480. Kick Me – Robert Swarthe

Ed Catmull Computer Animated Hand

SUMMARY: A small pair of red legs takes part in a series of chases.

WHY IT’S HERE: Robert Swarthe would later go on to become more well-known as a special effects artists on films such as ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ but he began his career making animated shorts. His 1975 short ‘Kick Me’ earned him an Oscar nomination but its brilliance is hard to encapsulate on paper. Ostensibly a series of high energy chase sequences featuring a small pair of red legs, ‘Kick Me’ is in fact so much more. In his technique (drawing directly onto frames of film) and minimalism, Swarthe betrays his appreciation for the modernist animations that had been in favour since the 1960s, while his sense of humour and pacing show his love for the classic theatrical shorts of the major studios. The opening image of the director drawing and then directly manipulating his creation immediately brings to mind the Fleischer Bros. ‘Out of the Inkwell’ shorts and Chuck Jones’s ‘Duck Amuck’, while the frantic pacing recalls any number of cartoon adversaries and their chases. A moment towards the end, in which an apparent breakdown of the film is flagged up by a card reading ‘One Moment Please’ (accidentally inserted upside down) also tips its hat to the likes of Bob Godfrey and Terry Gilliam. Essentially, Swarthe has fused a wide range of animation styles into a completely successful whole in one superb 8 minute short, no mean feat when you consider how these styles had been seen by many in the industry as diametrically opposed and in direct competition with one another.

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