Laura Wilkens

Thoughts - A Design and Film Related Blog

The blog portion of focuses on graphic design, film, and travel.

Animated Goodness - The Work of Don Hertzfeldt

While we've previously looked at animation work using primarily CGI (The Cathedral: Tomasz Bagiński) and then found objects (Western Spaghetti, Fresh Guacamole and Submarine Sandwich: PES), let's hone in on an amazing talent who does about 95% of his animating using hand drawn techniques. Proving that you don't need elaborate characters or detailed computer graphics knowledge, Hertzfeldt has won an insane amount of awards (over 200) including an Academy Award nomination. He also holds two Sundance Film Festival records: seven of his films have competed and he is the only person to have won the Grand Jury prize for short films twice.

Hertzfeldt has been compared to Stanley Kubrick in the way he looks at the world. He balances absurd comedy with dark undertones and philosophical views. The Meaning of Life is the most obvious Kubrick comparison of his works, using similar themes of space, evolution and the downfall of humanity as does 2001: A Space Odyssey. Throw a monolith in there and we're good to go. Hertzfeldt also incorporates a perfect orchestral backdrop, giving strength to his stick figure characters. The extended second sequence of people pacing back and forth spurting capitalist jargon seriously hits home and the character transitions beginning at 7 mins 40 seconds is some pretty mind-blowing hand animation.

Rejected is Hertzfeldt's Academy Award nominated work (props to the Academy for giving this the love it deserves) and is his most well-known work garnering a serious cult following. Hertzfeldt hits some very disturbing notes...very, very disturbing but is based off of Herzfeldt's feelings towards commercial work. People were throwing commercial offers at him left and right when he became well-known; how far could he take it? Since I first saw this short in 2009, I've heard people quote "My spoon is too big" in public 5-6 times and it never gets old (high fives are then consequently shared with the person who said it). The final scene using crumpled paper to simulate an apocalypse among the hand drawn characters is genius.

You can check out more of his work and musings on his website.