Phoebe McCaughley explores anxiety in her animation for Rizzle Kicks' Jordan Stephens

This stop motion creation for Rizzle Kicks' Jordan Stephens moves beyond music video cliche to present something more profound and moving.

Given the endless creative possibilities the form offers, it's disappointing that so many great songs are let down by cliched and uninspiring music videos. But here's an exception, from Phoebe McCaughley, an award-winning stop-motion director and animator based in London.

Her animated music video for Feel Joy, a song by former Rizzle Kicks singer Jordan Stephens, explores the rollercoaster of emotions associated with anxiety. To create it, Phoebe took direct inspiration from the song's lyrics, as well as her own experiences during the pandemic.

Anxious feelings

"I related to the lyrics of Feel Joy straight away," says Phoebe. "I went through a period during the Covid-19 lockdown where I'd wake up every morning with a heavy chest and feel anxious without being able to put my finger on why," she said. "Some days, I didn't feel that way, so I wanted to explore the random, unpredictable nature of how your brain can decide your emotions for you."

The film follows a puppet version of the singer, handmade by Phoebe, interacting with a seemingly separate character representing his brain.

The latter has decided to have a good day, determined by spinning a wheel of fortune in the opening scene. So, strapped into a chair and guided by his brain, Jordan goes on an uplifting journey through rainbows, flowers and starry night skies, intermittently interspersed with dancing scenes.

Sinister edge

"I wanted the video to be joyful, but I also wanted the brain to have a sinister edge like it could change the day at any moment," says Phoebe. "I portrayed the brain as being quite physically forceful at times. It pulls Jordan onto the chair, puppeteers his hands, and catapults him back into bed in the final scene, ready to start another day."

The video was made entirely with stop motion, a technique Phobe fell in love with during the second year of her illustration animation degree at Kingston School of Art. "It's incredibly rewarding to go from sketching storyboards to making something move on the screen and then watching the final product of your initial idea," she explains.

Since graduating in 2019, Phoebe has set up her own stop motion animation company and developed a growing reputation, working with clients ranging from Alexander McQueen to Atlantic Records.

She offers the following advice for recent and soon-to-be creative graduates: "Trust the process. It's quite normal to find it challenging after graduating, and you don't need to have your path all mapped out. I'm still figuring things out, and there will always be ups and downs in your journey."