Chuck Jones & Ken Harris (1943)

Two hungry castaways encounter Bugs Bunny on a tropical island.

Wackiki Wabbit is a 1943 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon, starring Bugs Bunny.

Directed by Chuck Jones

Animated by Ken Harris

Written by Tedd Pierce

Produced by Leon Schlesinger

Musical direction by Carl Stalling

Wackiki Wabbit contains experimental abstract backgrounds and its title is a play on words, suggesting both the island setting of Waikiki and Bugs’ wackiness. Elmer Fudd’s speech pronunciation of “rabbit” is also in the title, although Elmer does not appear in this picture.

This cartoon has fallen to the public domain after United Artists failed to renew the copyright on time.

The Brothers Quay (1986)

Illustration by Bruno Schulz

The Street of Crocodiles is a 21-minute-long stop-motion animation short subject directed and produced by the Brothers Quay and released in 1986.

The Street of Crocodiles was originally a short story written by Bruno Schulz, from a story collection published under that title in English translation. Rather than literally representing the childhood memoirs of Schulz, the animators used the story’s mood and psychological undertones as inspiration for their own creation.

Inside a box full of curio, a puppet who is recently freed from his strings explores a dusty and forlorn commercial area. The explorer becomes ensnared into miniature tailor shop by baby-faced dolls.

Directed by Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay, and Weiser Quay.

Toby Auberg — Toberg (2021)

Water then food. Agriculture then industry. Old then new. Critical then extra. Simple to complex. Concrete to abstract. Dirt to clouds. Real to unreal.

If you don’t watch a lot of short films, you might be forgiven for assuming there’s not much depth or complexity you can fit into a three-minute duration. A comedy sketch or a music video, maybe? But a thought-provoking deconstruction of the evolution of society, that’s not possible, right? With grand aims of putting human constructs in order, Toby Auberg’s (aka Toberg) Pile attempts just that.

When you picture animations about evolution, your mind will probably (just like mine) immediately go to the image of simple creatures, dragging their basic bodies from the sea, before developing legs and scuttling around on land. Auberg’s short isn’t so interested with our biological progression however, much like Hertzfeldt’s 2005 short The Meaning of Life, it’s more focused on our societal progression and how we’ve moved from bare survival to the unhinged dystopia of late capitalism.

Beginning at the bottom of his titular pile, Auberg introduces us to his world as we witness humankind just struggling to survive – living in scrappy tents or ramshackle huts, eating only what they catch or grow – before moving his camera upwards and revealing the true intentions of his short. As we travel upwards, the different stages of societal progression literally stacked on top of each other, we experience these rapid developments in living conditions, before entering a crazed finale that paints a provocative picture of the future.

Discussing Pile with Short of the Week, Auberg admits he has difficulty “identifying a clear source for the film’s inspiration”, instead pointing to how his mind often thinks in terms of “muddled visual metaphors” as a major motivator for his premise. Originally coming up with the idea back in 2018, when pre-pandemic politics filled our headspace, the filmmaker (like most of us) was very anxious about the world and so decided to make “a piece that visualised the big ‘house-of-cards’ that we rest our lives on”.

Thematically ambitious, Auberg backs up his grand concept with some impressive craft, telling his story in one continual shot, his virtual camera rising through his incredibly detailed tower of humanity. Like the environments he portrays, his animation style develops as we progress. “The beginning of the film uses more traditional character rigs and ‘realistic’ environments”, the filmmaker reveals as I quiz him about his distinct aesthetic. “As the film progresses the style becomes more distorted and surreal, disconnecting elements and using simulation (dynamics) to animate the world in a more broken and chaotic way”, he adds.

Selected to play at Annecy (where it won the 2020 Jury award for a graduation short film), BFI London and Cannes, while Auberg admits he’d “love it if the film hit a nerve with someone out there”, he’s also just happy to have this complicated vision out of his head.

– S/W Curator Rob Munday

Sound design: Ben Goodall

Additional assets: Leto Meade, Jim Cheetham, Matt Taylor, Anita Gill, Linyou Xie, Michelle Brand

GAN animation: Erik Lintunen

Don Hertzfeldt (2008)

This is the second chapter of a three-part story about a man named Bill from the It’s a Beautiful Day trilogy.

A series of dark and troubling events forces Bill to reckon with the meaning of his life —

or lack thereof.

“A masterpiece. I can’t even begin to articulate my thoughts about the film but it just gave me shivers and I wasn’t able to attend the party after the screening. Just had to be alone. It had this effect on a number of other people here too. Stunning, beautiful, tragic, absurd work.”

