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.