Don't Hug Me I'm Scared
|Don't Hug Me I'm Scared|
Hugo Donkin (2014)
|Country of origin||
|No. of episodes||6|
James Bretton (2014–16)|
Becky Sloan (2014–16)
Joseph Pelling (2014–16)
Thomas Ridgewell (2014–16)
Benjamin Lole (2014–16)|
Hugo Donkin (2014–16)
|Cinematography||Max Halstead (2014)|
THIS IS IT Collective (2011)|
Blink Industries (2014-present)
Clapham Road Studios (2014–16)
Electric Theatre Collective (2014)
Orb Studios (2015)
Peckham Liberal Club (2016)
ARRI Rental (2016)
Super Deluxe (2018–present)
|Distributor||Turner Broadcasting System (2018–present)|
|Original release||29 July 2011 – present|
Don't Hug Me I'm Scared (often abbreviated to DHMIS) is a live-action/animated surreal horror comedy web series created by British filmmakers Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling. It consists of six episodes, released from 29 July 2011 to 19 June 2016 through the artists' website, and later to YouTube and Vimeo.
Each episode starts like a typical children's series, consisting of anthropomorphic puppets akin to those featured in Sesame Street. The series parodies these programs by juxtaposing this childlike, colorful environment and its inhabitants against disturbing themes; each episode features a surreal plot twist in the climax, including psychedelic content and imagery involving graphic violence and psychological horror. The six episodes explore and discuss the subjects of creativity, time, love, technology, diet, and dreams.
Each episode revolves around Yellow Guy, Red Guy and Duck Guy meeting one or several anthropomorphic characters, who begin a musical number related to a basic concept of day-to-day life with an upbeat melody similar to that of a nursery rhyme. As each song progresses, it becomes apparent that its moral or message is nonsensical or self-contradicting, and that the "teacher" character has ulterior or sinister motives. The climax of each episode typically involves a shock element with use of graphic violence, and sometimes other coercive or warped themes.
Episode 1: Creativity
The first episode begins in a kitchen where the main cast is eating breakfast. A singing sketchbook teaches the main characters to "get creative", singing about childlike activities. Most of Yellow Guy’s ideas were arbitrarily judged to be non-creative. The climax of the episode is an exaggerated depiction of creativity in which Yellow Guy and Duck Guy become operated by people in suits, like Red Guy, and dance increasingly erratically and engage in deranged acts like covering a heart in glitter and serving a cake made from viscera, complete with shaky camera shots and increasingly frantic music. The words "get creative" can be found hidden in this part everywhere. The video ends with everything seemingly restored to normal and the sketchbook telling the puppets, in a final line of the song, to "never be creative again". The episode premiered on July 29, 2011 .
Episode 2: Time
The main characters are waiting for a TV broadcast to begin, acknowledging that they have five minutes left. A talking clock, Tony, appears and begins to sing about time. The protagonists question the reality of time, to Tony's annoyance. Tony then accelerates the passage of time, rapidly aging the cast and causing them to decay alive. Duck Guy's skin falls off of his hand and his eyeball falls out, Yellow Guy's hair grows and he becomes wrinkled, with blood spilling out of his eyes and other orifices, and Red Guy's hair turns a sickly gray and grows very long, with his eyes becoming slanted and even more dazed looking. The events are revealed to be part of a television programme watched by the three friends, with Tony telling them that it's out of his hands, but they will be fine, although "everyone runs out of time". However, the end implies that the rotting was real due to Duck Guy's eyeball being visible on the floor near the television, as well as Yellow Guy's hair being visible during the end credits, with maggots appearing to multiply on it. This episode introduces Yellow Guy's father, Roy. The episode premiered on January 8, 2014 .
