip flow well with “서울의 잠 못 이루는 밤 (Sleepless in Seoul)” by Kwon Jungyeol (10CM) ft. Lee Suhyun. The phrase “are you alone” is repeatedly said in this song, as the two singers wish to meet and catch up with each other. It is as if they’re singing directly to each other upon meeting for the first time in a long time. Whether this is meant in terms of friends or lovers, the same can be said between Kovu and Kiara. Since most if not all of the people around them disapprove of their relationship, meeting “alone” is the only solution to further their desired bonding.

7. Rhapsody in Blue (1995) and “Today’s Mood (오늘의 기분)”

Disney’s 1999 anthology film Fantasia 2000 introduced a number of visual interpretations of classical music. The third segment within the film entitled Rhapsody in Blue is a reimagining of George Gershwin’s popular composition. The short focuses on the lives of four people who want different things – a child who wants to enjoy herself without structure, a man who needs a job, a musician that would rather spend his time playing music than working, and a husband who wants to break free from his materialistic wife. Throughout Rhapsody in Blue’s duration, the four protagonists’ paths frequently cross, eventually culminating in a moment of longing for their separate desires. 

It’s a long day for everyone to say the least, and it perfectly encapsulates CHEEZE’s 2020 song “Today’s Mood (오늘의 기분)” which expresses the feeling of having an unpredictable day. The phrase “no one knows today’s mood” perfectly exhibits the tone of the film because none of the characters can truly tell where their day will take them next. All of them, however, continue to dream of their ideal lives, which is supported by the positive nature of CHEEZE’s song.

8. My Scene: Jammin’ in Jamaica (2004) and “Sunflower”

Who doesn’t love a good summer romance flick? In My Scene: Jammin’ in Jamaica, we get a look into the lives of Barbie and her friends, as friends during a trip to Jamaica before an important competition. Based on the popular doll line, the protagonists gleefully take full advantage of their first day in Jamaica to relax, explore, and take in the nature around them. Unaware that drama approaches the group beyond the horizon, the eleven friends travel across the island together in celebration of this sudden vacation. 

The song “해바라기” by 롤러코스터 complements this moment nicely through its lyrics that reference the aura of a hot summer’s day. Words such as “hottest” and “bloom” permeate the song, magnifying the feel of a bright summer day with endless possibilities. The bossa nova-inspired melody adds to the “vacation vibe” of the scene as well.

9. The Firebird Suite (1995) and “Blue”

A return to Fantasia 2000, The Firebird Suite is the eighth and final segment of the movie. This short gives an interpretation of the personification of nature, originally set to a composition by Igor Stravinsky. It begins with a forest sprite happily spreading environmental growth after being awoken by an elk. The sprite dashes across the forest and ushers in the changing of the seasons, turning winter into spring. The flora and fauna begin to bloom all over the woodlands, and the elk promptly follows her. Unfortunately, the sprite accidentally awakens a dangerous firebird located in the center of a massive volcano. The firebird attacks the sprite with its lava and sets the newly-bloomed forest ablaze, resulting in a barren wasteland. Defeated and heartbroken over the loss of her forest, the sprite remains in a depressed state as she lies shrunken and alone. 

The sprite’s current condition is akin to that of “Blue” by EXO’s Kai. This song corresponds well with the scene because of the way it expresses sadness and isolation. Just as Kai sings “am I lonely or do I just want to be alone” and “I want to sink like small dust” the sprite secludes herself in the aftermath of the attack, and doesn’t respond to the elk’s encouragement at first. She has lost all vibrancy within her, echoing the despair in Kai’s song. However, this is only temporary, as both the song and short film find solace in external support. Kai alludes to having hopes for the future when he says “I know everything will pass someday,” and the sprite ultimately finds the strength to rebuild the woodlands even better than before, with help from the elk!

10. Aeon Flux – War (1992) and “28 Reasons”

In this final entry, we take you to the dystopian future that is home to the trained assassin, Aeon Flux. Aeon, a skilled fighter, is caught in the midst of a battle between Monican and Breen soldiers. She attempts to fight her way out valiantly, taking out many of the soldiers around her. Soon, however, she is cornered by a soldier in front of her after losing her weapon. Even though her life is in danger, Aeon taunts the soldier and attempts to make a hasty retreat. Suddenly, the audience is thrown for a loop when Aeon herself is eliminated, leaving viewers to wonder who the protagonist of the endless battle truly is. 

28 Reasons” by Seulgi of Red Velvet plays into themes of trickery and defeat. She sings phrases like “I want to keep tormenting you” and “look at you so helpless” as she verbally teases her prey, just as Aeon torments her opponent. In the song, Seulgi is singing from a position of power, possibly before a loss of control. This mirrors Aeon’s circumstances because she, too, feels confident in her current position before she is abruptly defeated.

Keeping the Connection

As the world of animation continues to merge with the world of K-pop, artists and musicians alike can find the motivation to enjoy their favorite pieces of media in new ways. Whether it’s finding new meaning to a song, or uncovering hidden details within a favorite scene, there’s always something to look forward to when animation and K-pop collide!

Want more? Make sure to read K-pop and Animation Connections Part 1 here!

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