It’s hard to imagine that one of the best, most thought provoking, honest films to come out in recent memory would be a 16 minute animated short with stick drawings and classical music; yes hard, but not for fans and admirers of Don Hertzfeldt.
Hertzfeldt is genuinely one of the most prized talents working in animation today. With the heart of a child, mind of a philosopher, packaged with a crude sense of humor—he’s crafted notable works like: It’s Such a Beautiful Day, The Meaning of Life, and the Academy-Award nominated Rejected. Teaming with Mike Judge, they created The Animation Show, though short lived, it served as inspiration for Adult Swim. In 2014, he was asked to animate the opening for scene for The Simpsons. True to Hertzfeldt, it was weird, funny, and unforgettable.
His latest masterpiece, World of Tomorrow, is the story a young girl who receives a visit from her replicated self from the far off future. Together they explore; technology, love, time, age, and the power even the simplest of our memories can hold. I can’t recommend it enough. Rent it here.
Needless to say, it was a real honor, asking Don a few questions. Enjoy!
You can view many of Don films on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSCF9UABxj49kg2SEXUUZAw
BD Hey Don, thoroughly enjoyed World of Tomorrow–where did the idea come from?
DH Thanks – it’s hard to remember, so many ideas tend to flow from one project into the next and then get mixed up. There’s rarely one place a film comes from. but I think the earliest pieces were the stories of the clone in the tube in the museum, and the image of the robot with the dead person’s face stuck on it. I had those bits first – and i’m not real sure why, strange sort of thoughts on mortality in the future – and expanded out.
BD I love the young girl talking to her much older self–and vice versa– what would would young Don Hertzfeldt talk about with his older self?
DH Wow… hmm. my younger self would probably be too terrified to know anything for fear of screwing it all up. But maybe relieved to see that I was still alive. Unless it was my much, much younger self in which case we would probably talk about Star Wars toys.
BD Are you fascinated by all the technology surrounding us like Cloning, AI or are you fearful of it?
DH Fascinated, suppose. I don’t have a lot of faith in humanity unfortunately and maybe that’s what makes me unafraid. I sometimes just feel more like a passive observer to everything we get wrong over and over again as a species. That clone tube scene in the art museum, when I wrote that I was, and still am, pretty convinced that it’s going to happen eventually. That is a big “art statement” waiting to happen and I just wanted to be the one to write it down first. And I’m not sure if it’s terrifying or fascinating, or just somewhere neutral and sad in between.
BD What do you hope people take away from the film?
DH Whatever they want, really. Anything but boredom I hope.
BD You create these wonderful, simple but compelling stick figures–curious how did you land on that as a style?
DH Thanks. it’s just the way I draw. I don’t like a lot of fuss or ornaments and I tend to be way more interested in the other parts of making a film. Luckily the style seems to nicely serve the stories I tend to want to tell. Or maybe my mind is just trained now to not come up with things I don’t want to have to deal with visualizing. I will never animate a film about bicycles, because who wants to have to draw a bunch of bicycles over and over, you know?
BD Your films are some of the most creative things out there–have you ever considered jumping into live action or another medium like graphic novels, or something?
DH Sure. I released a weird graphic novel a couple years ago. Maybe I wouldn’t even call it a graphic novel. It’s ok but I really missed being able to have sound and to be able to control the pace. compared to a film, a book is a more immediate thing to create but a less immediate thing to experience, and I missed that.
I wanted to do live action in film school, and I may still someday, but back then I couldn’t afford it. But I also remember the thought of it being stressful and intimidating. And I fell back to animation because I could afford that, and I had already been animating in high school. And it was sort of a big relief, it felt natural and easy and fun again. And I think that’s when you realize, maybe that means this is the thing that I’m actually good at.
BD Bigger honor-getting nominated for an Oscar or being asked to animate the opening for The Simpsons?
DH Ha! I’ve never thought of it that way. I mean, I lost the oscar and most people seemed extremely confused during the Simpsons… so maybe they are double failures?
BD Last question–What’s your next project and when can we expect to see it?
DH I’m juggling more than one thing right now but the next thing that will be actually released will be another short.