Sean Lennon and Peter Jackson Release Animated Short Film
via Hello Celebrities / Youtube
Sean Ono Lennon and modern-day Beatles chronicler director Peter Jackson have collaborated on a new short film titled War Is Over, drawing inspiration from the iconic song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Initiated in 2021, Sean sought a method to produce a music video for his parents’ beloved holiday tune but found himself facing creative challenges. His creative block took a turn when he engaged in a meeting with Dave Mullins, a former Pixar animator.
Following an extensive two-year production journey, the film is now completed and in search of a distributor.
It all started with Sean Lennon wanting to renew his parents’ message
“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, released in 1971, is one of the most widely recognized compositions by the collaborative efforts of John and Yoko. Beyond its annual appearance on playlists worldwide during the Christmas season, the song serves as a poignant peace anthem, a notion their son wanted to preserve.
Sean Ono Lennon aimed to rejuvenate the song’s message, expressing that it “felt like it deserved some kind of piece to help get it out there for another generation.”
However, the challenge arose in finding a fitting visual representation, as every proposed music video concept seemed to risk trivializing the song. Lennon acknowledged the difficulty, noting that many ideas felt almost “goofy” and reminiscent of a Hallmark-style presentation.
“It almost felt goofy. Like a Hallmark kind of thing. What are we going to show, a family sitting around a fire? It needed an actual narrative.”
A creative dilemma and a eureka moment
In mulling over this creative dilemma, Lennon finally encountered a solution when a friend introduced him to Mullins, the accomplished director of Pixar’s 2017 Oscar-nominated short film Lou.
Mullins, known for his contributions to animated features like Finding Nemo and Up, had recently assumed the role of Chief Creative Officer at the newly established Los Angeles-based animation studio, ElectroLeague, in 2020.
During a Zoom discussion, Lennon and Mullins delved into conversations about historical wars, specifically exploring the Christmas truce between British and German soldiers in World War I. This truce marked a moment when both sides ceased hostilities to partake in impromptu soccer games during the holiday.
The exchange sparked a eureka moment.
With a little help from Sean Lennon’s friend
Fast forward two years, Mullins and Lennon pulled over Peter Jackson, the unofficial contemporary chronicler of the Beatles who directed the music video for “Now and Then” and the Get Back documentary.
Detailing his participation, Jackson shared, “Sean and I are friends and he was initially wanting some advice about his script. I first heard from Sean a few weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, and it was clearly an important project for him.”
The Lord of the Rings director even recalled advising Lennon that the production of an animated short film typically spans 12 to 14 months and that the Ukraine conflict might have already ended by the time they wrap up production.
But the current state of affairs needed the message of peace more than ever.
A timely and powerful message
Reflecting on the world peace’s precarious state, Jackson somberly concluded, “Here we are, and not only is the misery in Ukraine continuing with no end in sight, there’s now the war in Gaza.”
Lennon added to this perspective, expressing, “For me, it’s very sad that my parents’ message of peace and love is still relevant to this day. It seems like such an old story.”
Acknowledging the sensitivity surrounding the message of peace in contemporary times, Lennon remarked that resolving these conflicts in the most peaceful way possible is the best outcome, however naïve it sounds.
“Some people are very sensitive about this message of peace today. They feel like it’s a denial of peoples’ pain. And I am not criticizing anyone. I’m saying I really believe in resolving problems peacefully as a concept, even though it sounds very naïve. It’s something I was raised to believe and I still believe it.”
A small yet ambitious production
The funding for the ambitious 11-minuted film came from a diverse group of independent backers, including Lennon and Ono, both of whom serve as executive producers. Mullins, along with producer and ElectroLeague CEO Brad Booker, also contributed to the financing of the project.
Officially titled War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko, the movie revolves around a chess game played across enemy lines with the assistance of a heroic carrier pigeon.
The film concludes with the Lennon and Ono song playing during the credits, while the narrative itself unfolds against a musical score composed by Thomas Newman, a 15-time Oscar nominee renowned for scoring films such as Shawshank Redemption, WALL-E, and Skyfall,
In recent weeks, Booker and Mullins have been presenting the film to various studios with the aim of securing a placement, either preceding a feature film or on a streaming platform. While the film has been positively received, a distributor has not been secured as of yet.