This one I recommend.
The short films of David Firth are some of the best on the Internet and some of the most captivatingly mad in the very history of animation. Many have attempted to create surreal animations on par with those of Firth, but his far-removed omniverse is one of a kind. Revolting but pitiable lifeforms make interesting discoveries and unexplained forces sometimes rule over them with an Orwellian hand, all while ambient music (from the likes of Aphex Twin, Scanner, Boards of Canada and Firth himself) sets the mood, and distant whooshing that would make Lynch shiver is heard.
I have listed some of my favorite Firth animations, not including the famously nauseating Salad Fingers saga, in previous posts. In Umbilical World, they all join together to form a semi-cohesive, bewildering whole, confirming that they all exist within the same unhinged reality (or at least on their respective planes of said reality) this while we're treated to new segments. The familiar ones are indeed given upgrades and expansions that seem to tell us how, exactly, they tied into the rest of Firth's singular imagination all this time. This movie is the quintessential work of my most admired surrealist and thus one of my favorites of the year.
Whether you are familiar with him or not, Umbilical World is a mesmerizing journey from one unappetizing sight to the next, showcasing several forms of animation; stop-motion, computer generation, cut-out animation and regular Flash. No matter what, each segment could only have come from the brain of Firth, the imagery as well as the brilliantly illogical dialogue of the more quirky and satirical episodes.
The iconic Salad Fingers introduces the film, promptly getting destroyed by an enormous umbilical cord that slithers through other animated environments throughout the film, indicating that each segment indeed takes place on "Umbilical World" or at least on several different levels of it. Salad Fingers' wasteland appears to be microscopic in comparison to the city where the individuals from the soul-crushing Short Cartoon About Time and Health Reminder series seem to live. Monitors around the town play cynical commercials from said series, as well as documentary footage of the experiments in Sock 4 and surreal stop-motion clips.
One of the patients from the Health Reminder series apparently grows up into the lonely simpleton from Dog of Man. In a sub-atomic world. the little Toast Boy continues to be oppressed and exploited by the horrid Beetles. Where's Burnt Face Man when you need him?
The umbilical cord observes all of this, eventually growing a baby-like face trapped in a perpetual shriek. The imagery, despite its seeming insanity, very much invites analysis, but it also seems fruitless to try - unless we limit our analysis to the rampant social/philosophical commentary of the dialogue.
I believe it has been confirmed that certain shorts, particularly those that initially made up the Sock series, are based on bizarre dreams that Firth wrote down in a diary and then adapted into animation. Trying to understand them would be trying to understand portions of Firth's subconscious, so perhaps trying to understand Umbilical World as a whole, wherein the Sock shorts make up several parts, would be an even greater endeavor. I decided not to wonder so much when I saw the film. I simply let it transport me away, and I don't regret it one bit.
There are a few problems with Umbilical World. Like Kuso, the last feature Firth was involved in, the transitions between the different segments aren't always the smoothest (although Kuso was far worse in this regard and hardly the fault of Firth) and the audio mixing could noticeably have used more cross fades. Be that as it may, this is still the ultimate Firth project. Some shorts I think work better on their own and without real endings, but send this auteur some money either way and watch this on Vimeo. Undoubtedly, it is pure Firth.
- El Africano