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Creator / John R. Dilworth

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"Each day I work at Stretch Films, I ask myself, 'why?' And then an anvil lands on my head!"

Jonathan Russell Dilworth (born February 14, 1963), known affectionately as Dilly, is a New York City-based independent animator, whose work has been featured on various different sources throughout his career, including Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, MTV, and PBS, as well as a number of film festivals across the globe. The name of his animation studio is Stretch Films, Inc.

Dilworth's claim to fame is perhaps the popular Cartoon Network animated series, Courage the Cowardly Dog, which ran from 1999 to 2002, as was based on his Academy Award-nominated short, The Chicken from Outer Space, though he also has a steady cult following of his own, for his wildly imaginative and distinctive-looking animation style, as well as his bizarre and insane storytelling. Dilworth also doesn't limit himself to any specific style of animation, although he usually animates by hand, he's also dabbled in Limited Animation, Claymation, Stop Motion, CGI, and Flash.

Dilworth's catalog of films, shorts, pilots, and series are as follows:

  • Pierre (1985)
  • The Limited Bird (1989)
  • When Lilly Laney Moved In (1991)
  • Psyched for Snuppa (Nickelodeon pilot) (1992) note 
  • The Dirdy Birdy (1994)
  • Smart Talk with Raisin (MTV pilot) (1994)
  • Angry Cabaret (MTV pilot) (1994)
  • The Chicken from Outer Space (Cartoon Network pilot) (1995)
  • Noodles and Nedd (1997)
    • Noodles and Nedd (Series of shorts produced for Sesame Street.) (1997-2001)
    • Catch of the Day (Sequel to original film) (2000)
  • Ace & Avery (Short segments produced for the Children Television Workshop and Cartoon Network series Big Bag.) (1996-1999)
  • Hector the Get-Over Cat (Nickelodeon pilot) (1998)
  • The Mousochist (2001)
  • Life in Transition (2005)
  • Garlic Boy (Nickelodeon pilot) (2008)
  • Rinky Dink (2009)
  • Bunny Bashing (2011)
  • Goose in High Heels (2017)
  • Howl If You Love Me (TBA)

