The Elephant's Garden The Elephant's Garden

In this ongoing series, we profile the most interesting independent animation filmmakers working today — the artists who, through short films and other projects, change our ideas of what the medium can do.

This week’s subject is Australian animator and Youtube sensation Felix Colgrave.

In a phrase: Hallucinogenic, surrealist, and hypnotic takes on nature. Imagine if Hunter S. Thompson teamed up with Terry Gilliam and an unbalanced nature enthusiast.

Where to start: The Elephant’s Garden (2013). Set inside a trippy garden, animals devour or beat the crap of one another. Basically, we’re in a dog-eat-dog world, and there’s not much to be done about it. We are all predators. But, hey, if that’s too dark, just enjoy the sumptuous visuals and soundtrack.

What to watch next: Donks (2023). Colgrave’s latest work is an imaginative take on plastics (specifically plastic toys) that contrasts their innocent, playful beginnings with their destructive and discarded ends in the bottoms of oceans. Or, well, something like that! Only Colgrave truly knows what the hell is happening!

Other key works:  Man Spaghetti (2012), Double King (2017), Dry Run (2018), music video for Cypress Hill’s “Muggs is Dead” (2018), Throat Notes (2020)

Influences: “My ‘favorite’ art is very fickle, and it changes every week. Usually, stuff quite different from my own work excites me. I try my best to incorporate those fleeting interests as I go so my work feels fresh to ME, but I’m probably too set in my methods at this point for it to change that much.

I’d say the only real consistent influence that comes to mind is Australian children’s author/illustrator Peter Pavey- look him up; he’s great. His illustrations informed how I learned to draw as a kid, but still excite me today.

As far as other early influences, I think I’ve always had an obsession with generic cartoon vernacular- the design tropes that are copied and copied and turned up as mascots for small businesses or as unbranded toys, etc., that’s just completely divorced from real-world observation, not really something I can attribute to anyone. I simultaneously adore the work of many scientific illustrators and naturalists, but I’ve never wanted to go down that path because I’m too interested in the way real observations get squashed down into unrecognizable symbols. The space between those two things is my favorite.”

Says: “Doodle or thought, never script. I usually doodle while I’m thinking anyway. I’ll be drawing, and either I get an idea and start drawing it and working out how it looks in real life, or I’ll happen to doodle something I like and then start trying to build an idea around it.”

Currently working on: “I’m primarily working on independent shorts back-to-back, thanks to supporters on Patreon. But also, my wife and I have recently started a studio called Wombot as an umbrella for our collaborative endeavors and commercial projects.

Pictured at top: The Elephant’s Garden

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Chris Robinson

Chris Robinson

Chris Robinson is a writer and Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF). Robinson has authored thirteen books including Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy: A Story of Estonian Animation (2006), Ballad of a Thin Man: In Search of Ryan Larkin (2008), and Japanese Animation: Time Out of Mind (2010). He also wrote the screenplay for the award-winning animation short, Lipsett Diaries.

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