Don't Hug Me. I'm Scared (DMHIS for short), formerly known as thisisitcollective is a web series of short films, created by British artists Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling since 2011. It was originally released through the artists' website, later being uploaded on other platforms like YouTube. "Sloan, Becky and Joseph Pelling." Fame - Becky & Joe". Becky and Joe. Becky and Joe's. 2010. Web. 29 June, 2016. </ref> The series consists of 6 episodes (excluding previews and kickstarter videos). The mini series was created without the need to sign with a large company and was supported by a kickstarter campaign by the fans of "Don't Hug Me. I'm Scared". The YouTube channel currently has over one million subscribers.
The Don't Hug Me. I'm Scared series is a very abstract and random series that are 5 - 8 minutes long that jump from animation to life size puppets and actors in costumes in real life. Each episode is made to appear like a typical children's television program, consisting of singing and talking puppets similar to those of Sesame Street, but eventually takes a dark turn, usually involving gore. The series parodies children's television shows by ironically juxtaposing puppetry and musical songs against psychedelic content and disturbing imagery. Six episodes have been released, on the subjects of creativity, time, love, technology, healthy eating, and dreams.
Nobody in the series except a specific recurring character (that will be explained later) has an actual name. But the main characters are named Yellow Guy, who is a short, humanoid person; Red Guy, who is tall, red and has large eyeballs on his head and Duck; who is about the same size as Yellow Guy but is a black duck with human-like features. Each episode revolves around Yellow Guy, Red Guy, and Duck meeting one or several anthropomorphic characters, who begin a musical number related to a basic concept of day-to-day life with an upbeat melody similar to that of a nursery rhyme. As the song progresses, it becomes more and more apparent that the episode's "teacher" character is subtly trying to condition the main characters to share its own opinions and beliefs about the subject, to humorous effect. It also appears that the "teachers" are also trying to brainwash them into thinking a certain way through a type of brainwashing called "educational brainwashing". The climax of each episode usually involves a shock element with heavy use of gore imagery.
Episode 1: Creativity
The first episode begins with the audience's view focusing on the kitchen the characters are in, including a sticky note labelled "Get creative". A sketchbook flips open, comes to life and sings a song, teaching the main characters about creativity. The sketchbook tells the puppets to do childlike activities such as writing out colours using sticks and cloud-spotting, and to apply their conscience. Throughout the episode, the sketchbook makes the puppets believe its opinion, telling them "Green is not a creative colour". This results in a violent and exaggerated depiction of creativity by the puppets, who begin dancing frantically and doing intense things such as writing the word DEATH and covering a human heart in glitter, including baking and carving cakes made from unidentifiable viscera. The video ends with everything seemingly restored to normal and the sketchbook asking everyone to "Never be creative again."
Episode 2: Time
The second video features a talking clock who sings about the concept of time and how it relates to daily life. This clock is supposedly named "Tony". Tony explains how time is used to "measure the day" and how all things change over time. Mansfield, Matt. "Becky & Joe are this week's Dazed Visionaries". Dazed. Dazed Digital. 6 January 2014. Web. 27 May 2014. </ref> Yellow Guy asks a question about time that Tony disliked, so Tony made a sound resembling a digital clock's alarm going off with the sound becoming more loud and obnoxious until Yellow Guy's ears start to bleed, and THEN he stops. This message is exaggerated near the end of the episode where the rate of time is increased dramatically, causing the puppets' bodies to age rapidly. Red Guy's hair starts to grow long, Duck Guy's feathers start falling off, and the skin on the fingers of Yellow Guy starts to fall off. He then looks up and finds that his face is "deflating" or aging along with the other puppets'. The events are revealed to be part of a television programme being watched by the three friends. It has been revealed that the show the puppets were watching was an episode of the series Craig's Big Day which is also a series made by Becky and Joe. In the end they all realize that time is important. This video is rated 15 by the British Board of Film Classification| and is classified with Strong horror and scary scenes.
