Run Wrake (1965-2012)

Bummer news out of England. British animator Run Wrake died on Sunday morning from cancer at the age of 47. He is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two children, Florence and Joe.

Wrake was born in 1965 as John Wrake in the Republic of Yemen to a father who was an army chaplain. He attended the Chelsea College of Art and Design, and later the Royal College of Art. He burst onto the animation scene with his student film Anyway (1990), which aired on MTV’s Liquid Television.

Wrake spent the next two decades creating all kinds of animation including music videos (Howie B, Future Sound of London, Manu Chao, The Charlatans), MTV idents, concert visuals (U2), TV commercials, and short films, like Jukebox.

In 2005, he created his most narrative (and critically successful) work, Rabbit, a morality tale about greed and the loss of innocence told through “Dick and Jane”-style illustrations:

When an artist passes away mid-career, it can be difficult to place them into proper historical context, but I wouldn’t hesitate to call Wrake one of the most influential animation filmmakers of our time. This became particularly evident to me when I saw a retrospective of his work at the Ottawa International Animation Festival last month. His relentless creative exploration and audiovisual inventiveness (his film Rabbit had 79 tracks of sounds) was surpassed by few.

Wrake’s unique skill was an ability to synthesize everything happening around him in contemporary culture—Pop Art and collage, Punk/New Wave graphics, video art, Electronica—and filter it through a trippy, looping Fleischer Bros. animation sensibility. His influence—direct and indirect—towered over indie animation of the last couple decades, and can be felt throughout modern animation, from the raw cut-and-paste aesthetic of Martha Colburn to the looping spectacles of Cyriak. While it’s sad that we won’t be seeing any new films from Run Wrake, he leaves behind a rich artistic legacy that will continue to inspire and influence the animation world for many years to come.

Watch more of Run Wrake’s work on Vimeo or YouTube, or watch this interview:


  • Tim

    I’m awfully sorry to hear about this. Just this month I was watched Rabbit for the umpteenth time and marveling at his incredible talent. Had no idea he was ill. Here’s hoping for a retrospective DVD that really showcases his many excellent films.

  • http://www.onedotzero.com shane walter

    It really is devastating news of the passing of the great Run Wrake. He sadly leaves behind a young and loving family and a unique legacy of masterful work with a trail of inspiration for many around the world. His work across animation, visuals, illustration and design will never be forgotten and surely never matched. It was a pleasure to show his projects at onedotzero festivals and events, commission his work in visuals and music videos and drink in his company. From the onedotzero, animation and design communities thank you Run for sharing your work, wit, talent and distinctive way of looking at the world. You will always be a true original.

  • T.D.

    This is absolutely heartbreaking. What a loss.

    Safe travels, Run.

  • http://www.nickcrossanimation.com Nick Cross

    Wow that’s too bad. I was first introduced to his work at the Ottawa Animation Festival back in ’99. I was blown away by it and it had a huge and profound impact on me. Sad, sad news indeed.

  • joel brinkerhoff

    Like Jim Woodring, Wrake’s work took me to places familiar, yet foreign. I marvel at his inventiveness and am glad he left an impressive body of work.

  • Anna

    I’m an animation student. First saw his work at the OIAF and loved it… Sorry to see him go so soon after getting an introduction to his amazing work.

  • http://www.tomkanter.com Tom

    I remember ‘Rabbit’ quite vividly. It was shown in a couple animations classes I took before and during university; very unusual film but brilliantly done. Sad to hear about this, and at such a young age, as well! RIP, Run.

  • Timothy

    I am very sad to hear this terrible news. I have been a fan of his work for several years. He was very original and creative and has been an influence on me.

  • Michel Van

    this is sad.
    i enjoyed his work

  • http://www.brianratigan.com/ ratigan

    This is terrible news.
    Once I discovered Run Wrake’s animation I made sure to keep up and follow him along during his career. He was far from over.

  • Yvette Kaplan

    Shocking and tragic. For his family and for the world. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I first saw Rabbit– it was like a curtain lifting to reveal a beautiful but scary secret maybe too huge to absorb. I was transfixed throughout that unforgettable film and mourn the loss of a great talent and what other gems he would have given us.

  • Doctor Arik Soong

    The first piece of Wrake’s art that i ever saw was on the MTV show liquid television.