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The film's title card
|Directed by||Don Hertzfeldt|
|Produced by||Don Hertzfeldt|
|Written by||Don Hertzfeldt|
|Edited by||Rebecca Moline|
Rejected is an animated short comedy film by Don Hertzfeldt that was released in 2000. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film the following year at the 73rd Academy Awards, and received 27 awards from film festivals around the world.
Rejected is now considered a cult classic and one of the most influential animated films ever made, especially after it found its way onto the internet in the early 2000s and became a viral sensation. In 2009, it was the only short film named as one of the "Films of the Decade" by Salon. In 2010, it was noted as one of the five "most innovative animated films of the past ten years" by The Huffington Post. Indiewire film critic Eric Kohn named Rejected one of the "10 best films of the 21st century" on his list for the BBC Culture poll in 2016.
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A fictional frame story explains that Hertzfeldt was commissioned to do animated segments for commercials and television network interstitials, but they were all rejected upon receipt. This is followed by a collection of short, surreal vignettes, presented as a reel of rejected corporate advertising work. According to the frame story, Hertzfeldt was assigned to do commercial segments for the Family Learning Channel, which were rejected after review. He would later do commercials for the Johnson & Mills Corporation, which were rejected outright. After the Johnson & Mills Corporation advertisements, the frame story states that Hertzfeldt began finishing commercials and shorts with his left hand. After the short segments, the story says that the rejected cartoons were running out of control, and later on fell apart. The animator begins to break down mentally and the animated world he created literally begins to (like the frame story said) fall apart, brutally killing all of his characters in the process.
Hertzfeldt's first film after graduating from college, Rejected was photographed on a 35mm rostrum camera he purchased in 1999.
Rejected features simple hand-drawn artwork, featuring mostly black pen animation on a white background with occasional use of color. As the film progresses and the fictionalized animator begins to fall apart, the drawings become more crude and the animation becomes more erratic. As the film concludes, the paper that the animation is drawn on begins to crumple and tear, and the characters are seen struggling to evade the destruction.
Besides the iconic Allegro ma non troppo from Beethoven's 9th that plays in the text introductions to each segment, a particular segment with the "Fluffy Guys" uses background music from the Swedish Christmas song Nu är det jul igen.
Although the film is fictional and Hertzfeldt has never done any advertising work, he did receive many offers to do television commercials after Billy's Balloon received international attention and acclaim. In appearances he would often tell the humorous story of how he was tempted to produce the worst possible cartoons he could come up with for the companies, run off with their money, and see if they would actually make it to air. Eventually this became the germ for Rejected's theme of a collection of cartoons so bad they were rejected by advertising agencies, leading to their creator's breakdown.
Hertzfeldt has never accepted "real" advertising work and has stated numerous times on his website and in public appearances that he never will, as he feels advertisements are "lies" and he does not want to lie to his audience.
Rejected world-premiered at the San Diego Comic Convention in 2000. Between hundreds of film festival appearances since then, Rejected also toured North American theaters in 2000, 2001, and 2002 with Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation; in 2001 and 2002 again with a retrospective touring program of Hertzfeldt's and animator Bill Plympton's films called "The Don and Bill Show"; and returned to theaters once again in 2003 and 2004 with Hertzfeldt's own the Animation Show tour.
In 2003, two of the "Fluffy Guy" characters reappeared in three Hertzfeldt cartoons created to introduce and book-end the first year of the Animation Show: Welcome to the Show, Intermission in the Third Dimension, and the End of the Show.
Rejected was scheduled to air on Adult Swim in 2001 but was delayed for unknown reasons—it was rescheduled to air in November 2002 "uncut and commercial free", and was heavily promoted on the network that week. However, the short was pulled from the schedule at the last minute, for unknown reasons. Rumors about the reasons behind this highly unusual action have included: the film's brief use of the phrase "Sweet Jesus" ("Jesus" being a word allegedly not allowed on a Turner Network back then), and an anonymous high-ranking network executive simply not finding the short to be funny. Rejected has since aired without incident on the Cartoon Network in other countries as well as on other international television networks, but has to date never been broadcast on American television. However, a brief clip from the film has since aired on the Adult Swim anthology series Off the Air, 14 years later, in the episode Holes. The scene mentioned in the episode is the scene with the "fluffy guys" in which one announces that his "anus is bleeding."
Rejected returned to movie theaters in 2006 as part of the Sundance Institute's 25th anniversary "Art House Project", a special screening series of Sundance films for local audiences nationwide. Rejected was one of 5 shorts and 25 features from Sundance's history selected as "essential" and representative of the spirit of the Sundance Film Festival.
The film returned to theaters in 2008–2009 as part of the Evening with Don Hertzfeldt screening series.
Ever since its original theatrical run, the film has been a very popular target for Internet bootlegs, and in 2001 Bitter Films released a limited edition DVD "single" to give fans a proper alternative. Hertzfeldt has stated on the Bitter Films website that his concern with bootlegs has always been over quality control issues, and never a financial one. The DVD "single" featured a deleted scene as well as an audio commentary, and is now out of print.
In 2006, Rejected was remastered and restored in high definition for inclusion on the DVD, "Bitter Films Volume 1", a compilation of Don Hertzfeldt's short films from 1995–2005. Special features on this DVD relating to Rejected include a new text commentary by Hertzfeldt (via closed-caption boxes), footage from the abandoned cartoon "the Spanky the Bear Show" that later evolved into a central scene in the film, original pencil tests, the 2001 audio commentary, and dozens of pages devoted to Hertzfeldt's original sketches, storyboards, notes, and deleted ideas from the film. The DVD is available exclusively from the Bitter Films website.
A 35-second deleted scene from Rejected was only released on the 2001 DVD "single". In it, a father inquires into his son's desire to drink goat's blood. The scene appears to fit in with the "Johnson & Mills" portion of the original film, and is revealed to be an advertisement for cotton-swabs at the end.
In popular culture
- Rejected is mentioned during a series of jokes on the Superbad DVD audio commentary.
- A fan of the film, quoting, "I am the Queen of France!" appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman.
- The alternate dimension scenes from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Broodwich" were an acknowledged homage to Don Hertzfeldt. Hertzfeldt's films, and Rejected in particular, were a strong early influence on Adult Swim writers and Aqua Teen creators Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis.
- A 2013 episode of the Fine Brothers' web series YouTubers React featured Rejected.
- asdfmovie, a series of short, comedic YouTube animations created by TomSka, is inspired by Rejected.
- The infamous "My anus is bleeding" scene was seen in the episode "Holes" of Adult Swim's Off the Air (the ending credits say it was "used with permission").
- "Rejected". bitterfilms.com. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- Sharf, Zack (1 November 2018). "Don Hertzfeldt Releases 4K Restoration of Iconic Short 'Rejected,' Remastered from the Original 35mm Film — Watch". IndieWire.
- "Interview with Don Hertzfeldt". Archived from the original on 25 February 2008.
- "Films of the Decade". Archived from the original on 4 January 2010.
- Morenobunge, Sophia (26 December 2010). "Films of the Decade". Huffington Post.
- "Bitter Films' FAQ". Archived from the original on 4 January 2010.
- "Animation Show Cartoons". bitterfilms.com. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "Holes". Off the Air. 23 November 2015. Adult Swim.
- Late Show with David Letterman CBS Archived 3 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- "ANIMATIONWorld Magazine". Animation World Network. Archived from the original on 15 October 2007. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- on YouTube