One of the joys of animation is how it completely pulls you into an alternate reality with completely different rules in the span of a few seconds. On the flipside, what we usually know as normal suddenly become ridiculous in the universe’s logic. Daniel Britt is one of those animators who constantly finds humour in the banal, bringing you into his worlds where every element you see seems new and unexpected.
The London-based animator, who has been animating for ten years with an extensive list of clients from big brands like Sony and Nike to animation stalwarts like Adult Swim and Nickelodeon, wanted to visualise his interest in the nonsensical. “I started doing animation when I was in school, after I became obsessed with dadaist art and surrealism,” Daniel tells It’s Nice That. “I’d always been interested in dreams and the way that even the most wild and nonsensical ideas can appear logical at the time, and animation seemed like a good way in which I could attempt to make sense of these ideas in a visual form,” he continues.
In a hilarious short for Adult Swim’s Smalls program, Space Man, his interest in surrealism becomes obvious. The simple style and other-worldly sound design, mixed with moments of computer glitch and limited colour palette makes for an unnerving yet titillating scene – much like the surrealists that inspired him. In one episode titled The Button, a man taking out his trash is summoned by an alien, who needed help rotating an image on his phone. When his predicament is solved, the alien nonchalantly reveals to the man that he has been slowly heating up the earth with his spaceship for the past 100 years. Even with the limited details that he includes in his animation, Daniel manages to imbue such deep personalities in his characters, like in the way the alien smiles at the man with its empty, cold eyes that’s embedded in its octagonal head.
“I had the idea of telling an alien encounter story where the alien was an idiot,” Daniel says. “One of the great things about working with Adult Swim is that they have very few notes,” he continues. One of the most notable parts of Space Man is the incredibly atmospheric sound design and the restless score that builds towards a “ridiculous climax” towards the end, both of which Daniel did himself. The mysterious and almost lethargic voice of the alien was inspired by the pitched-down voices in shows like Crimewatch, making it seem like the alien, for some reason, had to hide its identity.
Daniel first used the shape-shifting outlines in the film for I’m Dead Inside, repurposing it for Space Man, which added to the surreal feeling of the extra-terrestrial encounter. The technique “involves using [the function] shape tween in Adobe Flash to create parts of animation rather than drawing everything myself,” he says. “I found something quite freeing about leaving the computer’s glitchy mistakes in there and not being too precious with the animation that resulted,” he adds. This move away from getting every detail right helped him focus on the story and the writing, the soul of the humour in this piece.
Currently, Daniel is creating four more Space Man shorts for Adult Swim, so the story of the inept alien with an extra elbow behind his neck is bound to continue. He also recently released a pilot for Sting Theory in collaboration with Katy Wix, described as a 2D animated melancholy-comic tale about a day in the life of Sting, looking at how Sting spends his time in the dwindling years of fame and fortune. An aged Sting, wearing a long white coat and a skinny scarf, tries to avoid death by simply refusing to believe in it, contemplating his existence when faced with a pile of dead autumn leaves. Using mostly blue tones and simple outlines, Daniel starts to build the comfortable yet gloomy visual language of Sting’s existence.
About the Author
Alif joined It's Nice That as an editorial assistant from September to December 2019 after completing an MA in Digital Media at Goldsmiths, University of London. His writing often looks at the impact of art and technology on society.