Sally Cruikshank, one of America's most influential animators, has put her films up on YouTube. She created her most popular work, a series of animated sequences for "Sesame Street," from 1989-2000. Her earlier cartoons, however, broke new stylistic ground in animation. My favorite is the 1987 short "Face Like a Frog."
The film is beautiful. According to Cruikshank's website, she painted the backgrounds in gouache on Arches paper. I find the colors stunning. Moreover, the colors of the background enhance the movement of the characters in the foreground. Try that trick, Pixar!
The drawing and detail of the film are fascinating. Ialways watch films I review a second time before I write, and I started picking up funny jokes and allusions in the backgounds as I watched the film again. Small, quick details made me laugh, and I saw stylistic nods to Van Gogh and Munch.
Danny Elfman composed the original music for this film and sings the tune "Don't Go in the Basement." When the film was made Elfman was vocalist and composer for the New Wave/Experimental band Oingo Boingo. He later composed the theme music for Tim Burton movies like "Batman" and "Edward Scissorhands" and TV shows like "The Simpsons." My favorite lines from the song are:
You can fill yourself with static
Wit the the ghosts up in the attic
But don't go in the basement!
The story is a gothic take on "A Frog Went A-Courting," except the frog's love interest is a Vampira-like female frog. She rolls out (literally) on the highway and ask thefrog hero for help. Someone, she says, has put a hex on her house. They go to the house, and the film gets stranger and more fun.
The Take Away
The cartoon may be too intense and confusing for small children to find it amusing. As a cartoon for adults and teens, it's great fun. I wouldn't hesitate to screen it at an adult Halloween party. Aficianados of the short film will view it time and again. Art history buffs may wish to study the film as an example of a work by a woman artist. Women artists don't get the attention they deserve today, and they got even less in the 1980s.
You can see the film on YouTube:
Sally Cruikshank's web site is www.funonmars.com.
An earlier version of this article appeared on Triond's Quazen website: