I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Run, Wrake! Run!

by Kollin Holtz
March 21, 2015

Remember Dick and Jane books? Me either. They sound awful. “See Jane run. Run, Jane. Run!” Like that, but with every verb and noun you can think of. Yes, run. See if you can escape your own demise, for there’s nothing but literary wasteland on the pages around you. Dick and Jane books are from a generation before, for folks now in their 50’s and 60’s for when they were children. Never have I heard any of them utter a word of praise for the books, nor have they ever been remembered for their character arcs, plot lines or anything else you would choose to remember a book for. They were nothing more than a schoolroom utility used to teach children the basics of grammar and vocabulary, until Run Wrake came around, and made a short, animated morality tale with their cutouts called “Rabbit” in 2005. It garnered him many festival awards, as well as a BAFTA nomination.

Run Wrake’s animations were heavily inspired by 1930’s and 40’s graphics, Dada-ism, and “…early punk and new wave record sleeves and graphics.” Many of his films have been an experimental in subject matter, an approach of ‘found art animation/collage,’ and feature large soundscapes of as many as 76 audio tracks for a short film. The way he approached animation was to take already existing art, and put it in motion. He would work with graphics, especially if it was a character or an item drawn from multiple angles for ease of manipulation when animating. The patterns he picks up on are pop art in style.

His influences come through strong, and they blend together, giving him his own distinct voice and animation style. Some of his animations are art by appropriation of already existing prints and graphics, taking an image and making it a pattern. It’s an Andy Warhol practice of creating art for the masses from commercial packaging, and repeating a print until it looses it’s meaning. Some of them take repetition to an M. C. Escher level, repeating the same sequence over and over, one falling into another, into another, into another. There is a certain amount of surrealism and inspiration from the painter Salvador Dhali, with landscapes and characters transforming into one another and back again.

His role models for animation were the Fleischer Brothers. They were animators responsible for Popeye, Betty Boop and other cartoons of the time. They were stationed on the east coast, and were the largest (and most successful) animation studio outside of Walt Disney at the time. Some of their works blend reality and the cartoon world, and can be self referential in the fact that they have an animation of the animator drawing the character, then interacting with it both on and off the page. Their characters move in time to the music, and their actions are tied to its rhythm.

If you saw Network Awesome’s “Animation Week,” you might remember an interview by Andre Parker with another young animator and comedian who will be contributing to a re-booted version of MTV’s “Liquid Television.” Run got his first big break in the 90’s on MTV’s original “Liquid Television” program with his music video “Anyway.” He says he was given the most freedom when directing these music videos, and you can see his surrealist, Dadaism contrasted with the structured timing of the visuals to the music. I guess that’s the whole point of a music video, but he— Sometimes it’s fun to watch an exercise in experimental (or at least near experimental) animation. Why not?

To give you some scope as to how long his career was, He was on Liquid Television in 1994, and completed “Rabbit” in 2005 to finish up it’s festival run in 2007. That’s a thirteen-year career arc between the two shorts. A few years later, he had a feature animation project in the works that ended up not being finished, because life decided to take over.

“British animator Run Wrake died from cancer at the age of 47 over the weekend, and when I heard about it today I asked myself, “Why does that name sound familiar?” Turns out it’s because he directed a BAFTA-nominated short film called “Rabbit” that I posted four years ago. Do you know how awesome an 8-minute short film from four years ago has to be for me to remember it? “Rabbit” is that awesome, I promise you.” (Mancini, 2009.)

There is surprisingly little information on this guy, but everywhere I’ve looked, everyone has said the same things about him. How it was too early for him, and how loved his animations were. Many were especially fond of (and I know you’re tired of seeing the name) “Rabbit.” These words of astonishment—the notion of strangers on the internet showing an outpouring of support for the mans life and work, and sorrow at his loss may seem trite, or even forced. It often does. This time it feels like an exception, that people really do mean it. He was only 47, he was married, and he was about to make a feature length cartoon of his own.

I won’t try to convince you. His films do a fine job of that themselves. Now, Scoop up some popcorn and put it in a bag where it falls through into another popcorn popper and you...

…Scoop up some popcorn and put it in a bag where it falls through into another popcorn popper and you...

Scoop up some popcorn and put it in a bag where it falls through into another popcorn bag you're holding as you sit in front of your computer and you--

Watch the videos! Play videos, play!

Parker, Andre. "Drennon Davis, and His Long Legs."Network Awesome. N.p., 16 10 2011. Web. 18 Jul. 2013. <http://networkawesome.com/mag/article/drennon-davis-and-his-long-legs/>.

Mancini, Vince. "RIP, Run Wrake, the most talented dude you’ve never heard of." FilmDrunk. N.p., 23 10 2012. Web. 17 Jul. 2013. <http://filmdrunk.uproxx.com/2012/10/rip-run-wrake-the-most-talented-dude-youve-never-heard-of>.

AnimateProjects, , dir. Run Wrake Interview. Vimeo, Film. 18 Jul 2013. <http://www.animateprojects.org/films/by_date/2005/atv_r_wrake>.

AnimateProjects. prod. APEngine speaks to Run Wrake. Prod. APEngine, and Run Wrake. YouTube, 2009. Web. 16 Jul 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=tOzza6ItU5k

Wikipedia Sources:

Max Fleischer - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Fleischer

Dave Fleischer - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Fleischer

Fleischer Studios - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleischer_Studios

Kollin Holtz is a comedian, writer, and filmmaker living in a closet under the stairs in San Francisco, CA. Check out his website,www.kollinholtz.com for updates on his shows, and his podcast “Closet Talk With Kollin Holtz.” You may also follow him on twitter @KollinHoltz if ya fancy.