– Chris Robinson (Ottawa International Animation Festival)

I Am So Proud Of You is, I think, as good a pick as any for film of the year. Certainly as good as Synecdoche, NY, and just as full of grand and complex thoughts about life and death and bodily fluids and years rapidly advancing, coming to ends and beginnings, back and forth, over and over, until one slips indistinguishably into the next.”

– David Lowery (Filmmaker)

Sparks (2006)

Visit the official SPARKS website: https://www.allsparks.com

Sparks official video for the single Perfume from the 2006 album Hello Young Lovers.

Directed by Shaw Petronio

Sparks is an American pop and rock duo, originally formed as a Los Angeles band called Halfnelson in 1967 by brothers Ron and Russell Mael. Known for their quirky approach to songwriting, Sparks’ music is often accompanied by sophisticated and acerbic lyrics, often about women or Shakespearean literature references, and an idiosyncratic, theatrical stage presence, typified in the contrast between Russell’s animated, hyperactive frontman antics and Ron’s deadpan scowling. They are also noted for Russell’s distinctive wide-ranging voice and Ron’s intricate and rhythmic keyboard playing style.

René Laloux (1973)

Fantastic Planet is a 1973 experimental adult animated science fiction film, directed by RenĂ© Laloux and written by Laloux and Roland Topor, the latter of whom also completed the film’s production design. The film was animated at Jiƙí Trnka Studio in Prague. The film was an international co-production between companies from France and Czechoslovakia. The allegorical story, about humans living on a strange planet dominated by giant humanoid aliens who consider them animals, is based on the 1957 novel Oms en sĂ©rie by French writer Stefan Wul.

Len Lye (1933)

Experimental animation.

Despite the interest generated by his first film, Tusalava (1929), the early 1930s were a difficult time for artist and animator Len Lye. A series of projects were abandoned through lack of funding, and he supported himself by designing book jackets. By 1934 he was doing relatively menial work in the Wembley studios of Associated Sound Film Industries, while trying to convince investors to back his latest project with his long-time friend and collaborator, Jack Ellitt, provisionally titled Quicksilver. Lye had already produced dozens of set and costume designs for this ambitious science-fiction musical comedy but, although an American producer eventually expressed interest, the film that emerged bore little relation to the original concept, and neither Lye nor Ellitt benefited financially.

In the meantime, Lye turned his attention to puppet animation. He scraped together enough funding and borrowed equipment to produce a three-minute short featuring his self-made monkey, singing and dancing to ‘Peanut Vendor’, a 1931 jazz hit for Red Nichols. The two foot high monkey had bolted, moveable joints and some 50 interchangeable mouths to convey the singing. To get the movements right, Lye filmed his new wife, Jane, a prize-winning rumba dancer. Ellitt assisted in synchronizing the animation with the music.

Lye hoped to use the film to interest advertisers, but again had no success. However, on the strength of the film the head of the newly established Shell Film Unit, Jack Beddington, was later persuaded by Lye’s friend Humphrey Jennings to commission Lye to make a short animated advertising film, The Birth of the Robot (1935).

a-ha (1984)

At the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, the video for Take On Me won six awards—Best New Artist in a Video, Best Concept Video, Most Experimental Video, Best Direction, Best Special Effects, and Viewer’s Choice—and was nominated for two others, Best Group Video and Video of the Year. “Take On Me” was also nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Video at the 13th American Music Awards in 1986.

Take On Me is a song by Norwegian synth-pop band A-ha, first released in 1984. The original version was produced by Tony Mansfield and remixed by John Ratcliff. A new version was released in 1985 and produced by Alan Tarney for the group’s debut studio album Hunting High and Low (1985). The song combines synthpop with a varied instrumentation that includes acoustic guitars, keyboards, and drums. It is considered to be the band’s signature song.

A-ha released a less slick version of the song in 1984, but redid the tune after it proved to be a commercial flop. And despite releasing a revised rendition in 1985, Waaktaar-Savoy says, “it took, like, four months to reach number one in America. And it felt like years. Every week it would go up a spot, up three spots
. It would pick up, then slow down. [It] was a whole process.”

They teamed up with director Steve Barron, who directed Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, for a short-form piece that mixed live action with rotoscope animation — never before used in a music video. “It was a dream to work with talent like that,” Waaktaar-Savoy says of Barron. “Normally, videos took a week of shooting in a hangar. But for this, we did a whole day that was only to make the comic magazine. Then four months spent doing hand-drawn drawings. It was very thorough stuff.” Illustrator Mike Patterson drew more than 3,000 sketches for the final clip.

Weezer (2019)



Weezer had teamed with Calpurnia – the indie rock band led by Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard – for a nostalgic new video for their cover of a-ha’s Take On Me. The track appears on Weezer’s self-titled covers record, also known as The Teal Album.

