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Western Animation / Rejected

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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. He 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.

Watch it here.

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

These shorts provide examples of:

  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: A significant portion of the spoken dialogue has really weird intonation.
  • 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)
  • Advertisement:
  • Bland-Name Product: The Family Learning Channel and Johnson & 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • Captain Obvious: Every spoken line in the "My spoon is too big" scene.
  • Creator Breakdown: invoked Parodied; Hertzfeldt 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The man with the top hat at the Silly Hats Only party gets beaten with baseball bats because his hat isn't silly enough.
  • Downer Ending: Ends with the cartoon's world falling apart and collapsing in on itself to symbolize Hertzfeldt'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.
  • 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: "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!"
  • 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: Any instance of bleeding, but especially the character who drowns in his own blood.
  • Pop-Up Trivia: This version of the short has text commentary by Hertzfeldt.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The interstitial information cards use brief excerpts from Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
  • 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: Used to horrifying effect. 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.
  • Stylistic Suck: The left-handed cartoon.
  • Surreal Humor: Heads straight into Surreal Horror territory by the end, when the animated world starts falling apart.
  • 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.


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