Rejected – with text commentary (2000, commentary added cir. 2011) dir. Don Hertzfeldt
Today seemed like a good day for some Hertzfeldt, but of the films available on his YouTube, I’ve already covered my favorite and this one’s a classic, but surely everybody’s very familiar with it. Maybe you first saw it as part of a theatrical touring animation show, or on one of Hertzfeldt’s DVD collections that included it. But likely you discovered its dial-up download-friendly images on the Internet. Its viral spread is especially impressive coming in the early 2000s when shorts still generally had to be recommended with word-of-mouth, with no YouTube or social media sharing to boost views.
So you’ve probably seen it. (If not, remedy this! Here’s the uncommented original.) But have you seen it with commentary? And, this being Hertzfeldt, the all-text commentary both peeks at the process and history behind the Oscar-nominated cartoon and also adds another layer of bizarre non-sequiturs. The most insightful it gets is when Hertzfeldt, repeating a statement from several interviews, points out that in real life the rejection has happened the other way: he’d been offered real commercial work but never accepted. “you never want to lie to your audience… you can trick them, you can disturb them, you can annoy them, but you can never lie to them. to me commercials are nothing but lies” he types. His default font use and eschewing of the shift key compliment the deceptive crudity of in his animation.
“Rejected,” ironically, has been copied for commercial purposes (Pop Tarts is the most recent and egregious thief). Hertzfeldt doesn’t name names, but assures the viewer that “if you ever see a commercial for anything on tv that vaguely looks like i made it if i were maybe partially brain damaged, it’s safe to assume i didn’t.”
Post-Lunch Rabbit Hole Opportunity: This isn’t the only commentary available for “Rejected,” though the only one with Hertzfeldt’s participation. The Bitter Films Archive on YouTube includes the introduction to the audio commentary track from the now out-of-print “Rejected” DVD where he explains his reasoning for not providing a commentary, and introducing an “ENTIRELY AWFUL AUDIO COMMENTARY” by voice collaborator Robert May (that commentary is linked in the intro video’s description). The archive also includes a deleted scene from the original film.