Back in 1979 Tom Waits collaborated with American artist John Lamb to create Tom Waits for No One, the animated short film set to his song ‘The One That Got Away’.

The film, said to be inspired by one of Waits’ performances at the Roxy in May 1977, never saw commercial release and sat in obscurity for 30 years until it was uploaded to YouTube years later.

The work became a major stepping stone for the entrepreneurial artist Lamb who, just one year after the release of his Tom Waits film, would go on to be awarded an Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement after inventing the Lyon Lamb Video Animation System (VAS).

Tom Waits for No One, filmed live at the La Brea Stage in Hollywood in six takes, was edited down to five-and-a-half minutes before the live frames were “traced using a ‘video rotoscope’ and then converted by hand into animation” in a pioneering animation decision. Apparently, the live filming included two strippers, 13 hours of video footage and a total of 5,500 frames were caricatured and then re-drawn.

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The production crew was littered with future stars of the animation world, the likes of David Silverman, a creative who was the first animator on The Simpsons. On top of that, Keith Newton who would go on to be an esteemed Disney portrait artist, future Paramount Pictures vice president Garrett Smith, acclaimed filmmaker Gary Beydler, award-winning illustrator Micheal Cressey and Donna Marie Gordon, a dancer and choreographer who went on to spend a successful 18 years at the highest level.

The film features Tom Waits walking through the street, smoking a cigarette and bemoaning “the one that got away” before he arrives at a dimly lit area, breaking into song and dance to an apparition. While the film never reached the major acclaim it deserved upon its initial release, it did secure a first place award at the first Hollywood Erotic Film and Video Festival in 1980.

Enjoy the film, below.

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Source: Tom Waits Library

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