BBtv — Jack Chick, animated: "Somebody Goofed," by Syd and Rodney

A redemption tale by the prolific religious comic book artist Jack Chick is born again through animation, in a classic short film by Syd Garon and Rodney Ascher.

Link to Boing Boing tv episode with discussion and downloadable video.

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Chick, born in 1924, is the most published comic book author in the world. Over decades, his publishing company has released some 500 million fundamentalist evangelical "Chick tracts" warning of the eternal consequences of a life lived without salvation.

One of these cautionary cartoon gospels, "Somebody Goofed," attracted the attention of animator-directors Syd and Rodney a decade ago — and they transformed it into the mixed media pastiche Boing Boing tv presents to you, dear viewer, today.

This 8 minute film debuted at the DFILM Digital Film Festival in San Francisco on November 7, 1997. DFILM founder Bart Cheever tells Boing Boing tv:

We showed it all over the world. No other film came close to provoking the kind of intense, gut-level reaction that we saw with Goofed — people really loved it or really, really hated it. Religious people called it blasphemous and threatened to organize boycotts of our shows. Anti-religious people called it religious propaganda and wrote angry letters to theater owners where we screened the festival.

To me, Goofed was the Birth of a Nation of After Effects films, and was really the aesthetic blueprint for much of what you see on TV today. So many people have copied their cool 2D photo-animations, and their style is used so heavily today on VH1, E, MTV, and so on — it's easy to forget how groundbreaking the film was. No one had ever really done anything like it before.

I loved the way Goofed is this rich moving collage of newsprint religious tracts, album covers (can you spot Paul's Boutique?), clips from 70's gangster films, cigarette ads from old magazines etc. To me, Goofed represented a whole new way of collaging various forms of media.

UPDATE: We reached out to the filmmakers for some thoughts on this amazing piece of work, 10 years after its creation — Rodney Ascher tells us…

Making Somebody Goofed was 50% art experiment and 50% self-designed AfterEffects tutorial. It was the first digitally animated project for both of us (I think…). It took at least 6 months to make the thing, maybe close to a year. I was running a Powermac 7500 (Syd's always had a model 1 or 2 levels faster than mine so he was probably behind the wheel of an 8500) and we got a gasp during a Q and A when we explained that rendering some of the QuickTimes took more than a day or two and transporting the uncompressed files demanded about 12 Jaz cartridges!

It was designed to be something of a Rorschach test: we followed the original comic as rigorously as we could, resisted any temptation to change things around (for pacing, content, whatever) and allowed the audience to interpret however they liked. During its premiere at DFilm, the audience was mostly quiet and thoughtful but at a screening at the SFMoMA it played pretty much as a spoof with a lot of appreciative laughter. On the other hand, when it was shown at a screening for the Television Commercial Industry, the awkward, confused, slightly hostile silence was deafening. Happily enough, we've gotten very nice responses from both Chick Publications and The Suicide Girls.

Related posts on Boing Boing:

  • Photo Fictions: bizarre narrative photo show in L.A.
  • Rodney Ascher's short film about a freefalling parachutist
  • Syd and Rodney's "Jack Chick's Titanic" video
  • Galactus meets Jack Chick
  • Jack Chick's own Passion
  • Jack Chick profile
  • Parody of Jack Chick tract warns against tiki worship.
  • Hallowe'en, Jack Chick style
  • (Special thanks to Pesco, and to Syd Garon)