Purple and Brown

Our pals at Aardman are up to their old tricks again! They’ve launched this series of bite-sized claymation shorts called Purple and Brown. Before I say anything about it, just watch some of them! Here’s one:

These shorts are everything I love about animation: they’re short, simple, funny, clever, and brilliantly animated. But there’s something more going on here. Something really subversive…

Just what is it that makes these shorts so damn funny? Okay, okay, I know analyzing humor is pretty much the opposite of funny, but bear with me here. I really think these guys are on to something.

If you watch a few of the shorts, you’ll notice the pattern. Purple and Brown are cartoon characters. You can poke holes in them, rip their faces off, drop boulders on top of them, and basically they’re fine. In that regard they’re just like any other comic cartoon character: they’re indestructable. What makes these guys so different is their reaction to it all: it makes them laugh.

Why is that so original, and so subversive? Here’s my theory. In an ordinary cartoon, when something comically bad happens to a character, we in the audience have the privilege of laughing at them. But they don’t get to share in that, because they’re too busy playing their part. They suffer, we laugh. It’s kind of mean, when you think about it. But when something bad happens to Purple and Brown, they react to their plight just like we do. They’re in on the joke. So we’re not laughing at them, we’re laughing with them.

It’s a subtle and very original way of getting around the fourth wall. They don’t need to break that wall to see the audience, because they’re their own audience. Brilliant!

Other posts about Purple and Brown:
Keith Lango
Victor Navone
Cartoon Brew