World of Tomorrow (film)

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World of Tomorrow
World of Tomorrow (film) POSTER.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDon Hertzfeldt
Produced byDon Hertzfeldt
Written byDon Hertzfeldt
  • Winona Mae
  • Julia Pott
CinematographyDon Hertzfeldt
Edited byDon Hertzfeldt
Bitter Films
Release date
  • March 31, 2015 (2015-03-31)
Running time
17 minutes
CountryUnited States

World of Tomorrow is a 2015 American animated science fiction short film written, directed, produced, animated, and edited by Don Hertzfeldt. It features the voice of Julia Pott, opposite Hertzfeldt's four-year-old niece Winona Mae, who was recorded while drawing and playing. Her spontaneous, natural vocal reactions and questions were then edited into the story to create her character. The film was nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 2015 Academy Awards.


A communication unit in a white room begins to ring, and a little girl (voiced by Winona Mae) runs toward the machine, where she excitedly presses a random series of buttons on the console until a live video transmission appears on the screen.

The person in the transmission is a woman (voiced by Julia Pott) and addresses the young girl as Emily. Speaking in a robotic monotone throughout their entire conversation, the woman introduces herself as an adult third-generation clone of Emily contacting her from 227 years in the future. The clone Emily then explains to the original Emily regarding the complex cloning process that humans have devised in an attempt to achieve immortality, as well as describing other crude forms of life extension that less affluent members of humanity can afford. The clone Emily goes on to explain how she was able to contact the original Emily through an experimental and dangerous form of physical time travel. The clone Emily proceeds to transport the original Emily into the clone's present time in the future via time travel.

The original Emily disappears from the white room and reappears inside an interactive space that the clone Emily describes as "the Outernet": a neural network that is a technologically advanced version of the Internet. At this point, the clone Emily begins to address her original as Emily Prime. The clone Emily and Emily Prime briefly engage in drawing simple figures in the air, before the clone Emily invites Emily Prime to view a selection of her memories.

The first memory is one from the clone Emily's childhood, involving a controversial exhibit in a museum where a male clone without a brain, nicknamed affectionately by the public as David, was kept in stasis; she recalls her frequent visits to David over the years and expresses her sadness when he finally died at the age of 72. The second memory is of the clone Emily's first job, supervising solar-powered and sentient worker robots on the surface of the Earth's moon. She had programmed the robots to fear death and darkness, and they, as a result, are compelled to be in constant motion, always walking where the light of the sun hits the lunar surface. Too expensive to remove, the robots remain on the moon in endless movement, occasionally sending depressed poetry. Due to a recession in the lunar economy, Emily Clone was sent home after six lunar cycles and separated from an inanimate rock that she had grown to love.

The third memory shows the clone Emily's succeeding job as a supervisor for construction robots stationed on a deep space outpost. She admits to having fallen in love with a fuel pump in her new job location. In the same memory, the clone shows Emily Prime an alien she calls Simon, a black shapeshifting creature who speaks incoherently. The clone Emily and Simon had gradually fallen in love over the course of seven years, but she missed Earth and longed for something deeper and more substantial with her life. She made a conscious decision to be reassigned back on Earth in order to interact more with humans, and notes that going back home resulted in the best years of her life, though the inconsolable Simon was left behind.

Upon her return to Earth, the clone Emily opened an art gallery that displayed anonymous memories. It was in her art gallery that she met her husband: a descendant clone of David, the male clone who was displayed in a museum when she was a child. But as Emily Clone notes, her husband showed many signs of deterioration due to being a clone stemming from a much older generation. Their marriage was brief, as Emily Clone states that her husband died suddenly; thus, ending the David clone lineage. Emily Clone proceeded to harvest her deceased husband's memories, and reflects upon the memories of their relationship with feelings of melancholia.

In the final memory, the clone Emily reveals that in sixty days, Earth will be destroyed by a meteoroid. Due to the hysteria surrounding the impending apocalypse, humans have resorted to leaving the planet through different and extreme means, depending on what they can afford. Because of the unpredictable nature of physical time travel, millions of humans have transported themselves to the edges of the Earth's atmosphere, dying instantly and creating the effect of "shooting stars" when the corpses burn whilst falling through the atmosphere at night. Despite the horrible fate of humanity at this time, Emily Prime reacts joyfully to the "shooting stars", counting them while her clone describes the bleak fate of the human race.

The clone Emily returns them both to the Outernet and reveals the true reason that she contacted Emily Prime: to retrieve an important memory from her original source before she is to die. The clone uses a handheld device to extract a memory of the original Emily and her mother walking together, which the clone Emily had forgotten. With the memory successfully retrieved, the clone Emily graciously thanks her original and adds that the specific memory will comfort her in the days leading to the destruction of Earth.

As the Outernet slowly begins to disintegrate around them, the clone Emily tells Emily Prime the following:

Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail. For all of these things melt away and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time. Live well and live broadly. You are alive and living now. Now is the envy of all of the dead.

She states that she is honored to have met Emily Prime and that she will not contact her again. After saying goodbye, Emily Prime is accidentally transported by her clone into the distant past where she is seen standing in a grassy field surrounded by falling snow. She is then transported back into her present timeline, into the white room containing the communication unit where she answered the clone Emily's call. Emily Prime surveys the familiar space with a smile and notes in a singsong voice on "what a happy day it is" before she scampers out of the room.


Hertzfeldt had long been interested in science fiction but hesitated making a film set in a genre partly due to not wanting to be confined by it, noting, "it always seems to mean having to tread at least a little bit through overly familiar waters." [1] Still, aspects of science fiction appeared in his film It's Such a Beautiful Day and his graphic novel The End Of The World. He felt that the science fiction genre would especially make sense for his first foray into digital animation.[1]

The design of the film was influenced by science fiction novels and magazine covers of the 1950s and 60s, and by Hertzfeldt wanting the film to have a storybook aesthetic.[1] He worked on the film simultaneously with his couch gag guest appearance on The Simpsons. Both projects were the first time he had used digital animation in his work.[1] Hertzfeldt was also responsible for the film's sound design and visual effects.

Release and reception[edit]

World of Tomorrow premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize for Short Film. World of Tomorrow was released on-demand on Vimeo in March 2015, simultaneously with its continuing theatrical run in film festivals. At the end of its film festival run, the film won over 40 awards. World of Tomorrow won two Crystal Awards from the Annecy Animation Festival: a Special Jury Award and the Audience Award. The film also won two awards from the Ottawa International Animation Festival: Best Script and the Audience Award. It later won the animation industry's Annie Award for Best Animated Short of 2015.

Critical response was universally positive, with Indiewire calling the short film "one of the best films of 2015", The Dissolve naming it "one of the finest achievements in sci-fi in recent memory".

In 2016, Rolling Stone ranked World of Tomorrow # 10 on its list of the "Greatest Animated Movies Ever."[2]

In 2016, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.[3]

In 2019, the film critics of Indiewire ranked the short film #17 on its list of the "100 Best Movies of the Decade".[4]


As of February 2016, the film has won 42 awards, including:

In December 2015, Hertzfeldt received a special award from the Austin Film Critics Association, "in celebration of a career of remarkable short filmmaking and contributions to animation spanning two decades, with the 2015 award-winning "World of Tomorrow" being recognized as his best work to date."[7]


In 2017, Don Hertzfeldt announced that he was working on a sequel, titled World of Tomorrow - Episode Two: The Burden of Other People's Thoughts, which received a brief theatrical release in September 2017 before a full release on December 28, 2017.[8] The film received critical acclaim.[9]

On August 3rd 2020, Hertzfeldt released a trailer for a third installment, titled World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d Bramesco, Charles (April 3, 2015). "Animator Don Hertzfeldt on not trusting happy people". The Dissolve. Pitchfork. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  2. ^ Adams, Sam; Bramesco, Charles; Grierson, Tim; Murray, Noel; Scherer, Jenna; Tobias, Scott; Wilkinson, Alissa (June 28, 2016). "40 Greatest Animated Movies Ever". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  3. ^ "Bear Story" winning Best Animated Short Film -Oscars on YouTube
  4. ^ Ehrlich, David; Kohn, Eric; Erbland, Kate; Thompson, Anne; Sharf, Zack; O'Falt, Chris; Dry, Jude; Obenson, Tambay; et al. (July 22, 2019). "The 100 Best Movies of the Decade". IndieWire. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  5. ^ "Palmarès 2015 : Prix du Jury – Compétition internationale de courts-métrages". Utopiales (in French). November 2, 2015. Archived from the original on December 17, 2015. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  6. ^ Johnson, Zach (January 14, 2016). "Oscars 2016 Nominations: Complete List of Nominees". Eonline. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  7. ^ "AFCA 2015 awards". Austin Film Critics.
  8. ^ Foutch, Haleigh (October 23, 2017). "'World of Tomorrow Chapter 2' Trailer Teases Don Hertzfeldt's New Sci-Fi Masterpiece". Collider. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  9. ^ Foutch, Haleigh (December 29, 2017). "'World of Tomorrow Episode 2' Review: Another Soulful Sci-Fi Masterpiece from Don Hertzfeldt". Collider. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  10. ^ Hertzfeldt, Don. "WORLD OF TOMORROW EPISODE THREE". Youtube. Retrieved August 3, 2020.

External links[edit]