Dennis Crowe’s “Top of the Hour” :20 Spot for MTV (3:00)
The original 1994 spot and the process of making it.
“When I consider the concept of play as it relates to the many projects I have designed throughout my career, one project in particular leaps out: the ‘Top of the Hour’ spot I designed and directed for MTV. Although this project is many years old and long gone from the airwaves, with play as the theme I couldn’t resist dusting this one off from the archives.
“I immediately knew I wanted to use a clock as the central theme and play with the idea of using the numbers on the clock as letterforms to spell out the MTV tag line ‘Plug In.’ I soon realized that by using the M from the MTV logo as the 3 on the clock I could bookend the spot with this visual trick.
“The fact that the spot was going to be broadcast repeatedly every hour on the hour gave me the excuse to overload it with visual activity so that jaded channel surfers would not get bored with multiple viewings. It became an opportunity to play with the collective attention span of a generation.
“Inspired by the dark, dreamlike, imaginative art of Mark Ryden and with trademark ‘blendo’ animation style in mind, I developed the storyboards. With the support of the fantastic production, animation, and technical crew at Colossal, we combined replacement animation, stop motion animation, live action, and archival footage into a frenetically paced explosion of imagery. Colossal Pictures’ Jenny Head, the world-class producer, made sure that I got everything I wanted including a circus performer, a rocket ship, and live animals. It took us 60 days to craft the :20 spot. I never played so hard at work in my life.”
Director: Dennis Crowe; Production Company: Colossal Pictures; Producer: Jenny Head; Technical Director: Peter Williams; Animator: Trey Thomas; Director of Photography: Don Smith; Set Design Elements: John Pappas; Set Production: Jamie Hyneman.
Dennis Crowe is a Bay Area designer and educator. We invited him to share a moment of play with us.