“The Forbidden Forest” by Keith Rondinelli

Creepy and atmospheric animation is hard to pull off, but Keith Rondinelli does it with style in his dark and hallucinatory short The Forbidden Forest. To fully appreciate its visual design, watch the HD version on Vimeo and put on your headphones because the sound design adds a lot to the mood. Intentional or not, the film has a Run Wrake influence, but that may be an inevitable comparison for any filmmaker who manipulates antique imagery in After Effects. Keith’s film goes beyond mere imitation by creating a rich and immersive three-dimensional world for its flat cut-out heroine to navigate.

Rondinelli directed, animated, scored and edited this film by himself over a period of six months inbetween client work at Woodhouse, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based creative services studio where he is co-founder and chief creative director. I asked him to share some details about the production of The Forbidden Forest:

The Forbidden Forest is inspired by the work of Arthur Machen, who was a Welsh writer of supernatural fiction from the late 19th and early 20th century, specifically his classic tale “The White People”. I’m also a big fan of 1960s and 1970s animation and cinema, so the impetus for the piece was an attempt to marry the feel of Arthur Machen with movies such as René Laloux’s Fantastic Planet, Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man, and the films of Stanley Kubrick, namely 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining.

Outsider art is another longtime love of mine, and I wanted the piece to somehow fuse a 60s/70s widescreen cinematic language with the strange, obsessive imperfectness of outsider artists such as Henry Darger and Adolf Wolfli. The collage-like aesthetic was achieved by a lengthy process of scanning antique imagery from old books and obtaining it from online and other sources, colorizing and color-correcting, and then assembling and animating the elements in Adobe After Effects. The piece was edited in Adobe Premiere, and scored by myself using Apple’s Logic Pro.

Visit the official film website.


  • http://www.flipos.cl antonia herrera

    Great short!
    The composition is amazing.

  • http://pyatyletka.blogspot.com Nick Cross

    Wow, I really liked that. Yeah, Run Wrake did something like this a few years ago, but actually I like this one better…

  • http://woweh.com Kelly

    Really, really cool. I can definitely see the Run Wrake influence, but this is a creature all its own. I was mesmerized. Great job!

  • Mr. Tat

    Was a little iffy towards the cut-out designs of the heroine at first, but they really work for the creepy people and the backgrounds. Also, I’m a sucker for animation that explores darker imagery. It also didn’t hurt the fact that it had nice colors and eerie sound effects whenever appropriate.