SOMETIMES, not even Google keywords can navigate the search for love.
Today, Google is celebrating Valentine’s Day the world over with a charming animated “Doodle” that is free of dialogue — yet is all heart. In some countries, the strains of Grammy-winning Tony Bennett — crooning the bluesy Hank Williams tune “Cold, Cold Heart” — provide the only words.
“The animation alludes to that universality” of love, Michael “Lippy” Lipman, the Doodle’s animator, tells Comic Riffs. “These characters are archetypes, with no dialogue, so it can play around the world.” (Lipman animated the storyboards of Google team artist Willie Real .)
In the animation’s sweet story, a boy seeks the best way to show his affection for a girl adept at skipping rope and rebuffing amorous advances. The lad taps Google in his quest to woo her, but his online searches for flowers and chocolates and colorful balloons — all the ol’ trite-and-true go-to gifts for Valentine’s Day — prove fruitless in real time. The girl is unmoved. Even a top hat containing a peek-a-boo bunny holds no romantic magic.
Fresh out of ideas, the determined boy inadvertently finds the answer that was before him all along: The jump rope is the ultimate heartstring to pluck. Together, at last, in rhythm, their hearts skip a beat.
Lipman says he can relate to this simple, but simply affecting, story. “That was every girl I met up until college ... ,” the Bay Area-based freelance artist tells Comic Riffs, adding that his adolescent pudginess proved a reliable deterrent to love. “The little girl who couldn’t see the magic within [me] — she had many faces.”
(The characters, by the way, have no names. Throughout the production, Lipman notes, he simply referred to them as “Boy” and “Girl.”)
[MORE: Our full “behind-the-screens” interview with Doodle animator Michael Lipman]
The Flash-created video’s finish includes a half-dozen tiles featuring various ”couples,” including an astronaut and an alien; a dog and a cat; and a frog and a prince. Some early viewers of the Doodle wondered whether the tile featuring two tuxedoed men holding hands would stir any controversy. Says Lipman: “I think Google was pretty aware of everybody in those final squares and they decided [them] with purpose.”
This is the first Doodle for Lipman, a veteran artist who studied fine art and animation at UCLA before working for corporate clients, for social-gaming projects and for Hollywood (including “Happily Ever After” and “Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night”) . (His one-man shop is now Lippy.com.)
Real’s previous work includes last year’s Doodle to celebrate “father of genetics” Gregor Mendel.
“With a lot of tremendous help and feedback from fellow doodlers, and a classic Tony Bennett track at hand, I jumped into storyboards, animatics and design all simultaneously while Lippy animated away at it ... ,” Real tells Comic Riffs. “We managed to pull it off though and are very happy with the results and all of the positive feedback it’s getting.”
Bennett — the legendary singer who on Sunday ran his career total to 17 Grammys — is also a fine-art painter of note, and previously expressed interest in creatively collaborating on a Doodle with the Bay Area-based Google, Lipman says. (Bennett’s first Grammy win was in 1963 for “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”)
Commercially, the oft-covered “Cold Cold Heart” has been as resilient as today’s lovestruck Boy: The Hank Williams version topped the country charts in 1951, and Bennett’s pop cover (with arrangement by Percy Faith) hit No.-1 that same year on the Billboard charts.
In 2006, Bennett and Tim McGraw teamed on “Cold, Cold Heart” for Bennett’s platinum-selling album to mark his 80th birthday, “Duets: An American Classic.”
Google apparently has a soft spot for romantic gestures. Last September, Google software engineer Ari Gilder blogged about how he used Google Maps for mobile to propose to his girlfriend. And over this past weekend, Google blogged about its ongoing work with the Mall of America in Minnesota — where the newly posted video [below] shows, according to Google, “how the enormous Mall of America can be scaled down to a romantic setting for two.”
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Valentine’s Day, of course, has a long and winding history that runs from the martyred Saint Valentine (a third-century Roman priest who is said to have been executed on Feb. 14 for standing up for Christian marriage), through the towering poetic pen of Geoffrey Chaucer through the adoption of cherubic Cupid up to, well, the rhyming pen of Hallmark.
If only Hallmark could convert today’s beautiful Doodle into a card — set to Bennett’s cold, cold art.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Comic Riffs’ TOP TEN ‘GOOGLE DOODLE’ ANIMATIONS EVER (*before today):
1. PAC-MAN: VIDEO-GAME GOOGLE
2. GOOGLE BALLS: THE MYSTERY DOODLE
3. JOHN LENNON: IMAGINE THIS DOODLE
4. MARTHA GRAHAM: THE DANCING DOODLE
5. FREDDIE MERCURY: THE MUSIC VIDEO
6. JIM HENSON: THE CLICKABLE MUPPETS
7. ART CLOKEY: THE “GUMBY DOODLE”
8. JULES VERNE: THE DEEP-SEA DOODLE
9. STANISLAW LEM: THE ANIMATED SCI-FI GAME
10. ALEXANDER CALDER: THE SCULPTURAL DOODLE
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