World of Tomorrow is Good!

You might best know animator and independent filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt’s style from the Pop Tarts ad campaign that copped it. With this year’s World of Tomorrow, he’s come a long way from the grotesque and jumpy Rejected cartoons. It seems in his old age he’s developed a desire to strike a note of poignancy that an eyeball-stealing alien couldn’t provide.

Welcome, Emily, to the Outernet! This is kind of like the arthouse version of the Matrix.

World of Tomorrow is a dystopian film about a little girl named Emily who is contacted by a far-future version of herself. Future Emily is the result of a series of Emily clones that eventually transferred its consciousness to a lonely digital life in the “Outernet.” Future Emily takes “Emily Prime” on a time-traveling tour of the Outernet, her life, and the fate of humanity. Unfortunately, Young Emily is a toddler and understands none of what she’s told. Future Emily poetic, roving monologue is largely for the benefit of the viewer. But there are moments when they understand each other, and these are the best parts.

Watching it in a friend’s living room, viewers complained “I’m not stoned enough for this” and “it’s like watching a flash movie.” I get where they’re coming from, but give it a chance–it’s only sixteen minutes. His first fully digital film, it does look a lot like something you might have watched ten years ago on ebaulmsworld or albinoblacksheep. The writing makes it a real movie. And Hertzfeldt’s animation does manage to say a lot with a little.

world_of_tomorrow_2For the most part, Hertzfeldt’s visual language still looks like “Rejected Cartoons.” He’s had no job but a filmmaker since his early success as a teenager. That makes the crudeness of his style make more sense to me. He was drawn to animation as a cheap alternative to shooting live action. It’s not surprising that the outernet as Don envisions it consists largely of drifting abstract shapes. These can be very nice to look at, but do seem like an excuse not to draw anything difficult.

It is really good but requires some patience. Watch it when you have the attention span for a poetry reading, or a podcast about shipping containers.