Episode 3: Love
The third episode features Shrignold, a butterfly who sings about the concept of love. The episode is opened with a picnic scene, where Duck Guy kills a butterfly that landed on their chicken after mistaking it for a bee. Yellow Guy becomes distressed and flees to the branch of a nearby tree to be alone, where he is found by Shrignold. Shrignold then lures Yellow Guy to his friends with music about love, which later turns out to be a cult, as the song lights upon who is an acceptable partner for love. After a brief anecdote featuring 'Michael, the loneliest boy in town', Shrignold then introduces Yellow Guy to Malcolm, the 'King of Love', who is a rock with a mouth-shaped furnace, and the leader of the cult whom they worship by feeding gravel to him. The cult then starts to brainwash Yellow Guy into joining the cult. The video ends with Yellow Guy waking up where he started, implying that it was all a dream, and his friends bringing him a boiled egg as a peace offering. The egg splits open of its own accord, revealing a maggot-like creature who calls Yellow Guy "Father". The creature is promptly killed by Duck Guy, with the accompanying remark of "Pesky bee!"
Episode 4: Technology
The fourth episode features Colin, a singing computer who introduces the puppets to concepts around personal computing. As Colin introduces himself (with as song), the Red Guy becomes irritated with Colin's rambling, and proceeds to hit the keyboard. This sends Colin into a fit of rage, screaming "DON'T TOUCH ME!" in a voice that becomes more louder and high pitched. For a short while, the entirety of the episode appears to suffer from numerous visual artefacts and glitches, until the scene cuts back to Colin and the three protagonists in the 'Digital World'. Colin proceeds to inform them about the "Three Main Activities of the Digital World". These are viewing different graphs as stated by Yellow Guy, Digital Style as stated by Duck Guy, and Digital Dancing as played out by Colin. These actions proceed to repeat themselves multiple times until a large room becomes populated with clones of Colin, Yellow Guy and Duck Guy, all of which are dancing frantically. While Duck Guy and Yellow Guy enjoy this world, Red Guy attempts to escape it. As Red Guy tries to escape by going into another room, he enters to find a film crew wearing spandex suits attempting to film a poorly-made replica of the first episode. After observing the scene for a few moments, Red Guy hears a computerized voice tell him that "You are not invited to the party.", and his head suddenly explodes into glitter when they stopped the recording and yelled "CUT!".
Episode 5: Healthy Eating
The fifth episode features a can, a human-sized steak, a loaf of bread, and a refrigerator, all singing about the concept of healthy food. The Red Guy is missing, and the other two notice something is different but seem unable to understand what. As the song progresses, typical knowledge of what constitutes a balanced diet is forgone as the song becomes increasingly nonsensical. The song is stopped in two places by the telephone ringing. As the teachers look on nervously, Duck Guy answers the telephone both times, but doesn't respond to what he hears on the line. The song continues until Duck Guy unusually begins questioning their advice and expresses a desire to leave. Eventually, he becomes irritated and runs off-set, knocking over the camera. He wakes up in the operating room, and finds a large tin eating his organs. Yellow Guy continues following the song as it progresses and becomes fat and bloated from eating cans of meat which are apparently from Duck Guy's body, probably his intestines. The end credits show Red Guy dressed in a coat and scarf, walking away from a phone booth carrying a suitcase, suggesting that he was responsible for the series of phone calls.
A mobile phone number is seen in the video, which is located on a sticky note in front of the refrigerator in the kitchen. The creators claim that this number was ringing within seconds of the episode's release, which at first they would answer and pretend to be different characters from the show.
Episode 6: Dreams
The sixth episode aired on June 19th, 2016 (a date referred to multiple times throughout the series). The episode opens with Yellow Guy sitting in bed, crying because he misses his friends Duck Guy and Red Guy, whose beds are shown to be empty. When he tries to go to sleep, a lamp next to his bed begins to sing a song about dreams. For the first time in the series, Yellow Guy actively attempts to resist the song sequence, but he is taken on one anyway. After experiencing a dream about drowning in oil, Yellow Guy wakes up, only to see the Lamp transform his mattress into oil. The scene cuts to Red Guy in an office with multiple other red people. Red Guy appears to miss his time with his friends, and while in a bar, starts singing the song from the first episode. This is received unfavourably by the rest of the bar-goers, who start booing and jeering at him. Red Guy then sees Roy (Yellow Guy's dad) sitting in the crowd and staring at him ominously. Right after this, the microphone and boombox he was using turn into teacher-characters, the bar setting disappears, and he is transported to a dark black room. The "Dreams Song" begins playing distantly, and Red Guy follows the sound, finding that the source is a machine, which allows the user to control which teacher appears and monitor the characters on a small screen. Seeing via the screen that Yellow Guy is being tormented by the singing lamp, Red Guy attempts to change the situation, pressing buttons at random in the hopes of turning the machine off or disabling the lamp. Instead, the random button-pushing causes the lamp to morph into teachers from past episodes, Duck Guy was also one of the morphing characters wearing the same clothes from the previous episode saying "Huh! Where a"and other previously unseen teachers. Roy appears from the shadows and touches Red Guy on the shoulder with a massively elongated arm. Yellow Guy on the screen screams and weeps, his features becoming gaunt and lifeless. Red Guy follows a wire, leading to an outlet with a plug. Roy continues to reach towards the machine, but Red Guy disconnects the machine's plug from its outlet. The ending shows the protagonists with altered color schemes, becoming the color they named as their favourite in the first episode, seated in a room resembling the room in the first episode, except lacking most of the original furniture. The calendar turns from June 19th to June 20th. An alternate Sketchbook flips open to begin singing the song from the first episode, and the episode concludes after the first line is sung.
