Neon Nettle Chats To 'Salad Fingers' Creator David Firth
The World Of Cult Flash Animator David Firth
There’s a certain kind of sticky glee you feel when you show a friend a David Firth cartoon for the first time. If you’ve ever seen a bluebottle sitting on a jam donut rubbing its little front legs together, that’s kind of how it feels.
Fans of the creepy cartoonist will understand this statement: “Once you’ve seen Salad Fingers, you can’t unsee Salad Fingers,” but there’s more to the animator and filmmaker than post-apocalyptic spoon-fondling.
Firth’s dark mashups of surreal imagery, disturbing voiceovers and damaged, unraveling characters are a rare phenomena – viral videos that didn’t die. In 2005 Salad Fingers was featured in a list of top ten Internet pop culture moments, along with Harry Potter, the White Stripes and Tom Cruise misplacing his marbles on Oprah.
Since then Firth’s work has been featured several times on the BBC and commissioned by the Playboy website. But it’s really on the Internet that the “What the hell did I just watch?” factor of the unsettlingly cronky flash animations and surreal short films are best enjoyed and shared.
Currently working on his first feature film, a project tentatively titled ‘The Meadow Man’. With no deadline and no release date, fans have about as much idea of when, or indeed if they’ll get to see it as the animator himself. Is it funny, is it wrong, is it art?
“People ask me some really boring questions,”
Well alrighty then, I’ll try not to:
You’ve mentioned dreams as a source of inspiration for your work. Have you experimented with dreams, for example lucid dreaming, or eating half a pound of Gorgonzola before you go to bed? Or is it just a case of seeing what turns up?
If I decide I need a solid writing phase I will try every day to come up with a few new things. The first couple of days will be a bit shaky then on about day three the ideas start flowing. It's like exercise. I find this to be the same case with dreaming and more importantly, remembering them. I'm pretty sure I dream just about every night, it's just I need to train myself to remember them properly. If I make a conscious effort to have a good few dreams, I will, it'll just take a while. I don't often dream something that goes into my cartoon as it was dreamt. I usually just take the general atmosphere and structure and then fabricate the details using my imagination.
When you’re creating an animation, do your characters start doing their own thing & taking it in a different direction than your original idea? Do they ever get out of control and start demanding your attention when you’ve got other things to do?
They usually do more things than I had imagined they would. Scenes get bulked out with more actions and words. Then I have to trim it. I usually come up with a new scene while I am recording audio and then again while I am animating. It gets annoying though, because my animations usually look about 5 minutes on paper but end up 10 minutes in reality. I think I am getting better at trimming, but my ideas are getting longer.
When you get to know people that don’t know your work and then they see it, does it freak them out?
I don't usually watch them watching it. I tell them where to find it and let them do the rest. If I see them again, then it's a success. I have about a 50% success rate. Sometimes people never mention it again. I assume they aren't sure or just never bothered to watch it.
Do you have a wish-list of people you’d like to collaborate with? And if so, who is on it?
Not really. The people I admire are usually a bit like me, quite protective over their work, control freaks, probably hard to work with. I have people I can work with, but it's more like a donation system where I ask them to help with the ideas, which I go off and make. If I could borrow a famous voice I'd probably go for Stephen Fry. If I could get a soundtrack then it'd probably be Aphex Twin - but I imagine he'd just make it purposefully really unlistenable.
When you write or animate something funny, does it make you laugh at the time? Do you ever giggle to yourself because of a funny idea, or do you sort of sit there like Ming the Merciless?
I write things in a little book, then laugh when I read them back sometimes, but not when I write them. I giggle when someone else says something funny, but not when I do. It's all about surprise, and it's not very often I surprise myself. If I forget what I have written, then I get the surprise.
You’ve mentioned that you’re not keen on mainstream American pop culture. If you had a magic eraser, and you could painlessly rub out people on the telly and draw in somebody more interesting, who would you erase, and who or what would you replace them with?
I would erase everybody and replace them with MC Hammer - just to see how long it would take before TV went extinct.