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Cartoon Brew TV #21: “Singles” by Rebecca Sugar

When I first discovered Rebecca Sugar’s drawings, I was perplexed by her work yet dazzled by her drawing chops. She impressed again with this masterful comic piece. Now, we’re proud to present the online premiere of her thesis film Singles, which picked up the award for best Experimental Film at last month’s Animation Block Party. With this film, she shows herself to be both a creative animator and a thoughtful filmmaker. The short’s visual gymnastics are staggering, with characters nested into each other and whose shifting perspectives confound the senses while creating mystery and intrigue. The film was made at the School of Visual Arts, the same school that brought us the last Cartoon Brew TV film, Jake Armstrong’s The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9!

Questions for Rebecca are welcome. She’ll be participating in the comments section below. If you’d like to find out more about her work, visit her website or blog. Here is more about Singles, in her own words:

I love to draw comics, so for my thesis I wanted an idea that absolutely had to be animated. I wanted to do Singles because it could never work as a comic; it hardly worked as an animatic!

The main guy lives with infinite selves, they all move the same way at the same time because they’re all the same person. The film is about being alone.

I came up with this film one night when I couldn’t sleep. All that really changed after that was the main character, he started out thin and got fatter every time I drew him. My friend Frans Boukas came up with using “Singles” as American cheese and as the title, I thought it was perfect! I asked my advisor Don Poynter about it, and he said, “But you have only one character, and ‘singles’ is plural.” I said, “Oh, but he IS plural!”

The radio voice is my good friend Peyton Skyler. He and Mikhail Shraga have inspired me for years to be less narrative and more conceptual. The chewing and humming is Ian Jones-Quartey. He inked and animated chunks of the film and was a huge inspiration to me in general.

I wanted this film to imply that there’s a lot more going on than what the guy or the audience can see. This guy is getting a fraction of a much bigger picture that he can’t possibly understand. This film is part one in a trilogy. All three films happen in the same apartment building at the same time. What happens in all three films happens in each individual film though that character doesn’t know or see it. What is actually happening is something else entirely and can’t be known.

Part two is Peyton Skyler’s Cat which can be viewed at Peyton’s website, and part three is Mikhail Shraga’s Metromorphosis, which can be viewed on Mikhail’s website.

  • Rebecca, you’re incredible. Keep doing comic books, but whatever you do, don’t stop animating.

  • Karim


    Congratulations, looking forward to see your upcoming works.

  • man, this truly is impressive. i have been in love with rebecca’s work since i read her simpsons comic but this really goes way beyond.

    one thought though: i think there really is a lot ~less~, not “more”, going on here, math-wise. i mean: 1 > 1/2 > 1/4 > 1/8 > 1/16 ad infinitum.

    thanks for sharing.

  • Rebecca Sugar is a sheer genius. Her poses and expressions are distilled to the peak of their highest tension, expression and motion. In a Scribner-esque way, she is able to make her characters bend and warp, while still maintaining great appeal and readability.

    Besides masterly drawing, her characters and concepts are completely original, it’s nothing you can get from an instructional book or a course in creative writing, as I can detect no resemblance to the usual formulas, she has a voice of her own.

    Thanks for posting this Amid! :)

  • Thanks for putting this up Amid! I’ll always be amazed by her style.

  • Rebecca, I remember when I first saw you shoot some of these scenes on the lunchbox, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My eyes nearly fell out of my skull when I saw the perspective shots.

    You were so devoted to this film, all three of you were. Your film definitely floored me at the screening & I’m so happy that it’s finally up online not just because I’ve been wanting to watch it over & over again, but because now more people can see this & just as big a kick out of it as I do (if not more so).

  • PeterF

    Fantastic, amazing work, as always, from Rebecca Sugar. It has the same mix of haunting and funny that her previous animations have had. The world needs more of her work.

  • Trevor

    Outstanding film! I would have done everything to shy away from animating stuff twice from different angles. It looks like you used maya or some other 3d program as a guide for some of those perspective heavy shots, am I right? Can you explain your process on that?

  • Fantastic. Congratulations!

  • Great short. I liked the concept, and overall it was very unique and different.

  • T

    i keep finding rebecca sugar things. My goodness, were’s watching a genius in the making! not only are her SKILLS amazing relative to her age, but also her body of work : her online comics series “pug davis” is better than 90% of the stuff sold at stores, and she even got her work published in one of the great 10 percenters : THE GOON! can you believe it?

    I know i sound sniveling, but as an aspiring artist myself, i hope she gets a few lucky breaks, and gets to work on projects of her own, instead of wasting her talent on other people’s vision. More, mrs. sugar, please more.

  • Gijs Grob

    I enjoyed it a lot! Original idea and beautifully animated.

    Even though it’s very different in style, it reminds me of Paul Driessen’s classic ‘The Killing of an Egg’


  • Thanks so much everybody!!!
    And thanks Trevor, no I didn’t use any maya for my perspective shots, I really wanted to work on my perspective drawing so I did it by hand, I had lots of help from Don Poynter though!

