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 the influential English animator, Phil Mulloy, whose bold, grotesque, and minimalist works explore the dark and savage side of human nature.
In a sentence: Drawn with thick, bold lines featuring stick figure characters with black skulls, white eyes, and a penis-shaped nose, Mulloy’s films are drenched with stinging sarcasm as they unearth social, political, and religious inconsistencies and hypocrisies, while exploring their repressive and often cruel effects on humanity.
Where to start: Intolerance (2000). In this allegory about a war between Earth and the distant planet Zog (whose inhabitants are really just humans with their genitals and heads reversed), Mulloy fiercely criticizes xenophobia, conformity, racism and our general intolerance of anyone or thing that seems a bit different.
What to watch next: The History of the World – Episode 16: The Invention of Writing and Its Destruction (1994). In this raunchy, not-suitable-for-immature-types episode of Mulloy’s mini-series (there are three parts in total), we learn about how writers came to be because they were a punch of spineless sponges who couldn’t get laid. As usual, Mulloy cuts through the muck to show the ugliness of truth and the truth of ugliness. Oh, and it’s pretty damn funny…in that cringy, uncomfortable way. Think Gary Larson meet Monty Python at Ralph Steadman’s studio.
Other key works: Cowboys (1991), The Sound of Music (1994), The Ten Commandments (1994-1996), Endgame (2016)
Influences: Robert Bresson, 17th-century English woodcuts, Jean-Luc Godard, Mexican “Day of the Dead” iconography.
Says: “I think the way society is organized is very strange at times, and what people believe is very strange at times, and somehow I want to record the strangeness and say, ‘Wow, isn’t this odd.’ So I highlight this oddness with humor.”
Currently working on: Mulloy just completed his latest short, Happily Ever After (2022). It screened at Animafest Zagreb earlier this month.