Tim here. It's such a beautiful day to be animator Don Hertzfeldt, whose newest short, World of Tomorrow, premieres at the Sundance Film Festival tonight - his seventh film to play there, a record. It's an even better day to be a fan of Don Hertzfeldt, for in addition to WoT (which has been popping up on "most anticipated" Sundance lists all over, as well it should), news has come down today that Hertzfeldt is about to beginning working on his second feature, Antarctica. It's going to be the first project of his career made with an actual team of animators, owing to its unprecedented complexity compared to everything he's ever made (besides which, his last feature took over six years to complete, dribbling out in the form of three short films released as they were ready). And let me tell you, the notion of a Hertzfeldt film of unprecedented complexity is exciting on a deep, primal level. The kind of exciting where all movies released between now and then will be disappointing just by virtue of not being Antarctica.
Since I, for one, am not prepared to think of anything but Hertzfeldt today, I've taken the liberty of putting together this little primer of some of his work. For those of you who haven't seen any of it, I can't imagine how you could have gone on this long without your life being complete, and for those of you who have, it's never the wrong time to re-watch his stuff, right?
Billy's Balloon (1998)
Hertzfeldt's fourth short, completed when he was a 21-year-old UCSB student, was his big breakthrough. It bears all the hallmarks of an early work - the limitations of his hand-hewn aesthetic feel more like limitations, and not the secret strengths he'd make them in later projects - but the groundwork for all of his later films can be spotted here. To wit, we live in a universe of capricious cruelty, where everything that seems nice will turn on you, and there's no such thing as finding a human connection to make that cruelty easier to take. All done with surprising, absurd, morbid humor. There's a reason his production company is called Bitter Films.