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Keep it in Motion - Classic Animation Revisited: 'The Black Dog's Progress'

Every Wednesday, Chris Robinson takes a look at short animation films. Today, Stephen Irwin's flip book wonder, 'The Black Dog's Progress '(2009).

With whispers of Phil Mulloy, this mesmeric, nihilistic portrait - from Stephen Irwin (Moxie, The Obvious Child) - of a small black dog who is abandoned, beaten, raped, and burned by an assortment of shitheads, is a technical wonder that incorporates, flip book animation, non-linear looping, sliding puzzle narrative, and a haunting and hypnotic soundtrack by Sorenious Bonk.

Irwin’s film seems loosely inspired by The Rake’s Progress, William Hogarth’s series of eight paintings that depict the fall of a spoiled and gluttonous rich kid (Tom Rakewell) who abandons his love for the lascivious pleasures of London and winds up in a mental hospital.

In Irwin’s version though, there is no heaven or hell, no deity or demon. The canine protagonist is simply a naïve victim of a black hearted world swayed by a never ending shuffle of cruelty and violence.

The lesson, kids, is that sometimes there just aren’t any rainbows, heroes or clear skies, only a dour world filled with raging broken beings hell bent on fucking you over and under until you’re just like them.

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

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