Fantastic Fest Review: “World of Tomorrow: Episode Two – The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts”

Don Hertzfeldt's signature stick figures are plump with ideas

Gosh. Genius animator Don Hertzfeldt, whose previous animated short “World of Tomorrow” was nominated for an Oscar in 2015 (and robbed of the statue), is hereby invited to unburden his thoughts to me anytime, anywhere. They are that ticklishly enjoyable.

”Episode Two” builds on the setup of Hertzfeldt’s greatly beloved 2015 original. At 22 minutes, it’s six-minutes longer than the first film, and conceptually more complex. In the original, a young girl named Emily Prime (voiced by Hertzfeldt’s neice Winona Mae) is visited by an adult clone of herself from the future (voiced by Julia Pott), who guides the girl on a tour through time and space to show her a glimpse of the future. The simplicity of Hertfeldt’s stick-figure characters is offset by the film’s complexity of thoughts and humorous gags. And the guile and naturalism in the child’s voice is offset by the expository joylessness of the adult’s voice. The first film is a mind-tripping delight, a disarming mixture of jokes, conjecture, and genuine exploration.

In the follow-up, Emily is again voiced by Hertzfeldt’s naive niece, but this time she is visited by the an incomplete backup copy of a third-generation clone of herself (again voiced with perfect affectlessness by Julia Pott, herself an animator). The journey in “Episode Two” is more convoluted and far-flung, but no less buoyed by its humor and more intricately animated backgrounds. This is a memory tour conducted as the clone tries to recover lost image data and backup versions, while Emily traipses through worlds of flowers and triangles with the crayon-like wonder of a child. The literal shimmers of hope discovered in the bog of realism are among the film’s most charming highlights.

When they build the World of Tomorrow ride at the Hertzfeldt Amusement Park of the future, I’ll be first in line to pluck those glimmers of hope from the bog of reality. Until then, I’ll have to be satisfied to merely watch the film several more times.

Fantastic Fest ran Sept. 21-28. Follow all of our coverage at

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