Friday, 23 March 2012

Unit 5: Animation - Animator Profile - Phil Mulloy 1948 - present

Figure 1. Phil Mulloy

Mulloy’s work speaks volumes about modern society & culture. The genre of his shorts is essentially black comedy for the most part in which he illustrates using black ink against white paper with primitive skeleton characters as cast. Mulloy’s work exploits the clichés of the ever popular Hollywood genres.

Best known for:

•His visual style of skeletal figures against minimalist backgrounds
•Animated Series “Cowboys”
•Animated Series “The Ten Commandments”
•Animated Series “The Chain”

Figure 2. Cowboys

Mulloy’s work borders on the demonic with a simple cause & effect logic. A dilemma is presented for each of his individual animated shorts that in some shape or fashion correspond to a cultural tradition or past time. Mulloy’s work can be considered rather barbaric as the artist feels no need to hold his punches. With that being said the messages are extremely clear one even remembers an episode of Cowboys entitled “Murder” in which Mulloy pokes fun at Lynch mobs & societies history of dealing with evil men, aiding each other to snap the murderers neck. Green Jersey of BFI Film Store observes:
“The antidote to all that is kitsch and sentimental, these direct, witty and acerbic fables, drawn in brush and ink, perceptively comment on human nature and challenge contemporary values”. (Jersey: 2002)
Mulloy’s style is crude & simplistic but it works for the arguments in which he is making, he could not convey man in a worse light then portraying society as a form of walking skeleton. The environments are not the focus, the people are which is true of the world, society is where it is because of the people populating it. Mulloy’s work is a portrayal of clichés that inspect the human condition & draw a conclusion usually as a punch line, the end to a 3 minute joke summarising man as the true evil to any given situation.

Figure 3. The Ten Commandments

Mulloys work feels almost strategically based in groupings, mostly because each of them contains a theme that directly relates with another. What is quite possibly the strongest element of Mulloys work is just how the messages are conveyed simply dealing with a chosen situation in a specific satiric way. One could argue that this is due to the minimal props & settings on screen, the characters are the focal point relaying reality at its most shameful. Still, Mulloy’s work is effective as Anthony Nield of The Digital Film Fix observes:
“Indeed, Mulloy’s work is serious in the extreme as he tackles what he considers to be the major problems infecting society. The Cowboys films see the beginnings of this idea as he confronts issues of crowd mentality; The Conformist being the most blatant, dealing with, unsurprisingly, conformity”. (Nield: 2003)
Mulloy’s dilemmas are extraordinarily clear especially to the person that is searching for the meaning of the animated short. Let us consider conformity a cowboy short made by Mulloy in which a cowboy spends ten years of his life chasing a horse. Eventually he captures the horse & returns only to find everybody has horses with wheels on their feet. Everybody else mock him so he goes away and saws his horses legs off conforming to what is modern. The book is open & shut over the course of 3 minutes if anything Mulloy’s shorts could be considered a definition of words to the modern society.

Figure 4. The Chain

What is probably Mulloy’s biggest downfall is again when one looks at the opposite side of the scale. While it is clear the Mulloy is trying to convey a message it is obvious to the point of a grade school understanding, constantly smacking one in the face with its levels of obviousness. This can get pretty tiresome after watching a few examples of Mulloy’s work as one begins to notice his tendency to over embellish. With that being said Mulloy’s work is for the most part unique conveying the grit & grime of our culture in a thrash style. Sean Gandert of Paste Magazine observes:
“The paintings themselves are simple and unattractive, but taken as a whole, create absolutely gorgeous, expressive panoramas. Not only that, but the style fits perfectly with Mulloy's brazen storytelling, as it's endlessly and undeniably in your face”. (Gandert: 2009)
Still it can be said that as Mulloy’s work as continued to grow his backgrounds are continually become less bare and more colourful. Mulloy’s characters remain ugly & deformed as his need to portray man as evil continues to establish him as a reputable animator. The people in Mulloy’s shorts are all bad, there is never a good person which one could argue is Mulloy’s brazen way of saying to everyone that man is flawed. Man is and will continue to be an obvious metaphor for their inner natures, establishing our race as the demon and the world as the innocent (Man – Black/Evil World – White/Good).


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Phil Mulloy. (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Figure 2. Cowboys. (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Figure 3. The Ten Commandments. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Figure 4. The Chain. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 21/03/12)



Jersey, Green. (2002) Phil Mulloy: Extreme Animation. At:
(Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Nield, Anthony. (2003) Phil Mulloy: Extreme Animation. At:
(Accessed on: 21/03/12)

Gandert, Sean. (2009) Salute Your Shorts: Phil Mulloy's Extreme Animation. At: (Accessed on: 21/03/12)

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