Gorillaz is a British ‘virtual’ band who has created an identity for themselves through cool animated characters. The electronica band Gorillaz was formed in 1998 and since then has used animated music videos, album covers, their website, posters and short animations to build their character profiles and imaginary world whilst promoting their music. The characters are completely made up and do not resemble the actual musician Damon Albarn. The illustrator/ comic book artist Jamie Hewlett designed the characters and bought them to life.
The idea of an animated band came to the two creators whilst they were watching MTV and saw no diversity in the music or bands. By creating their virtual musicians they instantly had interest from music lovers looking for something different and exciting.
The band is composed of 4 cartoon members; 2D, Noodle, Murdoc and Russel Hobbs. Each has individual characteristics and personalities. The first album cover works well in introducing the characters and conveying the mood and style of music.
Instantly one can tell the cool and edgy feel of the characters and assumes that this will suit the style of the music. The drawing is quite graphic in terms of bold, strong lines and block colours. The single illustration on a white background in the middle of the CD cover would make the album stand out on a shelf and be recognised from far away. The muted colours give a grungy feeling to the image. The graffiti style writing again adds to the cool appearance of the band and goes well with the style of illustration. The Parental Advisory sticker is necessary because although the appearance of the band is cartoon, which could be mistaken as suitable for children, the music contains explicit lyrics.
When it came to performing the live band would stand behind a massive projector screen which covered the whole stage. Various visuals and images that were created by Hewlett were projected onto the screen. This was a clever way of keeping up the bands mysterious animated identity. There were rumours of a Gorillaz film back in 2006. This shows how the illustrated characters have affected the success of the band. Normal bands did not have films and movies made from them.
I think this collaboration of a musician and an illustrator is brilliant and very original and is exciting to see another application of illustration. I do think that Gorillaz success is down to the animated band members. This had never been done before and the idea created a whole other fan base and reason for people to be fans of the band. The alternative and edgy characters went with the effortlessly cool music and opened up huge varieties of ways to promote the music and band, whilst selling more diverse character merchandise.