Animated Short of the Week – Quasi at the Quackadero
Quasi at the Quackadero (1976)
Dir. Sally Cruikshank
Well here’s one of the most terrifying cartoons I’ve ever seen… And I’ll be damned if I can’t quite put a finger on why. Maybe it’s the degradation of color, the scratchiness of an old film reel played to oblivion just as before being given a new life on the burgeoning home video market. And just maybe, it’s because it exists in a vision of the imagined viewing of this film itself, on a dilapidated old 8mm projector in a wood-paneled basement while completely inundated with hallucinogenics. Sometimes the things a film (or music, often inexorably linked) can evoke aren’t even of direct context to the film itself, haunting instead a facet of the subconscious that hasn’t even actually been literally explored. Let’s call it the Ariel Pink effect.
All that aside, it’s a neat little independent short, a veritable phantasmagoria of colors and drugs, and of course more than a pinch of sadism thrown in for good measure. This is a short that makes one triple-check to see if Ralph Bakshi’s name is floating around somewhere in there; its particular brand of psychedelia and satire owe much to the animator’s earlier work in particular. But what illuminates the film to a particularly elevated platform amongst animators and historians (after all, this film was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 2009, right alongside Once Upon a Time in the West, Dog Day Afternoon, and most importantly, The Muppet Movie) is the perpetual movement and shape-shifting that is the trip through the time travel amusement park. The sense of movement and dream logic during this sequence is really a marvelous accomplishment of animation, but one that does not exactly extend much further than that. Quasi at the Quackadero is by definition style over substance; it’s a feast for the eyes, and really, in the end, I’m probably just way to goddamn sober at the moment to truly appreciate its abandon.