Episode 3: Love
At a picnic with Yellow Guy and Red Guy, Duck Guy kills a butterfly, referring to it as a "pesky bee." Yellow Guy, distressed, flees to a tree and is found by a butterfly, Shrignold. He and his friends sing about love, saying that true love is kept for one's "special one." After a brief anecdote featuring 'Michael, the loneliest boy in town', Shrignold introduces Yellow Guy to Malcolm, the King of Love, and the leader of a cult whom they worship by feeding gravel. The plot takes a sinister turn when the cult explains that Yellow Guy must lose his memories and name. The video ends with Yellow Guy waking up in the tree where he was found by Shrignold, and his friends bringing him "the last boiled egg," which splits, revealing a disgusting, red caterpillar-like creature who calls Yellow Guy "father" and is promptly squashed by Duck Guy (who once again refers to it as a "pesky bee"), its guts spilling down the side of the egg. During the credits sequence, Malcolm is immolated in a bonfire, with happy electronic music. The episode premiered on October 31, 2014 .
Episode 4: Technology
The protagonists are playing a board game. They express their desire to learn about the World, and a globe named Gilbert comes to life. He prepares to sing to them, but Colin, a talking computer, begins to sing about how clever he is, cutting Gilbert off. Colin starts asking the trio questions, with Red Guy becoming increasingly annoyed, until he yells for Colin to "shut up" and slams his hand on his keyboard. This enrages Colin, and after a black screen with glitches and flashing images depicting Duck Guy, Gilbert the Globe, and a few other references, he promptly takes the characters to the 'Digital World,' fascinating Yellow Guy and Duck Guy. Colin sings about the "Three Main Activities of the Digital World" – viewing different graphs, Digital Style, and Digital Dancing. These are repeated until a room becomes populated with distorted dancing clones of Colin, Yellow Guy and Duck Guy. Red Guy finds himself alone in the room where they were at the beginning, with the lights off, and Roy standing in the shadows (although this is not acknowledged), and escapes only to find a film crew wearing spandex suits apparently filming a crude replica of the first episode. Red Guy starts to say "What the—," before a crewman snaps a clapperboard, whereupon his head suddenly explodes into glitter. The episode premiered on March 15, 2015 .
Episode 5: Eating
Red Guy seems to be missing and Duck Guy and Yellow Guy seem to not be able to recognize this, although they are very much aware that something has changed. Various anthropomorphic food characters, led by a steak, give increasingly bizarre and self-contradictory advice about eating habits in song. The song is stopped twice by the telephone ringing. Duck Guy answers the telephone, but does not respond to what he hears on the line, while beginning to hallucinate and see himself on a hospital bed. Eventually, he becomes irritated with the hypocritical advice and seems to start to realize what’s missing: Red Guy. He runs off-set, knocking over the camera briefly revealing Roy peeking over the set, and wakes up in an operating room to find himself split open, a large tin can disembowling him and eating his organs. Yellow Guy continues following the song, although is a little overwhelmed, and becomes bloated from eating cans of meat labeled with Duck Guy's picture. The episode then ends with him looking over at the ringing phone once again. During the credits sequence, Red Guy is seen dressed in a coat and scarf, walking away from a phone booth carrying a suitcase, revealing that he was the one calling throughout the episode.
When the camera is knocked over, both Roy and Red Guy can be seen if the frames are scrutinized.
The creators claim that a phone number printed on the phone booth in this video was being called within seconds of the episode's release, which at first they would answer and pretend to be characters from the show. If the numbers atop the phone booth are placed into the YouTube search bar an exclusive video featuring Red Guy riding on an amusement park ride can be seen. The episode premiered on October 14, 2015 .
Episode 6: Dreams
Yellow Guy is in bed, crying because he misses his friends, who have disappeared over the course of the previous two episodes. As he tries to go to sleep, a lamp who sings about dreams appears. Despite Yellow Guy's protests, the Lamp drags him along for an animated sequence that ends with him having a dream about drowning in oil. Yellow Guy then wakes to see the Lamp transform his mattress into oil. Meanwhile, Red Guy wakes in an office with multiple others identical to him. He starts to sing a song about an office file, but his colleagues are not impressed. Later, at a bar, he performs the Creativity song from the first episode, but is booed by the crowd, who also resembles and sounds identical to him. Red Guy notices Roy in the crowd, who sits still. The microphone and boombox turn into teacher-puppets and he is transported to a dark black room. Red Guy follows the sound of the dream song to a machine with monitors showing Yellow Guy. Red Guy presses buttons that transform the lamp into the other 5 puppets from the previous episodes, besides the sketchbook, as well as several other puppets that seem to cover topics that were never mentioned, such as sports, the universe, as well as smaller everyday life things such as traffic lights music and even an office file (And at one point transforming the puppet into Duck Guy). Roy taps Red Guy on the shoulder with a massively elongated arm. Seeing Yellow Guy becoming gaunt from his ordeal, Red Guy disconnects the machine's power supply, after repeating a line from episode 3: “I wonder what will happen.” The scene cuts to a reshoot of episode 1 with the protagonists recoloured to their favourite colour that they mentioned from the first episode. The calendar turns from 19 to 20 June. A sketchbook similar to the original starts singing the same song from the first installment but is cut off as the episode ends. The episode premiered on June 19, 2016 .
