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In the spring of 1999, the Family Learning Channel commissioned animator Don Hertzfeldt to produce promotional segments for their network. The cartoons were completed in five weeks. The Family Learning Channel rejected all of them upon review, and they were never aired...

Rejected is a collection of animated shorts from animator Don Hertzfeldt, revolving around a fictionalized version of himself creating advertising bumpers for various companies, all of which are rejected on sight. Hertzfeldt utilized a very minimalist approach to the artwork and incorporated very surreal elements. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in the year 2000.

An HD restoration of the short was put together for the Blu-ray release of Hertzfeldt's It's Such a Beautiful Day. It can be seen for free on Hertzfeldt's YouTube channel here.

The cartoon is only 10 minutes long, so spoilers are unmarked. All the better reason to watch the cartoon before reading this page.

Rejected contains examples of:

  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: A significant portion of the spoken dialogue has really weird intonation.
  • Apocalypse How: invokedClass X-4 through technicality. While it's established early on that the universe shown off in each vignette is nothing more than fiction, the characters themselves seem to have their own agendas and free will. Through a case of Creator Breakdown once Don's creativity bottoms out due to a depressive state formed from all of his shorts being shunned, he unleashes the apocalypse unto his creations, complete with page tearing and creasing. At one point, a stick figure is banging on the paper, pleading for help, showing at full display the fact that this human-created universe acts separately to our own.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Ticks cannot fly no matter how angry they are.
    • Rabbits cannot howl or fire angry ticks out of their nipples.
  • Batter Up!: The members of the "Silly Hats Only" club beat a man wearing a top hat with bats for insufficient silliness.
  • Black Comedy: "Honey, come quick, Poopie's taking his first steps!" (baby then falls down an endless flight of stairs to wild applause)
  • Bland-Name Product: The Family Learning Channel is an obvious riff on The Learning Channel, while Johnson & Mills combines the names of household product manufacturer SC Johnson and food company General Mills.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Several of the segments have copious amounts of blood Played for Laughs, such as the second and third scenes with Those Two Guys and the "My anus is bleeding!" segment.
  • Body Horror: Having a giant growth form on your forehead, having your eye explode into a never-ending stream of blood, having your anus bleed infinitely...
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Dance! Everybody dance!" "Yay!" "Life is good!" "This is fun!" "My anus is bleeding!"
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Probably one of the most chilling examples with the ending. The cartoon becomes "unstable" and the stick figures have to outrun the pages being creased, holes become literal black-holes and characters get crushed by the credits.
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Literally, with the "Silly Hats Only" segment.
  • Captain Obvious: The "My spoon is too big" scene consists of a boy proclaiming that his massive spoon is too big for his diminutive bowl of food, before an anthropomorphic banana walks on-screen and states that they are, in fact, a banana.
  • Creator Breakdown: invokedParodied; Don grows increasingly depressed as short after short is rejected, and as his creativity bottoms out, the animated world collapses in on itself.
  • Dada Ad: The entire point/Framing Device of Rejected. Don's ads are bizarre and disturbing, and they have nothing to do with the product they're supposed to advertise. Deconstructed, as because of this they are rejected again and again, causing Don's mental health to degrade more and more.
  • Deranged Animation: And how!
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The man with the top hat at the "Silly Hats Only" club gets beaten with aluminum baseball bats because his hat isn't silly enough.
  • Downer Ending: invokedEnds with the cartoon's world falling apart and collapsing in on itself to symbolize Don's Creator Breakdown. Especially eerie since the final shot is of presumably the final person to die, looking up in horror as the image distorts violently before swiping to black.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: At the end, the entire cartoon world falls apart into nothingness as the creator has a nervous breakdown.
  • Exact Words: Silly hats ONLY.
  • Eye Scream:
    • The last of the segments for the Family Learning Channel has a guy start bleeding from one of his eyes.
    • The first of the Johnson & Mills ads has an alien steal a guy's eyes. Other than being blinded, he doesn't seem too bothered by it.
