Matt Groening (1997)

El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer is the ninth episode in the eighth season of the American animated television series The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 5, 1997. In the episode, Homer eats several hot chili peppers and hallucinates, causing him to go on a mysterious voyage. Following this, he questions his relationship with Marge and goes on a journey to find his soulmate.

The episode was written by Ken Keeler and directed by Jim Reardon. The episode explores themes of marriage, community, and alcohol use. Homer’s voyage features surreal animation to depict the elaborate hallucination. The episode guest stars Johnny Cash as the “Space Coyote”.

The episode was pitched as early as the third season by George Meyer, who was interested in an episode based on the books of Carlos Castaneda. Meyer had wanted to have an episode featuring a mystical voyage that was not induced by drugs, and so he decided to use “really hot” chili peppers instead. The staff, except for Matt Groening, felt it was too odd for the show at that point. Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein resurrected the story, and decided to use it for season eight.

Most of the hallucination sequence was animated completely by David Silverman. Silverman did not want the risk of sending it to South Korea, as he wanted it to look exactly as he had imagined it, including rendered backgrounds to give a soft mystical feel to the scene. The coyote was intentionally drawn in a boxier way so that it looked “other-worldly” and unlike the other characters. During Homer’s voyage, the clouds in one shot are live-action footage, and 3D computer animation was used for the giant butterfly. During the same hallucination, Ned Flanders’ line was treated on a Mac computer so that it increased and decreased pitch.

Salvador Dalí & Luis Buñuel (1929)

Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí present 16 minutes of bizarre, surreal imagery.

Un Chien Andalou is an early surrealist film in which Salvador DalĂ­ and Louis Buñuel collaborated on in order to create a collision of their combined dreams. The Title “Once upon a time” comes across the screen giving us the impression that this will perhaps be just another traditional Hollywood movie, but DalĂ­ and Buñuel are playing with us. They know what the audience expects, but instead of giving us a movie that follows a traditional narrative structure they give us something much more visual and much more stimulating. They make us look and watch with a fascinated mind, and meanwhile the movie itself is making us think. Perhaps the film is a distant reminder of a memory from a past life or forgotten dream locked deep within our psyche. At first glance we are unsure of what exactly we are watching and perhaps many people, particularly in the late 1920s, were highly disgusted by the piece. However, those that found some inspiration in the work of art would use the film as a basis for their own experimental films. Ten to twenty years after the release of Un Chien Andalou, it seems that the film has paved the way for a new generation of experimental filmmakers, such as Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, and Stan Brakhage, and has influenced many other filmmakers working in the realm of Avent Garde, trance, and other experimental films.

The film begins with the classic eye slicing scene. Instantly we are shown that this is definitely not a traditional film at all. This scene is shown in sequence with a shot of a cloud slicing the moon in half, to which Jean Vigo had said, “Can there be any spectacle more terrible than the sight of a cloud obscuring the moon at its full? The prologue can hardly have one indifferent. It tells us that in this film we must see with a different eye.” I find this interesting because what I get from this is that the night cuts up our waking life. The night is a time when the world falls asleep, but our dreams awaken and become a new reality. In our dreams we do look at the world, ourselves, and others from our minds eye, and we see things as they truly are in relation to our inner selves. The filmmakers grab hold of our attention, and our entire being is glued to the screen. We want to see what happens next. Just then the title reads, “eight years later”. The artistic filmmakers are clearly messing with us now.

For individuals who lack an imagination, this film may seem like an nonsensical rambling of sorts. However, to me the film seems to follow some type of narrative. DalĂ­ had mentioned of the film that, “the pure and correct line of conduct of a human who pursues love through wretched humanitarian, patriotic ideals and the other miserable workings of reality.” So, I guess to me this would mean that throughout life we are in constant search to find our true selves and to find a love that is supportive of that self, but all the while we are bombarded by the issues of the real world, of patriotism, and so forth that we often lose ourselves in a cold and uncaring world. However, on the other hand, Buñuel had this to say about the film, “Our only rule was very simple: No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted. We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us, without trying to explain why.” I find this to be a very interesting point of view and believe this is why the film has such a dreamlike quality. This is still true today, but this was something brand new that people had never seen before. Suddenly, people are being shown the inner workings of someone else’s thoughts and dreams. Something that had never been done before.

Perhaps this film was intended to shock audiences, but I feel that it has been a very important and influential work of art. It introduced a new way of filmmaking and it encouraged others to push the boundaries of traditional Hollywood movies. It has also pushed filmmakers and other artists to explore themselves, their thoughts, their dreams, their desires, etc. so that we are able to awaken and inspire others around us. To encourage them to open their eyes and think for themselves. To create the vision we see within ourselves.

– Film analysis written by Tavis Moon (2016)

Danny Elfman & Trent Reznor (2021)

Danny Elfman has enlisted Trent Reznor for a remixed version of True, a track off Big Mess, Elfman’s first solo album in 37 years.

