Background and production
The video was directed by Mathew Cullen and was inspired by the work of Will Cotton, who was also the Artistic Director of the video. Filming of the video began on May 14, 2010. It premiered on June 15, 2010. Perry explained the use of a candy theme rather than a beach theme for the video, saying, "It's definitely something to watch when you have the munchies. ... It's all edible. We named it 'Candyfornia' instead of 'California', so it's a different world," she said. "It's not just like, 'Oh, let's go to the beach and throw a party and then shoot a music video!' It's more like, 'Let's put us California Gurls in a whole different world!"
The music video for "California Gurls" is set in a reimagined fantasy world version of California dubbed "Candyfornia". Several recognizable landmarks are shown transformed into food related items such as Sunset Boulevard becoming Sundae Boulevard, the Hollywood Sign resting atop a mountain of whipped cream, and the iconic Capitol Records Building made out of vanilla wafers. Throughout the course of the video, the evil "Sugar Daddy" (portrayed by Snoop Dogg) attempts to take control of Candyfornia from the Queen, who is shown to be Perry. To slow Perry down, he traps several women in a variety of traps made of Jell-O, cellophane, and bubblegum, but she manages to free them. Several clips of Perry lying naked on top of cotton candy clouds and choreographed dance routines are interspersed throughout the video. Several outfits are shown during the video, including a candy button mini-dress, a cupcake bra, and a peppermint patty bra. As a final battle ensues between Perry and Snoop's gummy bear minions, she dons a mechanical frosting bra and wipes them out. At the end of the video, Snoop is shown buried neck deep in the sand surrounded by Perry and the other girls, as she playfully flicks sand at him.
James Montgomery of MTV News gave the video a positive review, saying: "deliciously gaudy, delightfully ridiculous eye candy, a sugar-coated overload of confectionery gone haywire, cotton-candy clouds, gingerbread paths and Gummi Bears with bad attitudes. It is bright and brash and very likely to give you a toothache. Like the song, there is nothing understated about it." In her review, Willa Paskin of Vulture likened Perry to a Sugar Plum Fairy in a Technicolor wig, and said that while the video should appeal to girls as it is full of "sugar and spice and a lot of things bright pink", it actually appeals to people who like to "see girls naked."
In the music video, Perry is a game piece in Candyfornia, a game based in poker and board games. The settings are inspired in part by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the board game Candy Land, with much of the set decorated with cupcakes, ice creams, cotton candy, and lollipops. Snoop Dogg appears in the video as a king named "Sugar Daddy" that is holding several young women (Queens of Candyfornia) captive throughout the game, using candy related devices to hold them. Perry moves around, experimenting with objects. She moves through the land, making discoveries and freeing the women. In the chorus, she appears lying down on a cotton candy cloud, naked. Snoop Dogg tries to block her advances in many ways. When all the women are free, Perry leads them in a dance on the beach. Seeing the women freed, "Sugar Daddy" becomes enraged, marching on the women's position with an army of gummy bears. Perry, dressed in a red Wonder Woman like costume, quickly defeats the army with whip cream guns attached to her breasts, after which the stunned king throws down his staff and surrenders. The video ends with "Sugar Daddy" buried up to his neck in the sand by the women, nonetheless admiring their beauty and (in a nod to the Beach Boys song) wishing that women everywhere could be California girls. Various California landmarks appear in the video, such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Sign and some West Coast beaches which were all made out of confectionery.
- "Music Video News: SHOT: Katy Perry – Mathew Cullen, dir". Video Static. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- "Will Cotton". Will Cotton. Retrieved September 14, 2010.
- "Snoop Dogg Makes Sweet Cameo in Katy Perry's 'California Gurls' Video". Rap-Up.com. May 15, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- "KATY PERRY // Official Website // Watch the "California Gurls" video now!". Katyperry.com. Retrieved June 18, 2010.
- Montgomery, James. "Katy Perry Says 'California Gurls' Video Is 'All Edible'". Retrieved June 17, 2010.
- Montgomery, James (June 15, 2010). "Katy Perry's 'California Gurls' Video: So Sweet It Hurts". MTV News. Viacom. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
- Paskin, Willa (June 15, 2010). "Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ Will Put You in a Sugar Coma". Vulture. New York Media LLC. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
- Katy Perry - California Gurls ft. Snoop Dogg on YouTube