Tom Waits For No One: The trailblazing animated Tom Waits “music video” from 1979

Tom Waits For No One is an obscure animated short released in 1979 by the Lyon Lamb company; an incredible 6 minute film featuring a 28 year old Tom Waits and a stripper.

Tom Waits for no one

Watch Tom Waits For No One – the trailblazing animated “music video” from 1979 for Tom Waits’ The One That Got Away.

The animation was created using the rotoscope technique – a process that traces live action frame by frame and turns it into animation. The footage was shot in 1978 at the La Brea stage in Hollywood with 5 cameras, resulting in 13 hours of footage and 5,500 frames that were caricatured and re-drawn onto celluloid acetate to produce the final product.

As Open Culture note, the short was conceived as a demo model. Lyon and Lamb hoped to convince Ralph Bakshi, director of the feature-length, X-rated, cartoon adaptation of R Crumb’s Fritz the Cat, to use their newly patented “pencil preview” technique on an upcoming project.

By chance Lamb and Lyon happened to see Tom Waits play live around the time they were putting together ideas – apparently they decided not to see Star Wars because the line was too long and Tom was playing next door – and they realised Waits’ song The One That Got Away would be a perfect subject for their test animation.

This led to a meeting with Waits’ management and then a visit to his own “home” at the Tropicana Motor Hotel, which John Lamb later described to the Tom Waits Library:

“He had 2 adjoining rooms with the common wall removed to make the joint bigger. Newspapers, manuscripts, ash trays and empties cluttered up the digs about waist to shoulder high throughout. A path literally led from the fridge to the piano.. piano to the couch.. couch to the bedroom and so on. If it was foliage, you would have needed a machete to hack your way through…the path was just wide enough to maneuver your torso through, sometimes having to turn sideways to navigate a tight turn.”

Tom Waits For No One also featured input from several up-and-comers in the animation world, including lead animator David Silverman who would later work on The Simpsons and Monsters, Inc. 

It’s incredible stuff. Check it out below.

You can also watch a snippet of the original live footage below.

[via Open Culture]