"World of Tomorrow" not only was an emotional bag of bricks that caught even die-hard Don Hertzfeldt fans unaware, it was also another proof of his brilliant and successful penchant for playing with form. "Rejected" and "It's Such a Beautiful Day" both deconstruct and homage the handcrafted nature of pencil-and-paper animation, but with a new all-digitally animated project, the trick was to deconstruct something else: narrative and screenwriting. The core of "WoT" is his then-4-year-old niece's unscripted ramblings, challengingly turned into a spanning, coherent and devastating 20-minute narrative. For the sequel, Hertzfeldt decided to repeat the behind-the-scenes formula and continue the narrative from the original... now based on the ramblings of a 5-year-old.
While I still prefer the original short's more ample and undefined musings on people's relation with technology and the endless possibilites of the future of this relation, glimpsed through Hertzfeldt's usual manic-depression-tinted lens, "Episode Two"'s decision to focus on a clearer theme (the relation of people with their memories and "living in the past") and a more emotional line are still undeniably fruitful in creating a masterpiece and a worthy, yet different enough sequel. Both parts share the most important characteristic of being at once cerebral and filled with powerful emotional uppers and downers that alternate in the blink of an eye.
While Hertzfeldt's niece Winona Mae is the sonic heart of the shorts, the incredible talent of Julia Pott as the brain cannot be understated. Her ability to infuse the mostly monotonous voice performance with all manner of tiny nuances to show the heartbreakingly limited emotional capacity of protagonist Emily's clones, as well as her excellent comedic timing (along with Winona's childish charm and random wit) keep the films light, fun and extremely re-watchable. Hertzfeldt's animation is brilliant as usual, with a gifted ear for rousing classical music, gorgeously trippy visuals and simply hilarious gestures on his characters' faces standing out.
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