  • Happy Dance: The cloud-like characters perform this to a Swedish Christmas song, and they keep doing it even after one of the character's anus starts bleeding.
  • Hell Is That Noise: invokedWhen the Dream Apocalypse begins, right before the clouds and stars start to fall, a distorted moaning noise can be heard, likely Don moaning in agony from his depression.
  • High-Pressure Blood:
    • The scene where the guy's eye pops and the jet of blood from the socket sprays all over his friend.
    • The character in the "My anus is bleeding!" scene ends up drowning in his own blood.
  • Hong Kong Dub: Played for laughs with the two normal-looking stick figures.
  • Medium Awareness: During the climax, at least one character is desperately banging on the Fourth Wall, either trying to escape or seeking the viewer's help.
  • Minimalism: For a guy known for making the most of strange and sneaky camera tricks, this is incredibly stripped-down.
  • Mood Whiplash: The "Dance!" segment begins with a fluffy, cloud-like creature encouraging similarly-shaped friends to dance and have fun. Everyone is happy and cheerful... and then the main character's anus starts bleeding profusely. He desperately screams for help, all while the others keep dancing and laughing.
    • "First Steps" begins with a baby walking for the first time... and ends with said baby tumbling down a massive flight of stairs.
  • Mouth Flaps: Intentionally mismatched with the dialogue.
  • Napoleon Delusion: One character tears a chunk of flesh off of another and wears it like a crown, proclaiming that "I am the queen of France!"
  • Non Sequitur:
    • "Tuesday's coming. Did you bring your coat?" "I live in a giant bucket..."
    • "Do you want to go see a movie?" "I'm feeling fat and sassy!"
  • Old-Timey Cinema Countdown: One appears before every segment, but only the 3 appears and it flashes away as soon as it ticks down to 2.
  • Overly Long Scream: The segment where one guy starts bleeding profusely from his eye, and he and his friend just stand there screaming at each other.
  • Our Slogan Is Terrible: Several of the ads for Johnson & Mills products.
    Johnson & Mills Fish Sticks: "Now With More Sodium!" "Sweet Jesus!"
    Johnson & Mills Kelp Dip: "I Am a Consumer Whore!" "And How!"
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Characters consistently bleed in the form of ridiculously large fountains. This eventually reaches its logical conclusion when the character with a ruptured anus drowns in a sea of his own blood.
  • Pop-Up Trivia: One version of the short has text commentary by Hertzfeldt.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The interstitial information cards use brief excerpts from Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The character who says "My anus is bleeding" does so thrice: calmly the first time, more drawn out the second, and the third as a panicked "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! AND ALL THAT IS HOLY! MY ANUS! IS! BLEEDING!"
  • Self-Deprecation: The basis of the film is that Don Hertzfeldt is having a nervous breakdown because he can't sell any of his work. Ironically, Don himself admits that he's turned down many commercial deal offers since his fame with Rejected.
  • Serious Business: The sign says "Silly Hats Only" — and means it. Anyone who wears a non-silly hat is brutally beaten with baseball bats.
  • Screen Tap: Played for Drama. In the ending, a stickman desperately bangs on the paper as the animated world around him collapses. It's to no avail, as he is consumed by the Dream Apocalypse.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: As soon as the first Hong Kong Dub guy grows a talking tumor on his forehead, the second guy says, "Fuck!", but it's bleeped out.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "My anus is bleeding" uses a Swedish Christmas song.
  • Splash of Color: Blood, which is red in contrast to the black and white style, and the banana, which is yellow.
  • Stick Figure Animation: The characters are drawn with stick-like appendages.
  • Stylistic Suck: The left-handed cartoon, in which both characters are scribbly messes who spout gibberish.
  • Surreal Humor: Heads straight into Surreal Horror territory by the end, when the animated world starts falling apart.
  • Take That!: The entire short is meant to be a jab at the medium of advertising, which Hertzfeldt described as being built on lies. This is most overtly shown with the Johnson & Mills Kelp dip bumper, where a young child gladly proclaims "I am a consumer whore!"
  • Those Two Guys: The two normal-looking stick figures, who get creepier and more surreal as their scenes are shown. They have three scenes, starting with a screaming tumor and culminating in one of the men getting his stomach ripped off and having it placed on the other man's head, who then goes on to declare that he's "the queen of France" while his arms grow and wiggle.