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"Sledgehammer" spawned a widely popular and influential music video directed by Stephen R. Johnson. Aardman Animations and the Brothers Quay provided claymation, pixilation, and stop motion animation that gave life to images in the song. The video ended with a large group of extras jerkily rotating around Gabriel, among them: Gabriel's daughters Anna and Melanie, the animators themselves, and director Stephen Johnson's girlfriend. Also included were six women who posed as the back-up singers of the song. Gabriel lay under a sheet of glass for 16 hours while filming the video one frame at a time.
In 1987, it won nine MTV Video Music Awards, a record which still stands as of 2010. It ranked at number four on MTV's 100 Greatest Music Videos Ever Made (1999). MTV later announced that "Sledgehammer" is the most played music video in the history of the station. "Sledgehammer" has also been declared to be MTV's number one animated video of all time.
The video was also voted number seven on TMF's Ultimate 50 Videos You Must See - first aired 24 June 2006. It ranked at number 2 on VH1's "Top 20 Videos of the 80's" as well as being named the #1 "Amazing Moment in Music" on the Australian TV show 20 to 1 in 2007.
The portion of the song featuring the synthesized flute solo was realized in the video by first one and then two oven-ready turkeys, headless and featherless, animated using stop-motion. These were animated by Nick Park (of Wallace and Gromit fame) who, at that time was refining his work in plasticine animation. The video won Best British Video at the 1987 Brit Awards. Also, the video was nominated for the Best Music Video category for the first annual Soul Train Music Awards in that same year.