  • Fantastic film!
    The way he moves, it matches how he looks.. which can be difficult. The animation seems a tad economized, in that good way where inbetweens would only hurt the effect. Linework in here is also really beautiful.
    It feels good to see a new animator with a strong voice enter the scene.

  • Rebecca’s talent is ridiculous. As my brother said, please keep animating. Above all, don’t stop drawing.

    For those who have not seen Peyton and Mikhail’s films, the other two legs of this trilogy, be sure to check them out. The cumulative effect is a lot of fun to see, this was a very clever and creative collaboration between them all.

  • Doofus

    Rebecca Sugar has been someone I’ve been keeping an eye on. She kicks so much ass it’s ridiculous. A lot of originality, appealing designs and GOD the girl can sure draw.

  • Holy Cow! What a nice film…and thoughtful, too! The idea that fragments of our actions are going on all around us in parallel worlds, slightly different and slightly out of sync…and that we interact with these fragments sometimes…well, it’s fascinating to think about.

    I like the animation, too. Glorious full animation! Great hand poses! My guess is that you did it on Flash using a Wacom tablet, but Digicel is a possibility. Anyway, great stuff! Congratulations!

  • Hey Rebecca-

    I’ve already told you how much I liked your film and comics in an email, but I have a technical question…Which program(s) did you use to ink and color your film? Or was it all done traditionally (inked by hand, colored with cell paint)?

    Thanks :)

  • Hi Eddie (I’m a big fan!!), and hey again Emily! I did this film all in pencil and then inked it with markers, micron graphic 1s. I had lots of help inking from Ian Jones-Quartey. I scanned and then colored it digitally, with lots of help from my brother Steven. The bgs were done the same way, except for the hallway outside of his body, which was acrylic paint on cardboard.

  • Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.

  • I was wondering why this wasn’t up here sooner. Honestly one of my favorite short films of all time.

  • Ever since I played the video game Portal, I’ve been looking for other uses of parallax views. This is the best.

  • Gio

    This thesis was badassss. I love the concept and I love the style and design and the style of animation. I have a question Rebecca, how long did it take you to finish the whole film ? How much of that time was spent on animation? Was all the animation done by you and you alone? Thanks and I cant wait to see more of your work!

  • christy

    wow! so good!!! amazing drawings/draftsmanship and really great clever film! can’t wait to see more of her work! same with jake too! there were a lot of great sva films this year actually!

  • G Melissa Graziano

    Really original and creative, and expertly executed! Hats off!

  • Active!
    That is a beautiful piece of work! Looking forward to checkin out more of your comics and animation!

  • Hey Rebecca-

    I was so very very proud to see Singles here. I have always and will always love your work and its been such a treat watching you go from great to holy crap! You had me hooked from Pug Davis on and your linework just gets more phenomenal everyday.

    We knew you’d make it kid! Congratulations!

  • Nicely done. Hope you’ll do more films.

  • Charlie

    Been waiting to see this for months, bout time this showed up somewhere.

  • This is a cracker of a film from a cracker of an artist.

  • Oluseyi

    While 1> 1/2 > 1/4 > 1/8, etc, the limit to infinity of the summation of all those fractions (and 1) is 2, which is greater than 1. Just a piece of math-based contradiction to brighten your day! : )

    @Rebecca Sugar:
    Fantastic work.

  • Dock Miles

    What fun, amazing work. My favorite moment came when, just as I realized “wait — that means there has to be a BIGGER one, too,” the giant hand flashed down and set the character back in the room.

  • this is so good i think i just cried a little!

  • Very, very good and inspiring. Please keep doing thes! So nice to see hand drawn animation done with a sense of style and personality.

  • FP

    Loved it. All that was missing was a fractal zoom effect.

  • Mike Fontanelli

    That was one of the most sophisticated student films I’ve ever seen – and from SVA, my old alma mater. It’s proudly cartoony, (at a time when most animation studios are slavishly aping live-action films, thanks to imagination-challenged execs who fancy themselves “creative.”) Rebecca’s understanding of perspective and anatomy, especially of the human hand and its potential for expression, are masterful.

  • I’d like to hear more about your process. Did you Streamline the drawings and color them in Flash? The line work looks vector. What programs did you use to composite? Just curious.

    You totally rule! Keep making films please!

  • This film blows my mind for several reasons. Fun to watch, and fascinating to contemplate. Good sound design, too. You deserve all the praise you’re getting and then some, Rebecca. I’m really curious about your fascination with hand gestures—all of which show a strong understanding of anatomy that I envy. And you don’t hide from cartoonyness—you embrace exaggeration. If I can ever truly wrap my head around animation, this is the kind of film I would strive to make. Congratulations!

  • Leedar

    Hah, John K. brigade out in force I see.

    The solution to falling infinitely is the best part. I have to admit, I didn’t quite get it the first time around.

  • Amish Kumar

    Ive been following Rebecca’s work for a little less than a year now. I just fell in love with the way she draws cartoon characters if they actually had flesh. I never thought in my entire life that i would so intently love gay edd ed and eddy fanart. Keep up the good work and keep on inspiring me!

