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22nd May 2017
Elton John video competition – the brilliant winners
An Iranian refugee and animator, Majid Adin through Blink Ink, along with Rattling Stick's Jack Whiteley and Laura Brownhill; and Somesuch's Max Weiland launch winning videos

The first ever official music videos for three of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s most iconic songs – Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man, and Bennie and the Jets – released in 1971, 1972 and 1973 respectively, before the emergence of music videos were premiered during the Cannes Film Festival and on YouTube today.

The videos are the result of a global competition to create official videos for the tracks by the best in undiscovered creative talent.

Adhering to three specific visual mediums, the winners are Majid Adin for Rocket Man, which had an animation brief; Jack Whiteley and Laura Brownhill for Bennie and the Jets, which features choreography; and Max Weiland for Tiny Dancer, which has a live-action creative concept.

Majid Adin’s winning video for Rocket Man is a poignant animated work which draws on his personal experiences as an Iranian refugee making his way to England – giving a new perspective to the lyrics and themes of travel and loneliness. A fine art university graduate working in animation production, Adin travelled across Europe during the 2015 refugee crisis, spending time in the infamous Calais Jungle camp before being granted asylum in the UK and now rebuilding his life as an artist in Britain. Majid partnered with animation director Stephen McNally to realise his vision for this achingly powerful and human story.

The Bennie and the Jets video has been interpreted by directors Jack Whiteley and Laura Brownhill as a futuristic talent show. The set and central structure takes its inspiration from Fritz Lang’s 1927 science-fiction film, Metropolis, while the synchronised choreography is inspired by Busby Berkeley films, and the black and white aesthetic is a nod to the classic Hollywood era.

Max Weiland’s winning video for Tiny Dancer is a tribute to Los Angeles, with the iconic track as the link between the city’s inhabitants. The video shows people experiencing the breadth of life, from Quinceanera to scattering a loved ones ashes, joined in their joy for the song as it plays through their radios.

1.4 asked Majid what kept him going on his extraordinary gruelling journey from having to leave Iran and eventually arriving in the UK.

Majid: It was mainly the thought of reaching safety.

Where were you, what were you doing when you learnt you had been selected as a winner of the Elton John The Cut competition?

Majid: I was in my friend Joe Murphy’s flat. We found out that I was the winner over Skype but I couldn’t quite understand what I had won due to the bad Skype connection and my limited understanding of English. But when I did realise, I was ecstatic!

What were the main challenges of the production?

The main challenge of the production was the time constraints as we basically had 1/3 of the typically needed time to create such a piece!

And the highlights?

The main highlight was our team. We had an amazing group of artists working with us who each brought their best to the table and this enabled us to output a piece of work that exceeded all our expectations!

What was behind the decision to use this particular animation technique for Rocket Man.

Blink Ink: The style was chosen based on Majid’s way of painting, it was the best way to capture Majid’s voice.

Do you have plans for the immediate future?

Majid: A bit of time to recuperate and then get a short film started before the end of the year.

We also asked Stephen Whelan, Head of Branded Entertainment, Pulse Films about the result:

“We’ve had the incredible privilege of working with Sir Elton John, Rocket and YouTube on this project for almost a year now. From the initial open call for entries from new directors to the judging day in LA with Barry Jenkins, Melina Matsoukas and Jeffrey Katzenberg through to the launch at the Cannes Film Festival today, it’s been the most amazing experience. More than anything it’s been an honour to witness the amount of love and effort that everyone has poured into the creation of these three videos.

“The opportunity for these sorts of partnership – between YouTube, Elton’s management at Rocket, the label Universal and Pulse – just don’t come about that often. We’re really passionate about finding new ways to connect brands with audiences by creating compelling and culturally relevant entertainment so it’s been a dream come true to work across all three videos and a host of additional documentary films supporting the competition.

“Getting to present the final pieces to Sir Elton and Bernie Taupin in person was a truly unforgettable experience and having the chance to work with his long-time creative director Tony King was just amazing. He partied with Warhol and the Beatles so you can only imagine the wealth of stories and creative insight he brought to the whole project!”