“This is the first duet/collaboration I’ve ever done in my life, so to do it with Trent was a real surprise and a treat. He’s always been a big inspiration to me, not to mention he has one of my all-time favorite singing voices.”

– Danny Elfman

Reznor adds industrial flourishes, distortion, and vocals throughout the remix.

The True video also receives a remix of sorts, with the collaboration accompanied by an Aron Johnson-directed visual that combines archived footage from the original Sarah Sitkin-helmed video along with brand new 3D modeling.

Following a string of singles — Happy, Sorry, Love in the Time of Covid, and Kick Me. — in 2020, Elfman released Big Mess in June. The album, recorded during the Covid pandemic, also features a reworking of Insects, originally recorded by Elfman’s band Oingo Boingo in 1982.

“Once I began writing, it was like opening a Pandora’s box and I found I couldn’t stop. None of it was planned. I had no idea how many songs I would write but from the start, it quickly became a two-sided project with heavily contrasting and even conflicting tones.”

– Danny Elfman

Written by Daniel Kreps of Rolling Stone Magazine

Fleischer Studios (1930)

A Bimbo cartoon (though he is still unnamed).

Bimbo is the hot dog vendor at an opera led by a Leopold Stokowski-like lion, with plenty of operatic mice. Includes a repeating gag of a hippo coming and going through the seats, displacing patrons.

Animated by Seymour Kneitel & Al Eugster

For the Fleischer brothers, the transition to sound was relatively easy. With the new contract with Paramount Pictures, and without the burden of Red Seal Pictures and Alfred Weiss, Max Fleischer was free to experiment with new, bold ideas. First he changed the name of the Ko-Ko Song Cartunes series to Screen Songs. Although the Screen Songs were successful, Fleischer felt that it wasn’t enough. Walt Disney also seemed to gain a great amount of fame through his sound cartoons. Max decided to work with his brother Dave on a new series of cartoons where the characters did more than just simply dance to the music of the “bouncing ball”. The name for the new series was to be Talkartoons. When the idea was pitched to Paramount, they leaped at the opportunity.

The Talkartoons started out as one-shot cartoons. The first entry in the series was Noah’s Lark, released on October 26, 1929. Although a Fleischer cartoon, it appeared to be patterned after the Aesop’s Film Fables of Paul Terry. In it, a Farmer Al Falfa-esque Noah allows the animals of his ark to visit Luna Park. When he brings them back into the ship, the weight is so heavy that it sinks. In the end, Noah chases topless mermaids throughout the ocean waters. Lark has very few gray tones, very much like the Screen Songs produced during the same time and the earlier Fleischer silent works. It also included copyright-free songs, mostly utilized from old 78-rpm’s.

The series began to take a new direction, however, with the arrival of Max and Dave’s brother, Lou Fleischer, whose skills in music and mathematics made a great impact at the studio. A dog named Bimbo gradually became the featured character of the series. The first cartoon that featured Bimbo was Hot Dog (1930), the first Fleischer cartoon to use a full range of greys. New animators such as Grim Natwick, Shamus Culhane, and Rudy Zamora began entering the Fleischer Studio, with new ideas that pushed the Talkartoons into a league of their own. Natwick especially had an off-beat style of animating that helped give the shorts more of a surreal quality. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the Talkartoons series and the Fleischer Studio was the creation of Betty Boop with Dizzy Dishes in 1930.

By late 1931, Betty Boop dominated the series. Koko the Clown was brought out of retirement from the silent days as a third character to Betty and Bimbo. By 1932, the series was at an inevitable end and instead, Betty Boop would be given her own series, with Bimbo and Koko as secondary characters.

Wolfgang & Christoph Lauenstein (1989)

Balance is a German surrealist stop-motion animated film, released in 1989.
It was directed and produced by twin brothers Wolfgang and Christoph Lauenstein.

A group of fishermen on a precariously balanced platform fight over a trunk.

The setting is on a floating platform where a group of evenly and carefully placed men live. Each man is aware that the platform is not stable and in order not to fall to their deaths, they maintain a careful balance of weight to prevent the platform from tipping too far and cause them all to fall. This reasonably harmonious understanding is lost when one man pulls up a heavy trunk. In the ensuing struggle, balance is lost in more than one sense.

Fleischer Brothers (1930)

Swing You Sinners! is a 1930 animated cartoon short, directed by the Fleischer Brothers as part of the Talkartoons. The cartoon is notable for its surreal, dark and sometimes even abstract content.

Let’s join Bimbo as he is chased by a policeman for trying to steal a chicken!

The cartoon was released on September 24, 1930 in the Talkartoons series and was animated by Ted Sears and Willard Bowsky. George Cannata, Shamus Culhane, Al Eugster, William Henning, Seymour Kneitel, and Grim Natwick also worked on it, but are uncredited in the title card. The cartoon was animated by a completely new staff who’d never worked in animation before because the studio had to replace some animators who quit. Animator Shamus Culhane states in his memoirs that though he created and animated what might be construed as a racist caricature of “a Jew with a black beard, huge nose, and a derby,” the studio’s atmosphere and its mixed ethnic crew made the depiction completely acceptable to all the Jews in the studio. The caricature in question is a reference to Jewish-American comedian Monroe Silver.

