A human-like sculpture with a head made from a deformed puppet face and a body made of twisted metal.

The Brothers Quay create dark reflections of life in the inanimate through stop-motion animation.

It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

Tonight’s selection is Street of Crocodiles, a 1986 short film by the Brothers Quay. A pair of identical twins born in the US, they now reside and work in England.

In Crocodiles, a puppet freed from its strings is abandoned to explore a haunting world. Puppets are a common theme in the Brothers’ stop-motion animation. The inanimate is frequently given a weird sort of life. The effect is to create a funhouse reflection of the human experience — its loneliness, fragility, and sometimes hope.

Crocodiles is based on a novel of the same name by Polish author Bruno Schulz. Polish artists and animators are frequently cited as influences of their work.

Writing for the Guardian in 2001, Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam called Street of Crocodiles one of his ten favorite animated films of all time:

There is something peculiar about falling for [Polish animator] Jan Svankmajer and then discovering the Quay brothers — Americans who came to Europe and somehow wound up working in a style that felt like Polish animation. As an American, I always wanted to be seduced into this strange decadent, rotting idea of Europe, and the Quays have created that world in a manner which hypnotises me, but which I don’t fully understand. Maybe I like them because they ended up going further east than I did.

I first encountered the duo’s work in weird animated station identification spots for MTV. Like Liquid Television, this is another reminder that the network used to showcase the bizarre and the creative far more than today. The same could be said of Viacom sister-network Nickelodeon’s early days.

Right now I’m catching up on Rick & Morty, co-created by House of Cosbys Jason Roiland. Have you seen any good cartoons lately? Tell me about them in the comments.

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Brothers Quay sculpture photographed by Raffi Asdourian, released under a Creative Commons license.