Weezer have been known for their high-concept videos since Spike Jonze dressed the band up like the Happy Days gang in the 1994 clip for “Buddy Holly.” But their latest video — for Red Album track “Pork & Beans” — is more than entertaining: it’s a hilarious celebration of 2008’s culture of homemade stardom. “Essentially, it’s a viral made of virals,” says Mathew Cullen, director for the production company Motion Theory. Filled with cameos by YouTube celebs Tay Zonday, Kevin Federline, Chris Crocker and the dramatic chipmunk, the music video itself has become as popular as the YouTube classics that inspired it, logging nearly 7 million views since it was posted on May 23rd.
(Click above to watch exclusive outtakes from the shoot, plus interviews with some of the clip’s stars.)
Cullen initially got the idea for the video when Pharrell Williams asked him to integrate the infamous Afro Ninja clip into a commercial the Neptune was starring in. “There was a problem getting the rights to the Afro Ninja video. No one claimed the ownership of it. We couldn’t put something in a commercial without rights,” Cullen says. “So we contacted the original Afro Ninja and asked him to replicate one of the worst moments of his life on camera.” The idea of re-doing these iconic YouTube moments fascinated Cullen, and when the director heard Weezer’s first Weezer single, he knew he’d found the perfect medium. “The non-conformist message of ‘Pork & Beans’ felt like a very natural anthem for the self expression going on on YouTube,” Cullen says. “And I thought this could be a good way to celebrate that, so I brought those two ideas together, knowing I could accurately replicate these moments.”
Weezer — one of rock’s more Internet-savvy bands — were happy to play along with Cullen’s idea, quickly compiling a list of their own favorite YouTube clips. When it came time to contact those “stars” though, Cullen hit a wall. “It was difficult because most of these people don’t have managers or agents, and they’re all over the country. We tried to send e-mails to their MySpace pages and their YouTube accounts and many of them don’t answer them,” he remembers. “So we would target their top three or four MySpace friends. That proved to be the most successful way to reach out the people that we wanted most.” News that the album’s release date was moving up two weeks also complicated matters. “It was definitely a challenge, because it was a really quick turnaround,” Cullen says, “but everyone involved in the video was a big fan of Weezer’s, so when they heard what the message of the video was about, people wanted to be involved.”
So what’s the video’s true message? “It’s an anthem for being yourself and being happy with who you are. It was important for us that we were celebrating what made each one of these people special and it wasn’t in any way about making fun of who they were,” Cullen says. “There was a redemption for these people. In the case of Afro Ninja, he gets to show off his skills. In the case of Miss Teen South Carolina, she gets put the questions they asked her in the blender and wield a light saber. Chris Crocker gets a hug from Rivers.” In some cases, however, Weezer and Cullen were unable to get some of their favorite YouTubers. “We wanted to get Techno Viking. We were big fans of it, but I couldn’t find him. The other guy we wanted was Ghyslain Raza, the Star Wars kid, but he’d been a victim of cyber-bullying over the years.”
Despite its success on the Web, Cullen currently has no plans to film a “Pork & Beans” sequel, as the YouTube community, in the grand tradition of making quick “response” videos, will likely keep fans satiated with new versions. “Somebody decided to take the video and make a mash-up with an 80-piece orchestra doing ‘Pork & Beans,’ so I think that’s the ultimate complement: when you inspire to someone to make something else.”