- Yellow Guy — One of the three main characters. He is represented as a child. He wears blue overalls and has long blue hair. He seems to be the least intelligent, often making grammatical errors in his dialogue. He is a fraction of his father's height. Towards the end of the series, he becomes increasingly aware of the events taking place around him.
- Red Guy — One of the three main characters. Unlike Yellow Guy and Duck Guy, Red Guy is portrayed through the use of a person wearing a costume. Red Guy is often sarcastic and moody, expressing cynicism and disinterest at times. He is the first to question the "teachers". He speaks in a very monotonous voice and shows very little emotion to the odd occurrences he and his friends experience. He entered the real world at the end of the fourth episode and tries to contact his friends. In Episode 6, it is revealed that he is one of a race of creatures who resemble him, and works in an office.
- Duck Guy  — One of the three main characters. He challenges Yellow Guy's imagination, rejecting metaphors and questioning the existence of time. He apparently dies in episode 5 after his organs are stolen and his remains eaten by Yellow Guy, but is later shown to be alive in Episode 6 when Red Guy was using the machine to morph different teachers into Yellow Guy's bedroom, with Duck Guy being one of the morphed characters.
- Sketchbook — Educates the puppets about creativity. Its tone of voice barely changes to fit its stern actions of authority. Voiced by series co-creator Becky Sloan. Sketchbook appears multiple times throughout the remainder of the series, either as a cameo or a background object. An alternate version of Sketchbook makes an appearance in the final scene of Episode 6, resembling the original but possessing a lazy eye.
- Tony the Talking Clock — Educates the puppets about time. His tone of voice shows anger and annoyance with the puppets when they start to have a discussion about when time began, when it will end, and if it even exists at all. After the protagonists continue with their discussion, he makes a loud sound resembling a digital alarm clock going off, making Yellow Guy's ears bleed. He reappears with all the previous teachers in the sixth episode.
- Shrignold  — A talking "Love Bug" who teaches the Yellow Guy about love in the third episode. He is the least aggressive teacher. He is the only teacher based on an animal, rather than an anthropomorphic household or food object.
- Colin — A talking computer who teaches the puppets about technology in the fourth episode. He is the most invasive and easily angered teacher, as shown when he violently flails his arms and screams when the Red Guy touches him. He often makes grammatical errors. Voiced by series co-writer Baker Terry. He reappears in the sixth episode alongside all the previous teachers.
- Roy Gribbleston — He first appears in the second episode and makes cameos in the following episodes. He has a greater presence in the sixth episode, interacting with Red Guy and constantly appearing in Yellow Guy's dreams.
- Malcolm — The "king of love" whom Shrignold and his friends worship and feed gravel. He later makes a cameo as a small ornament on the puppets' mantle or fireplace in the fourth episode.
- Gilbert the Globe  — A globe who was teased by Becky Sloan as the teacher of episode 4, a role which was taken by Colin. He is seen in episode 4 attempting to speak before being interrupted by Colin, and makes only one more appearance in the episode saying "Hey!" in a deep voice when the group are being transferred to the digital world.
- Fridge — Introduced in episode 5. This character has no given name.
- Steak — Introduced in episode 5, this character has no given name. He is one of the main teachers in episode 5. He laughs nervously throughout episode 5.
