Entertainment

Indie Animators Blend Movies and TV Shows into a Story About Smartphone Addiction

Clips from 'The Matrix,' 'Mission Impossible,' 'Princess Mononoke,' weave their way through animation studio Ornana's latest short, 'All Your Favorite Shows!'

by Beckett Mufson
May 11 2015, 5:45pm

GIFs and screencaps by the author

What begins as a simple animation about a kid's attachment to his smartphone interfering with his morning routine becomes a mile-a-minute postmodern thrill ride in indie animation studio Ornana's latest short, All Your Favorite Shows! The colored pencil texture of the story at its heart quickly gives way to a Christian Marclay-style found footage montage, which director, producer, and animator Danny Madden and team draw from an imporessive, encyclopedic store of pop culture knowlege. The result repurposes clips and sounds from movies and music videos, turning them into symbols of our adolescent protagonist's anxiety. Footage from The Matrix, Mission Impossible, and Princess Mononoke, for example, turn a ride to school into an epic chase scene, classmates become the uniformed ranks of the 300 Spartans, and his smartphone is equated to the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

"There's a really subtle moment where the audio of the orange juice pouring is sample from an Outkast track," producer Benjamin Weissner says. "Growing up in Georgia, Danny couldn't have be more excited than getting to slip that in to the film."

"We wanted the project to have [an experimental] feeling," Weissner continues. "Like some of those amazing, catchy 80's pop songs that you hear a dozen times and get stuck in your head before the darker message starts to really infiltrate." With the help of a grant from the Borscht Film Festival, Ornana wanted to push the boundaries of their animation style even further than in their previous film, Confusion Through Sand, which told the story of a group of soldiers confronted with guerilla warfare in the Middle East through a reduced style, often leaving out details and information about what's happening to heighten suspense. All Your Favorite Shows! is, in effect, the opposite, overloading you with video samples that rapidly build mountains of decontextualized information. There's far too much to unpack in one viewing, and depending on the movies you've seen, music you recognize, and clips you're paying the most attention to, the film is sure to provide a different set of associations for different viewers. 

Despite this, the story at its core is relevant for anyone who has felt mild disconcertion at the sight of a baby with an iPad, or has argued with a child about what to watch on Netflix (guilty). Madden and his team bring awareness to the problems of parenting in the Internet Age, but their real audience is actually youth themselves. According to Weissner, "At a certain age, we all have to come to grips with the world not belonging to us, or bending to our demands. That has to be getting more difficult to navigate as we build these reward centers in kids that say, 'Yeah, you can get whatever you want immediately, and there's going to be a bunch of cuts in it so that you keep wanting it,'" he says. "Hopefully the younger generation sees their reflection in the protagonist, the way people just a few years older saw themselves and their loved ones as the soldiers in Confusion Through Sand."

Keep informed about Ornana's animation work on their website.

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