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Cartoon Friday Watercooler: What On Earth!


It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

A classic hot rod car with large, eye-like headlamps. The fish-eye lens effect makes its front axle appear to smile.

Welcome to Earth!

Tonight’s selection is another great animation from the National Film Board of Canada. Les Drew and Kaj Pindal created the Oscar-nominated What On Earth! in 1966. This short’s gimmick is clear in moments, but the charming animation and imaginative imagery carried me through its nearly 10 minute running time.

Henry Grabar, writing for The Atlantic Cities, comments on the time period which gave birth to this cartoon:

The year was 1966, and enthusiasm for urban renewal was waning. Senator Abraham Ribicoff, of Connecticut, pleaded for a greater emphasis on the individual in municipal tear-outs. New York’s great planner of the era, Robert Moses, had begun to lose battles to preservationists.

Angst for the age of the automobile was in the air, and few pieces capture that quite like What on Earth!, which was nominated for Best Short Film at the Academy Awards that year. Apparently, the Danish animator Kaj Pindal had intended to make a film showing that ‘in spite of appearances, man is the master in the automated world,’ for the National Film Board of Canada. Perhaps it was the influence of co-director Les Drew, but the end result is considerably more cynical.

Nevertheless, the film is classic Pindal: simple, charming, and whimsical animation.

Grabar also recommends Kaj Pindal: Laugh Lines, a short documentary on the animator.

Thanks M. Christian for linking this cartoon.

What cartoons have you enjoyed recently?

More cartoons from the NFB of Canada: Blinkety Blank and Madame Tutli Putli.

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Photo by Mike Baird released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and