- Yellow Guy – One of the three main characters. He has a childlike demeanor. He is the most optimistic and naive of the three puppets. He is a humanoid character who wears blue overalls and has blue hair. He becomes increasingly aware of the events taking place around him in the later episodes, and finally acknowledges that something bad comes with each Teacher Puppet in Episode 6, explaining his skepticism in that episode. It is possible that he is the most important protagonist, as he is the only one of the three puppets to have an important role in all six episodes.
- Red Guy – One of the three main characters. Unlike Yellow Guy and Duck Guy, Red Guy is portrayed through the use of a person wearing a costume. He speaks in a monotonous voice and shows cynicism and very little emotion towards the occurrences he and his friends experience. He is most likely an adult as episode 6 shows him graduating from university. He is completely red with what appears to be a red mop over his head and two eyes on top. The mop moves when he speaks.
- Duck Guy, Duck, or Bird Guy – One of the three main characters. He is the most intellectual, excitable and verbose character. He frequently theorises about or questions what he sees. He is a mallard duck wearing a brown tweed jacket. It is possible that he is older than the Yellow Guy, but younger than the Red Guy, as he isn’t as naive as the Yellow Guy, but is more impulsive than the Red Guy.
- Sketchbook – Educates the puppets about creativity. It is voiced by series co-creator Becky Sloan.
- Tony the Talking Clock – Educates the puppets about time in the second installment. His name was confirmed by creator Becky Sloan on her twitter account status (along with other characters Shrignold, Colin, Gilbert, Roy, and Bread Boy).
- Shrignold – A talking butterfly who, later along with his friends, sings to Yellow Guy about love in the third installment.
- Colin – A talking computer who teaches the puppets about technology in the fourth episode. Voiced by series co-writer Baker Terry.
- Roy Gribbleston – Yellow Guy's father and "sponsor" as seen in the credits. Introduced in the second episode, he is found hidden throughout the series. His strange expression never changes and he barely moves. He never speaks, although when he is featured the sound of heavy breathing can be heard.
- Malcolm – The "king of love" whom Shrignold and his friends worship. He is burned in the credits of episode 3, but later makes a cameo as small ornaments around the puppets' house.
- Michael – The "loneliest/ugliest boy in town" whose story, with a particularly strange ending, is described in episode 3.
- Gilbert the Globe – The globe in episode 4, who never gets a chance to teach the cast about the world. He makes a cameo in the background of Episode 2.
- Fridge – Introduced in episode 5, this character has no given name.He was also very rude to crow.
- Steak – Introduced in episode 5, this character has no given name.
- Can or Spinach Can – Appeared in episode 5. It has a green label on its body (a can), with green "leaves" sticking out of its lid and mouth.
- Bread Boy – A loaf of bread who appears in the fifth episode and drums on jars to the beat of the song.
- Giant Can – A human-sized tin can who ate the organs of Duck Guy in episode 5.
- Lamp – Appears in episode 6 as a teacher.
- Money Man – The man seen holding the characters hostage in the Kickstarter campaign.
Sloan and Pelling met while studying Fine Art, and Animation respectively at Kingston University where they started THIS IS IT Collective with some friends. They produced the first episode of Don't Hug Me I'm Scared in their free time with no budget. When they started on the project they imagined making it into a series, but initially dropped the idea after finishing the first episode. After the short film gained popularity, they decided to revisit that idea. Channel 4's Random Acts commissioned the second episode. The show soon attracted mainstream commissioners; however, Sloan and Pelling turned these offers down because they "wanted to keep it fairly odd" and "have the freedom to do exactly what we wanted."