Tropes associated with Dilworth and his work

  • Acme Products: In-universe of almost all work, products are either Dil or Dilly brands. For example, trashbags are known as Dilly Bags, a FedEx Expy is Dil Express, a popular entertainment magazine is Dil Weekly.
  • Alliterative Name: Lilly Laney.
  • Always Save the Girl: Becomes a plot point in Catch of the Day, in which Nedd desperately tries to keep the fish he loves from becoming Noodles's dinner, and later still, when the fish is being chased by a carnivorous eel.
  • Art Shift: Although Dilworth mostly animates by hand, he gotten the hang of animating digitally as well from using Flash for "Goose in High Heels" to using Toon Boom Harmony for "Howl If You Love Me". Initially, Howl was animated by hand at first before he made the switch to directly animating in Harmony during mid-production.
  • Author Avatar: In many of the films, the main character is some kind of caricature of Dilworth himself. Life In Transition is perhaps the most obvious example of this.
  • Boy Meets Girl: In the case of The Dirdy Birdy, more like Dirdy Birdy Meets Narcoleptic Cat.
  • Camp Straight: Has a rather flamboyant personality and often wears pink articles of clothing.
  • Can't Live with Them, Can't Live Without Them: Basically the underlying message of When Lilly Laney Moves In; Frank constantly finds his patience tested with Lilly moving in, between her abundance of belongings she dumps in his apartment, throwing out all of his own belongings, getting a cat when he wanted a dog, complaining that he snores at night, among other things... but in spite of all that, he still loves her.
  • Celebrity Star: In Psyched for Snuppa, Snuppa is voiced by Meatloaf.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Does he look like a sane human being to you?!
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship: On the official Stretch Films website, Angry Cabaret has had all of the MTV music videos that were featured in the short removed, and in fact, the video projection screen in the cabaret is just completely blank.
  • Creator Backlash: Although Dilworth enjoyed producing "Garlic Boy" due to the benefits of the creative-freedom he was given, he considered it a "late period disaster" as his desire to sell it as a series disorted his vision on producing it the way he wanted it, as well as trying to keep the anarchyness of his works on it which he felt "didn't work".
    • Dilworth also believed that his film "Goose in High Heels" was a failure because not a lot of people understood the context of the story the film was playing out.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • It's almost become something of a trademark, in that in almost every work since Courage the Cowardly Dog, Dilworth can be found in a space suit with bananas coming out of his ears. In fact, he actually serves as a character in two of his more recent films: the role of a cellphone storyteller in Rinky Dink, and a humanesque alien who briefly visits earth to witness the violence that earthlings seem to crave so much in Bunny Bashing.
    • Also, with the exception of Courage the Cowardly Dog, and many other shorts that have appeared regular on television, Dilworth tends to provide almost all of the voices in his films.
    • His name, along with the names of other Stretch Films employees will often pop up on-screen.
  • Dance of Romance: The Dirdy Birdy constantly mooning Fergurina.
  • Deranged Animation: Oh hell yes!
  • Did You Just Romance Cthulhu?: A variation in The Noodles & Nedd sequel, Catch Of The Day, finds Nedd falling in love with a female fish he catches one day, and sets it free. On two different occasions, Nedd scuba dives into the ocean to visit her, and in The Stinger, they have babies that all have Nedd's face, and the fish's body.
  • Doing It for the Art: Dilworth revealed that making money from his art never motivates him to produce his work but understands the necessity needed for everyday living and for producing films, as production for "Howl" was troublesome due to budget constraints and real-life expenses.
  • Easter Egg: Many uses, for example, a photo of Nedd is always seen hanging on the wall of Muriel and Eustace's farm house, or the Princess in Rinky Dink has a Dirty Birdy plush toy.
  • Expy: For Garlic Boy, Garlic Boy's elderly farmer parents seem to be expies of Muriel and Eustace from Courage the Cowardly Dog.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: The main title sequence of When Lilly Laney Moved In is set to a series of romantic, black-and-white still shots, accompanied by Joe Williams's "I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me".
  • G-Rated Sex: Subverted in When Lilly Laney Moves In, when Lilly comes down with an ulcer, and Frank's gastrologist uncle suggest he do all he can to help her relax and take it easy. Later that evening, they have sex.
  • Gonk: This is pretty much a standard in character design for Dilworth's work. Be prepared to come across characters with ugly smiles of snaggled teeth (and one tooth will almost always have a hole in it), incredibly unusually shaped eyeballs that seem to protrude out of the characters' heads, tongues that look as if they're diseased, among other abnormalties.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The characters in The Limited Bird are designed as such. The animal characters in the film have non-anthropomorphic bodies, but have human faces.
    • "HOWL if you Love Me" features werewolf characters
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Frank's attitude towards Lilly in When Lilly Laney Moved In, despite how thin his patience is wearing out.
  • Informed Species: Due to Dilworth's overly cartoonish style, some of his non-human characters end up falling into this trope. Noodles, in particular, doesn't even look like a cat and instead looks more like a mouse with pointy ears.
  • In Love with Love: Considering that many of Dilworth's films have romantic overtones, and most of those are based on his own love life... see Write Who You Know below.
  • Interspecies Romance: The Dirdy Birdy, which has an entire plot around the titular Dirdy Birdy trying to court a cat, who seems to show no interest in him at all (and the fact that the Dirdy Birdy's idea of courtship is mooning doesn't help matters).
  • Limited Animation:
    • The overall theme of The Limited Bird, and is all cranked up to eleven, as the whole film itself is basically a series of sequential pencil drawings that tell the story in a manner of a visual storyboard.
    • A majority of Rinky Dink is this, in that the story that Cellphone tells is presented in the style of doodle-esque Flash animation set against a sketchpad background.
  • Long-Distance Relationship: In When Lilly Laney Moved In, Frank and Lilly's relationship started out as such - Frank lived in New York, while Lilly lived in California.
  • Love Allegory: Many of Dilworth's films are fictionalized accounts of his love life. The Limited Bird, When Lilly Laney Moved In, The Dirdy Birdy, Catch of the Day, and Rinky Dink are all based on, or inspired by Dilworth's love life.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Courage the Cowardly Dog, as we all know.
    • Rinky Dink (because he likes to grope his new lover's nipple).
    • Angry Julius, who is almost always, well, angry.
    • Garlic Boy (an anthropomorphic garlic)
  • Medium Blending:
    • Courage the Cowardly Dog did this on occasion; although the show overall was animated 2D, because it was computer animated, there has been a number of cases where characters or entire sequences suddenly switch to 2D Visuals, 3D Effects, most notably King Ramses from the episode "King Ramses' Curse" and the episode "Hard Drive Courage", where Courage himself temporarily becomes CGI when he scans himself into the Computer. CGI is also used in the episode "Perfect" as well as stop motion.
    • Bunny Bashing blends traditional stopmotion, CGI, Flash animation, live action, and puppetry all in the same short.
  • Nightmare Face: You'll experience this from time to time, for example, this is apparently Dirty Birdy and Fergurina's courtship ritual in The Dirdy Birdy and both Raisin from Smart Talk With Raisin and Cabaret Cyclamen from Angry Cabaret just... do this at random, for some reason.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Joe Williams's "I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me" is this for When Lilly Laney Moved In.
  • Robot or Spaceman Alter Ego: A non-musician example. Spaceman Dilly seems to have become Stretch Films' unofficial mascot in recent years. The persona originated as early as Courage the Cowardly Dog, where Eustace would frequently watch him on TV, dancing with a banana in his ears; most recently, he's a major character in Bunny Bashing.
  • Running Gag: In When Lilly Laney Moved In, almost every scene in the short has an out-of-place tire somewhere in the room.
  • Scenery Porn: Courage the Cowardly Dog is perhaps the most notable example, as the series frequently used photorealistic backgrounds, as well color palettes based on the intensity of the lighting and atmosphere, that you usually don't see too often in animated series. Otherwise, Dilworth himself has said that drawing, animating, and everything of that nature ''is'' like porn to him.
  • Shapeshifter: Cabaret Cyclamen has the ability to completely change the look of her face, especially for better emphasis of whatever she's saying to Angry Julius.
    • Courage also does this whenever he tries to explain things to people.
  • Those Two Guys: So many of them, including title characters:
    • Noodles and Nedd
    • Ace and Avery
    • Angry Julius and Cabaret Cyclamen (male-female variation, Angry Cabaret)
    • Raisin and Malcolm (brother-sister variation, Smart Talk With Raisin)
    • Jim Jones and Jules Jenson (male-female variation, Howl If You Love Me)
  • Vanity Plate: The logo of his company features a laughing mouth with the company name written on its teeth.
  • Wild Take: A very prominent feature of his works.