“We cannot live in the past; we have to let it go.”
Animated short film “World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts” takes an existential look at life, death and the future. This worthy follow-up to Austin resident Don Hertzfeldt’s 2015 masterpiece is beautiful, heartbreaking and one of the best films of the year.
Outside of Disney and Pixar, animated short films rarely manage to garner the widespread recognition of feature-length animation. Austin resident Don Hertzfeldt did the impossible in 2015 with “World of Tomorrow,” an Oscar-nominated micro-budget animated short that achieved widespread acclaim. Now, he repeats that success with a wonderful and deeply moving sequel.
The hook of “World of Tomorrow” was twofold—a look into the future through a conversation with an older version of one’s self, and dialogue almost entirely consisting of Hertzfeldt’s conversations with his own niece. Emily, a young girl, is visited by a version of herself 200 years into the future, and given a tour of the “outernet,” an interconnected consciousness where everyone in the future lives.
For the sequel, “World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts,” Hertzfeldt literally turns inward, with his characters exploring their own minds. The younger version of the character, Emily Prime (Winona Mae) is delightfully absurd and adorable, sometimes playing along with Hertzfeldt’s plot and other times rambling about an imaginary planet entirely populated by triangles.
An older clone of Emily Prime, known as Emily 6, is voiced by Julia Pott, reprising her role as a third-generation Emily clone from the first “World of Tomorrow.” Pott is once again brilliant, reading Hertzfeldt’s written dialogue that carries the plot of the film and provides a textual reasoning for each bit of nonsense that comes from Emily Prime.
Hertzfeldt’s flexes his amazing skill at contextualizing his niece’s dialogue throughout the film’s brief 20 minute runtime. The journey the two Emilies take into their own self-conscious leads to very deep observations about individuals’ fear of hope and the future. These glimpses into Emily’s buried thoughts are what elevate “World of Tomorrow,” and its sequel, above the packed crowd of animated shorts. Instead of settling for cheap jokes or sentimentality, the films use high-concept science fiction to dwell on lofty ideals and universal human fears, creating intimate moments that will resonate with every viewer. By taking a journey inward instead of outward, “World of Tomorrow Episode 2” is even more profound in its exploration of the human subconscious—a necessary view for any fan of animation and meditations on the nature of humanity.
In direct juxtaposition with these lofty themes are the simple visuals, as the animation style of “World of Tomorrow” uses hand-drawn stick figures against digitally animated abstract backgrounds to create a mesmerizing aesthetic. Much of the details of the environment are left to the viewer’s imagination, an entirely unique aspect in a visual medium like cinema. Though simple in execution, the style is deliberate, and allows the whimsical film to achieve a large scope by showing very little.
Brilliant visuals, adorable voiceovers and meditations on existential dread are sure to make the brief “World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts” last long in the audience’s memories.
- “World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts”
- Rating: Not yet rated
- Runtime: 20 minutes
- Score: 5/5 stars