Usually, animations and cartoons are geared towards younger audiences and depict a fluffy, light-hearted version of the world we live in. I enjoy a classic Mickey Mouse, Scooby Doo (pre-Scrappy, of course) and Looney Tunes as much as the next man, but today we’re shying away from la-la land and exploring some very dark minds instead.
The following films are not your average animated adventures, but tales of greed, morality and obscure production that take the audience out of their comfort zone. Feel free to laugh awkwardly, raise your eyebrows or just ponder your own existence.
The Mysterious Stranger
Based on Mark Twain’s last and unfinished novel, The Mysterious Stranger is a claymation story starring an angel called Satan. This particular clip has been taken from the 1986 film The Adventures of Mark Twain and features Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher and Huck Finn as the main characters.
There’s definitely a message here, just take a listen to Satan’s final words.
Angst is a black and white animation that fuses a naive animation style with real-world footage. The film was created by Dutch animator Emiel Penders and tells the story of a child who must overcome his fear of the wind in order to save a pet.
While the film is dark, the story is rather beautiful in its own way
Don Hertzfeldt’s Animations
Dont Hertzfeldt is a renowned American animator who has earned more than 150 awards for his creations. All of his films are beautifully hand-drawn in Don’s signature style and the attention to detail employed earned the filmmaker the 16th spot in a recent survey of the top 100 animators.
Like many of Don’s cartoons the first film on the list below, called Rejected, is a quirky comedy that becomes more and more unstable as the film unfolds. Just so you’re aware, these weren’t actually produced for the Family Learning Channel, though I’m sure that’s pretty obvious by about half-way through.
The next film on the list, The Animation Show, is a co-production between Don and the creator of Beavis and Butthead, Mike Judge. The show went on for another three seasons with Hertzfeldt’s work featured alongside other animators before he left in 2008.
Winner of 30 awards, Hertzfelt produced Billy’s Balloon (below) while still studying before it was released in 1999.
Hertzfeldt’s first dialogue short is wickedly funny and delightfully awkward, thanks in part to the partially improvised voice acting. Lily & Jim is the story of a disastrous blind date which scooped 25 awards.
The final Hertzfeldt film on this list is probably the strangest and most unnerving. The animation is 17 minutes long in total and tells the story of Bill over three parts as his dull and boring life soon gives way to something a lot more sinister.
The newest film on the list, Bad Egg is a 3D animated short from Indian animators BIG Animation. What at first seems to be the usual Pixar-esque cutesy animation reveals itself to be a dark story with rather philosophical message.
According to the production team the film “disregards the myth that it is very hard for an Indian production house to get time out of its hectic schedule to create original content”. You can read more about Bad Egg over at CGTantra.
I really don’t know how to describe this one, but to take one YouTube user’s rather frank description:
“yeah the other day i was in the arabian jungle with my camel dog and we had to run down this really straight path from this f**king tiger. Then the jazz band started up” (BarnacleGooseInvalid)
Created by Les Elton in 1930, Monkey Doodle is so strange that it’s hard to look away.
MTV’s Weird-Ass Classic Cartoons
A collection of strange short cartoons, stop-motion films and MTV’s own animated idents presented back to back. Many of the animations are 10 seconds long or less and the fact that they’re all back-to-back can feel a little overwhelming by about half-way through.
Stick with it though, there’s some delightfully dark gems in here. Don’t you wish MTV was still this cool?
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed these films (enjoyed is a strong word, absorbed might be better), and please don’t forget to let us know what you think, and share any more weird and wonderful creations you have found in the comments, below.