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.

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)

    About Xeni Jardin

    Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: xeni@boingboing.net.
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    10 Responses to Jack Chick, animated: "Somebody Goofed," by Syd and Rodney

    1. cellocgw says:

      Nice video.
      Now off to figure out why Camino can’t get its act together and download it. (Firefox does just fine)

    2. Anonymous says:

      I saw this as part of a 9-tract anthology (“Hot Chicks”) when it was making the rounds at film festivals. The really interesting thing is that Jack Chick gave his approval to at least some of them. (The directors seemed to think that the tracts were self-parodying so they didn’t change the dialogue, and Chick seemed to think that unbelievers might see them and be converted.)

      More information on the anthology at: http://www.316now.com

    3. tohoscope says:

      Thank you for posting this! It’s been years since I saw it.

    4. pspinrad says:

      There are many more Jack Chick shorts on the “Hot Chicks” DVD — see http://316now.com. Somebody Goofed is by far my favorite one, but others are fun as well. I find that the best narratives are always Rorschach tests, as Rodney Ascher describes.

    5. License Farm says:

      Nicely done. Had I been in their shoes I’d have been sorely tempted to camp it up more to voice my disapproval with the source’s perspective, but they were wiser to let the content speak for itself. That it both pleases and upsets those of varied persuasions speaks to its power.

      I should like to say that I don’t believe this was necessarily the origin of this style of animation; I remember in particular the cartoon “The Adventures of Thomas and Nardo” from MTV’s Liquid Television, which was early ’90’s and was also adapted from a comic which I believe originally ran in RAW. But certainly Syd and Rodney upped the ante and demonstrated this technique’s relative ease of use.

    6. csbmonkey says:

      This is truly wonderful.

      I can’t remember a time in my own life without the presence of Jack Chick tracts in one way or another. They were all over my church when I was growing up (Southern Baptist) and I still find them in restrooms and on buses all over San Francisco.

      The reveal at the end is incredible.

      #4 – I have that Liquid Television VHS the distributed a while back. I wonder if it has Thomas and Lardo on it? I should look.

    7. charliekkendo says:

      I loved it. What an amazing work on so many levels. Great animation, great collage, a pleasure to watch, and the narrative – presenting it naturally without undermining it – I don’t know what to say; I’m a churchgoer who has always found Chick tracts offensive but amusing and I found this uplifting.

    8. csbmonkey says:

      I tried downloading the MP4, but no sound.

    9. anthropomorphictoast says:

      That was trippy. o.o

    10. jesuguru says:

      The animated video is analogous to the paper tracts in that both obviously elicit strong reaction, as they’re intended to.

      Before I became a Christian (not due to any Chick tracts), I was a pothead and occasional tripper. I can imagine someone dropping acid and this scaring the @)#(*&% out of them….

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