  • This is really really amazing!!! Please keep doing more of this. The idea is the best part. You inspire me.

  • Archagon

    Did the style remind anyone else of Aeon Flux?

    Also, is there any chance of getting a high definition version of this?

  • JoJo

    Excellent work. The only distraction I had- and this isn’t a criticism, just a curiosity- is the following…. The way the guy was designed:with long eye-lashes, limp writsts and no shirt, made him seem gay- not to mention his body language and vocalizations. Makes me wonder if the film was somehow supposed to be about homosexuality.

    Conceptually it’s brilliant and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with that except for the way the character is designed and moves so I wonder why he’d look and move that way if that’s not what it’s about.

    Don’t blast me for being un-P.C. I’m just wondering.

  • This is an amazing piece.

    The greatest thing about it is that I’ve re-watched it many times always finding something new.

    Congratulations, Rebecca!

    Just an observation.

    Do you think he could give himself a giant slice of cheese? That would be awesome!

  • Top notch! I like the simplicity of a void when directing his chest-view window towards the outer window. I half expected one of those cool video feedback infinity spirals you get when pointing a video camera at its own monitor. The void is best for the story of course!

  • Robert Schaad

    COOL. COOl. COol. Cool. cool.

  • Emily Henochowicz

    Woah, small world. I remember I went to the summer program at Einstein because I was thinking of transferring to it (but I didn’t) and your brother told me about you and showed me Pug Davis, and told me you were so good, you were just going to school for the degree but you didn’t really need it, and you wanted to work for Invader Zim or had an offer or something… anyways stellar work.

  • Still as awesome as the first time I saw it. B)

    Excellent job again Rebec, I can hardly believe you hand-inked every bit of that. Can’t wait to see what else ya got in store, good luck to ya!

  • Mitch Kennedy

    Heck yes Rebecca Sugar! :D

  • Brian

    Wow, I’ve been a fan of Rebecca Sugar’s comics for a while now (Don’t Cry For Me still makes me tear up every time I read it), but the short film is brilliant too! I’m not even a freshman at college yet, but I’m gonna try my best to be as good as her.

  • Gio, this film took me a little over a year, and I did most of the animation myself but a few scenes were animated and a good bunch of scenes were inked by Ian Jones-Quartey, ( And I had lots of coloring help from my brother Steven (
    Chris Allison, I inked by hand with micron graphics, scanned and colored in photoshop, composited with after effects!
    JoJo, I suppose the guy could be gay, but I didn’t mean it explicitly, mostly I just wanted him to be very sensitive. He had to be shirtless so you can see his room!
    Rohit, yes he could give himself giant food! I was trying for a while to work out whether or not he could stand at the edge, face the door, and fall backwards into the bigger room, but I don’t think that would work.

    I put up a rough cut of the film on youtube!! It has lots of pencil tests, some inks, a few colored scenes with the color keys still visible, if anyone wants to take a look:

  • I am pretty much speechless… w0w, just w0w. You are a great inspiration to me now!

  • Gio

    Rebecca thanks so much for the response!!! The rough cut is aweeesome I love the rough drawings, they have incredible amount of energy and gesture. Thanks again, what are you planning next?!? I cant wait to see more.

  • Shmorky

    Rebecca, your style is so wonderful… and I’m totally jealous that Ian got to work with you.

  • Kat

    Conceptually and technically brilliant. I want to be Rebecca Sugar when I grow up.

  • Keith Paynter

    Absolutely wonderful! It also takes the “painting within a painting within a painting…” concept to a much more satisfying level. And the style is sheer delight! Well done, Rebecca!

  • This is one of the coolest cartoons I’ve ever seen. So well done! Bravo!

  • Singles is a beautiful and playful short and I treat myself constantly by watching it when I want to see something inspiring. I imagine Rebecca will become well known and respected in the years to come.

  • We’re fans!

  • Thomas

    I can’t believe you’re so young and so unbelievably good. Wow.

    I…I’d go on but I’m honestly speechless. Bra Vo.

  • Rebecca,
    this is simply amazing. You’ve been sharing your work with me for years, now, and while your comics are mind blowing, this short tops it all!
    I know that good ideas come pretty naturally to you, but this animation is also astounding. There are some fore-shortened fingers in here that I wouldn’t have the guts to draw. You are iron woman. Kids like you give me hope for the future of art, animation, creativity and comics.

    Keep doing your amazing little thing.


  • For out of all the indie short films I have seen. This is pretty clever, not to mention I sense some influence from Doug tennapel on here. Not to mention the music is rather catchy for the suiting of the short. Rebecca keep it up with the amazing work of your animation and comics.


  • Eric

    Seems the link to “Metamorphosis” is no longer working.. I’d love to see it up and working. :)

  • tomm

    Just amazing. wow.

  • Colman

    Here’s a working link to the third part of the trilogy, Mikhail Shraga’s “Metromorphosis”:

  • Dally

    Rebecca I love your work ! And I love your music in adventure time and I think you should write a song and sing it for us the viewers also I think you Rock!