In May 2013, Sloan and Pelling announced that they would start a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to make four or more additional episodes, one every three months, starting in September 2014. They uploaded low-quality camera footage of the characters being taken hostage and held for ransom. A 12-year-old American boy tried to use hacked credit card information to donate £35,000 to the campaign, but he was caught and those funds were thrown out. Their Kickstarter goal of £96,000 was reached on 19 June 2014, and in total £104,935 was raised. Youtuber Thomas "TomSka" Ridgewell became an executive producer on the series after donating £5,000 to the Kickstarter.
In January 2016, Sloan and Pelling collaborated with Lazy Oaf to release a line of clothing based on the characters and themes of the show.
The original short film became a viral hit and the series grew to become a cult phenomenon. The six episodes had amassed 143.4 million views on YouTube in July 2017. Scott Beggs listed the original short film as number 8 on his list of the 11 best short films of 2011. Carolina Mardones listed the first episode as number 7 in her top ten short films of 2011. It was also included in as part of a cinema event in Banksy's Dismaland. In April 2016, the main characters of the series were featured on the cover of the magazine Printed Pages, along with an "interview" of the three main characters written by the magazine's editor. All six episodes of DHMIS were included in the September 2016 festival XOXO.
Drew Grant of the Observer wrote that the series episodes are "
horrifying nightmarish absolutely beautiful" and "mind-melting". Freelance writer Benjamin Hiorns observed that "it's not the subject matter that makes these films so strangely alluring, it's the strikingly imaginative set and character design and the underlying Britishness of it all." Joe Blevins of The A.V. Club praised the show's "sense-to-nonsense ratio" and its production values. Samantha Joy of TenEighty praised the sixth episode of the series, writing that it "creates a provocative end to a pretty dark narrative about content creation."
In a faux interview, Becky and Joe jokingly described the plot as "three best friends who go on a journey to find a magic pirate ship and save the day."
A student writer for Nouse compared the appeal of the first episode to themes in Gothic literature, arguing that they are both "tapping into the same cultural fear of a violent subconscious hiding beneath the facade of normality." In The Wesleyan Argus, another student writer called the series a "fine example of the era of esotericism" and noted that, "There is a building meta-commentary on the relationships between viewer, perception, creator, participant, and art (and perhaps death) that began with the first episode, but what that commentary is trying to say is not yet entirely clear. However, there is an absolute sense that the series is building toward a culmination."
Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling are British graphic designers, artists and animators. Their advertising runs through commercial productions. The duo have worked as part of the THIS IS IT Collective.
Their content consists of videos, graphic design art, animation, music, and working with real-life materials to resemble things in the real world as art. They have won multiple awards, including the 2012 SXSW Midnight Shorts Award, and the 2016 ADC Young Guns award.
They have also co-written and did puppeteer work for Cartoon Network's The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Puppets" (season five, episode 36). Rebecca Sloan (who is credited as a writer alongside Joseph Pelling) and Baker Terry provided voices of Grady, Frank, and Howdy (the three puppets who trap Gumball and Darwin in their world). This episode features a song where the puppets sing about never ending fun to Darwin with toned down disturbing content similar to the DHMIS series in theme, such as when the puppets bake a cake and one of them slaps it out of Darwin's hand, temporarily silencing the song to focus on the ruined cake, a style seen in the DHMIS series when the notebook in Episode 1 ruins Yellow Guy´s painting with a black liquid or the Clock in Episode 2 repeatedly screeching to interrupt Duck Guy applying a logical reasoning to time.
On June 19, 2017, a year after the release of episode 6, Sloan hinted towards additional work into the Don't Hug Me I'm Scared series. On September 13, 2018, a teaser trailer titled "Wakey Wakey..." was released on the channel, teasing a new television show made in a collaboration between Blink Industries, Conaco, and Super Deluxe. The 30-second video gained over two million views within 24 hours of its release and peaked at #1 on YouTube's Trending list.
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