David Lynch (2002)

David Lynch Theater Presents: RABBITS 1

Rabbits is a 2002 series of eight short horror web films written and directed by David Lynch, although Lynch himself refers to it as a sitcom. It depicts three humanoid rabbits played by Scott Coffey, Laura Elena Harring, and Naomi Watts in a room. Their disjointed conversations are interrupted by a laugh track. Rabbits is presented with the tagline “In a nameless city deluged by a continuous rain… three rabbits live with a fearful mystery”.

Len Lye (1929)

With the screen split asymmetrically, one part in positive, the other negative, the film documents the evolution of simple celled organic forms into chains of cells then more complex images from tribal cultures and contemporary modernist concepts. The images react, interpenetrate, perhaps attack, absorb and separate, until a final symbiosis is achieved.

All of a sudden it hit me — if there was such a thing as composing music, there could be such a thing as composing motion.  After all, there are melodic figures, why can’t there be figures of motion?” 

Len Lye

This remarkable animation film was first screened by the London Film Society in 1929. Jack Ellitt’s original piano music for Tusalava has unfortunately been lost. The film imagines the beginnings of life on earth. Single-cell creatures evolve into more complex forms of life. Evolution leads to conflict, and two species fight for supremacy. The title is a Samoan word which suggests that things go full circle.  In this film Lye based his style of animation partly on the ancient Aboriginal art of Australia. Tusalava is unique as a film example of what art critics describe as “modernist primitivism”. In contrast to the Cubist painters (who were influenced by African art), Lye drew upon traditions of indigenous art from his own region of the world (New Zealand, Australia and Samoa).

Despite the interest generated by his first film, Tusalava (1929), the early 1930s were a difficult time for artist and animator Len Lye. A series of projects were abandoned through lack of funding, and he supported himself by designing book jackets. By 1934 he was doing relatively menial work in the Wembley studios of Associated Sound Film Industries, while trying to convince investors to back his latest project with his long-time friend and collaborator, Jack Ellitt, provisionally titled Quicksilver. Lye had already produced dozens of set and costume designs for this ambitious science-fiction musical comedy but, although an American producer eventually expressed interest, the film that emerged bore little relation to the original concept, and neither Lye nor Ellitt benefited financially.

In the meantime, Lye turned his attention to puppet animation. He scraped together enough funding and borrowed equipment to produce a three-minute short featuring his self-made monkey, singing and dancing to ‘Peanut Vendor’, a 1931 jazz hit for Red Nichols. The two foot high monkey had bolted, moveable joints and some 50 interchangeable mouths to convey the singing. To get the movements right, Lye filmed his new wife, Jane, a prize-winning rumba dancer. Ellitt assisted in synchronising the animation with the music.

Lye hoped to use the film to interest advertisers, but again had no success. However, on the strength of the film the head of the newly established Shell Film Unit, Jack Beddington, was later persuaded by Lye’s friend Humphrey Jennings to commission Lye to make a short animated advertising film, The Birth of the Robot (1935).

Norman McLaren (1971)

Synchromy is a 1971 National Film Board of Canada visual music film by Norman McLaren utilizing graphical sound. To produce the film’s musical soundtrack, McLaren photographed rectangular cards with lines on them. He arranged these shapes in sequences on the analog optical sound track to produce notes and chords. He then reproduced the sequence of shapes, colorized, in the image portion of the film, so that audiences see the shapes that they are also hearing, as sound.

McLaren had experimented with this technique for creating notes through patterns of stripes on the soundtrack area of the film in the 1950s, working with Evelyn Lambart. Their technique was based on earlier work in graphical sound by German pioneer Rudolf Pfenninger and Russian Nikolai Voinov.

The creation of Synchromy was documented by Gavin Millar in 1970 in a film called The Eye Hears, The Ear Sees. In McLaren’s production notes, he stated that “Apart from planning and executing the music, the only creative aspect of the film was the ‘choreographing’ of the striations in the columns and deciding on the sequence and combinations of colours.”
The film received eight awards, including a Special Jury Mention at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

Hans Richter (1921)

Hans Richter was a German painter,  graphic artist, avant-gardist, film and animation experimentalist, and producer. He was greatly influenced by cubism in the 1910s.

Richter believed that the artist’s duty was to be actively political, opposing war and supporting the revolution.

Throughout his career, he claimed that his 1921 film Rhythmus 21 was the first abstract film ever created. However, this is simply not true. He was in fact preceded by German artist Walther Ruttmann, among others. Nevertheless, Richter’s film Rhythmus 21 is considered an important early abstract film by filmmakers and film scholars throughout the world.