Motion Picture News wrote on October 11, 1930, “The clever cartoon pen of Max Fleischer again demonstrates itself in this Talkartoon. An off-stage chorus sings the lyrics to the rhythm of the action and the result is usually diverting. The cartoon hero is this time taken into a grave-yard with the absurd results that you might well imagine. Worth a play.”

The soundtrack was composed by W. Franke Harling, with lyrics by Sam Coslow. Title song was based on “Sing, You Sinners!”, some of which is played in the titles of the cartoon.

Donato Sansone (2018)

An ordinary domestic argument turns into an organic and surrealistic fight between two humanoid robots.

Donato Sansone is an Italian animator with cult films such as Videogiocco and Journal Animé. He mixes animation and live action, creating a hybrid world made up of funny, sexy, and crazy visual experiences. His films have been selected in the biggest international festivals.

Salvador DalĂ­ & Walt Disney (1945/2003)

Destino is an animated short film released in 2003 by Walt Disney. Destino is unique in that its production originally began in 1945, 58 years before its eventual completion. The project was originally a collaboration between Walt Disney and Spanish surrealist painter Salvador DalĂ­, and features music written by Mexican songwriter Armando DomĂ­nguez and performed by Mexican singer Dora Luz. It was included in the Animation Show of Shows in 2003.

The short was intended to be one of the segments for the proposed but never completed third Fantasia film.

Destino was storyboarded by Disney studio artist John Hench and artist Salvador DalĂ­ for eight months in late 1945 and 1946. However, production ceased not long after. Walt Disney Studios was plagued by many financial woes in the World War II era. Hench compiled a short animation test of about 17 seconds in the hopes of rekindling Disney’s interest in the project, but the production was no longer deemed financially viable and put on indefinite hiatus.

In 1999, Walt Disney’s nephew Roy E. Disney, while working on Fantasia 2000, unearthed the dormant project and decided to bring it back to life. Bette Midler’s host sequence for The Steadfast Tin Soldier also makes mention of Destino. Disney Studios France, the company’s small Parisian production department, was brought on board to complete the project. The short was produced by Baker Bloodworth and directed by French animator Dominique MonfrĂ©y in his first directorial role. A team of approximately 25 animators deciphered DalĂ­ and Hench’s cryptic storyboards (with a little help from the journals of DalĂ­’s wife, Gala DalĂ­ and guidance from Hench himself), and finished Destino‘s production. The end result is mostly traditional animation, including Hench’s original footage, but it also contains some computer animation.

Ralph Bakshi (1973)

An underground cartoonist contends with life in the inner city, where various unsavory characters serve as inspiration for his artwork.

Heavy Traffic is a 1973 animated film written and directed by Ralph Bakshi, based on the 1964 novel Last Exit to Brooklyn. The film — which begins, ends, and occasionally combines live-action — explores the often surreal fantasies of a young New York cartoonist named Michael Corleone. The film uses pinball imagery as a metaphor for inner-city life. Heavy Traffic was Bakshi’s and producer Steve Krantz’s follow-up to the film Fritz the Cat. Krantz made varied attempts to produce an R-rated film, but Heavy Traffic was given an X rating by the MPAA. The film received positive reviews and is widely considered to be Bakshi’s biggest critical success.

Jan Ć vankmajer (1982)

Three surreal depictions of failures of communication that occur on all levels of human society.

Dimensions of Dialogue is a 1983 Czechoslovak animated short film directed by Jan Ć vankmajer. It is 14 minutes long and created with stop motion.

Terry Gilliam selected the film as one of the ten best animated films of all time.

Brothers Quay (1984)

The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer is a 1984 British surreal short stop-motion film by the Quay Brothers, an homage to the influential short filmmaker Jan Ơvankmajer.

This early film by renowned animators the Quay Brothers is structured as a series of little lessons in perception, taught by a puppet simulacrum of Jan Svankmajer, whose head is an opened book, to a doll whose head the master empties of dross and refills with a similar open book. Each of the nine segments or chapters “refers variously to the importance of objects in Svankmajer’s work, their transformation and bizarre combination through specifically cinematic techniques, the extraordinary power of the camera to ‘make strange’, the influence of Surrealism on Svankmajer’s work, and the subversive and radical role of humor. Taken out of the context of the original Visions television documentary on Svankmajer, for which they served as illustration/commentary, these vignettes might at first sight seem a trifle bewildering. They ideally need to be viewed more than once before they begin to work effectively as quirky introductions to the Svankmajer universe. Then, however, they emerge as surprisingly charming and delightful excursions into this astonishing (and often deeply disturbing) directors work.” –Julian Petley