This Animator Spent Months Recreating ‘This Is America’ on an Ancient Computer

“I cannot dance, but at least I can make an animation about the dance.”
July 10, 2018, 7:50pm
Image courtesy Pinot Ichwandardi

This entrancing video of Donald Glover’s “This Is America” recreated on an ancient Macintosh computer is the best thing you’ll see all day.

Even with cutting-edge technology, animation is an insanely time-consuming process. Features like Isle of Dogs and The Incredibles 2 require armies of animators with huge computer banks and millions of dollars to work for years. Alone, it can take as much time to animate a single short film.

Indonesian-born Pinot Ichwandardi is animating Glover’s hypnotic gyrations on computer that would barely qualify as a millennial. He’s spent two to three hours a night for months “pixel-knitting”—Ichwandardi 's term for his zen illustration method—each frame of Glover’s hypnotic gyrations using a 1970’s Summagraphics Tablet connected to a 1984 Macintosh 128k’s MacPaint program. Then this absolute legend transfers the frames by freaking floppy disk to a 1987 Macintosh SE, where he animates them with the MacroMind VideoWorks software. It seems like an elaborate form of artistic masochism, but Ichwandardi doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s like riding a classic car,” he told VICE. “[The technology’s] limitation becomes a new value, new art. All forgiven, every single flaw like ‘not enough memory’ is permissible… with this method, the process itself becomes more important than the result. The process is the story. This is the reason I posted the process on my Twitter thread. Without those processes, the result is just another piece of pixel art, generated by modern machine.”

In the months since “This Is America’s” explosive debut, Ichwandardi’s thrown together nearly 500 frames of the dance, adding up to 38 seconds. For every hour he spends animating, Ichwandardi also spends an hour studying choreographer Sherrie Silver’s “voodoo dancing” to get it just right.

His animation isn’t a shot-for-shot remake of the video, but a 2D representation of the dance, which presents challenges like estimating where Glover’s feet are placed in close up shots that cut off his lower half. “Close enough,” he tweeted last week.

Ichwandardi has been making films since his father taught him cel animation as a child, and he’s been using Macs since the mid-80s. He started collecting his vintage tools at flea markets when he and his family lived in Kuwait and completed his collection at markets in New York and on eBay. His goal isn’t just nostalgia, but to educate the internet—and his kids—about so-called obsolete technology. “Our home becomes a personal laboratory, an art and technology classroom. By giving access the old technology to our children, they develop a new idea based on their own perspective.”

The animator acknowledges that his recreation skirts the cultural impact of the video. He's not trying to be the next

Nicole Arbour


, instead focusing on the parts most accessible to him and his family. “I’m a dad with three kids and the video got their attention, though the message and song is not for them. So my wife and I created a distraction for the kids to focus on a different aspect: the dance itself. I cannot dance, but at least I can make an animation about the dance."

While he may never recreate the full video due to copyright implications, Ichwandardi thinks he may release it as a GIF when he's done. For now, his nightly pixel-knitting is simply a relaxing pastime.

Update 9/5: Ichwandardi has finally completed his recreation of the full "This Is America" animation. Check it out below:

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