- Can — Can appears to be the Steak's assistant, and appeared in episode 5 without a given name. She has a green label on her body, with green "leaves" sticking out of her lid and mouth.
- Bread Boy  — First appears in the fifth episode. It provides musical accompaniment to Steak and Can by "drumming" on jars of peanut butter and jelly with eating utensils.
- Giant Can — A human-sized tin can who is responsible for harvesting Duck Guy's organs and presenting the finished product to Yellow Guy. The Giant Can utters a low and guttural laugh while consuming Duck Guy.
- Lamp — Appears in episode 6, taking Yellow Guy against his will through an animated sequence about dreams.
- Money Man — The man seen holding the characters hostage in the Kickstarter campaign.
Sloan and Pelling met while studying Fine Art, and Animation respectively at Kingston University where they started the "THIS IS IT" Collective with some friends. They produced the first episode of Don't Hug Me I'm Scared in their free time with no budget. When they started on the project they imagined making it into a series, but initially dropped the idea after finishing the first episode. After the short film gained popularity, they decided to expand it into a series. Channel 4's Random Acts commissioned the second episode. The show soon attracted mainstream commissioners, but Sloan and Pelling turned them down because they "wanted to keep it fairly odd and have the freedom to do exactly what we wanted."
In May 2014, Sloan and Pelling announced that they would start a kickstarter fundraising campaign to make four or more additional episodes, one every three months, starting in September 2014. They uploaded low-quality camera footage of the characters being taken hostage and held for ransom. A 12-year-old American boy tried to use hacked credit card information to donate £35,000 to the campaign, but he was caught and those funds were thrown out. Their Kickstarter goal of £96,000 was reached on 19 June 2014, and in total £104,935 was raised.
In January 2016, Sloan and Pelling collaborated with Lazy Oaf to release a line of clothing based on the characters and themes of the show. In April, the main characters of the series were featured on the cover of the magazine Printed Pages, along with an "interview" of the three main characters written by the magazine's editor
The original short film became a viral hit and the series grew to become a cult phenomenon. The six episodes have so far amassed 94.6 million views on YouTube. Scott Beggs listed the original short film as number 8 on his list of the 11 best short films of 2011. Carolina Mardones listed the first episode as number 7 in her top ten short films of 2011. It was also included in as part of a cinema event in Banksy's Dismaland.
Drew Grant of the Observer wrote that the series episodes are "
horrifyingly nightmarish absolutely beautiful" and "mind-melting". Freelance writer Benjamin Hiorns observed that "it's not the subject matter that makes these films so strangely alluring, it's the strikingly imaginative set and character design and the underlying Britishness of it all."
Pelling, when asked about how the film came about, said that the purpose was "how not to teach something" and "how an abstract concept like creativity is kind of stupid when people try to teach it in a limited way that [they] do". In addition, he comments on how the video is open for interpretation, and how, when different people reach different conclusions about the video, they may all be valid in their own right.
A student writer for Nouse compared the appeal of the first episode to themes in Gothic literature, arguing that they are both "tapping into the same cultural fear of a violent subconscious hiding beneath the facade of normality." In The Wesleyan Argus, another student writer called the series a "fine example of the era of esotericism" and noted that, "There is a building meta-commentary on the relationships between viewer, perception, creator, participant, and art (and perhaps death) that began with the first episode, but what that commentary is trying to say is not yet entirely clear. However, there is an absolute sense that the series is building toward a culmination."
Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling are British graphic designers, artists and animators. Their advertising runs through commercial productions. The duo have worked as part of the THIS IS IT Collective.
Their content consists of videos, graphic design art, animation, music, and working with real-life materials to resemble things in the real world as art. They have won multiple awards, including the 2012 SXSW Midnight Shorts Award.
- ↑ Sachs, Jack. "CGI designer Jack Sachs via Instagram." Instagram. 1 April 2015. Web. 30 June 2016.
- ↑ Sloan, Becky . "His name is... Shrignold.". Twitter. 2 November 2014. Web. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
- ↑ Sloan, Becky . "Hey.. Who's this guy?! It's Gilbert the Globe!". Twitter. 20 January 2015 Web. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
- ↑ Sloan, Becky. "Bread Boy 🍞👀🍞👀🍞". Instagram. 15 October 2015. Web. Retrieved 20 June 2016.