13 October 2016

Don Hertzfeldt

Don Hertzfeldt is an animator who has been making animated films for over twenty years. He studied film at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he had access to their animation camera. Prior to this he had also used a VHS camera to teach himself some basics. (Robinson, 2010:179) 

Fig. 1 'Billy's Balloon' (1998)
'Billy's Balloon' (1998), one of Hertzfeldt's earliest films, is funny and somewhat horrifying. The film depicts a balloon assaulting a small child, twisted and yet it still manages to charm. Chris Robinson describes the violence as 'so utterly absurd that can't help but laugh'. (Robinson, 2010:182) There seems to be no point to the story, but the film is still engaging and this is reminiscent of the surrealist movement, in the sense of making strange art that has no obvious meaning.

Hertzfeldt is also known for his ability to create emotional films using much simpler methods than one might think necessary. His animation uses simple stick figures and has been largely traditionally hand drawn, with only more recent use of digital tools. David Jenkins of The Guardian writes: 'Hertzfeldt's method of making grand existential statements with almost recklessly modest means has made his cinematic oeuvre one of the most fascinating and enjoyable of all contemporary American directors.' (Jenkins, 2013).

Fig. 2 'World of Tomorrow' (2015)
Hertzfeldt's most recent film, 'World of Tomorrow' (2015), is quite grand in the way it explores the future of humanity. David Sims of The Atlantic comments that it 'poses fascinating questions about our commitment to living as long as we can by whatever means we can devise.' (Sims, 2016). This is Hertzfeldt's first science fiction film but it is his favourite genre and he got some ideas for the look of the film from the covers of old sci-fi books. (Bramesco, 2015).


Robinson, C. (2010). Animators Unearthed: A Guide to the Best of Contemporary Animation. [Online] At: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=oozKz8Hu4xIC&pg=PA179&dq=don+hertzfeldt&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false (Accessed on 13.10.16)

Bramesco, C. (2015). Animator Don Hertzfeldt on not trusting happy people. At: https://thedissolve.com/features/interview/980-animator-don-hertzfeldt-on-not-trusting-happy-peop/ (Accessed on 13.10.16)
Jenkins, D. (2013). Don Hertzfeldt: the best animator you've never heard of. At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2013/may/02/don-hertzfeldt-animator-beautiful-day (Accessed on 13.10.16)

Illustration List

Fig. 1 'Billy's Balloon' (1998)
Hertzfeldt, D. (1998). Billy's Balloon. [Film Still] At: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/7jksRQcI9NA/maxresdefault.jpg (Accessed on 13.10.16)

Fig. 2 'World of Tomorrow' (2015)
Hertzfeldt, D. (2015). World of Tomorrow. [Film Still] At: https://i.vimeocdn.com/video/555705466_1280x720.jpg (Accessed on 13.10.16)

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