A Look Back at David OReilly’s Octocat

Via: David OReilly.com

With his latest masterpiece, The External World, (that I have yet to see!) currently gaining momentum in advance of its US premiere next month at the Sundance Film Festival, I thought to take a look back at OReilly;s first major break into the international stage. No, not Please Say Something, his excellent short film that was showered with awards, his other series of shorts, Octocat.

If you remember, David released the series under the pseudonym RANDY PETERS, who was supposed to be a nine year old kid living in Chicago using MS Paint to create the films. I remember thinking two things at the time: first of all, damn, that is one ugly cat and secondly, kudos to the kid for making something like that. Sure it isn’t smooth, flawless animation but I’m 23 (at the time, ah, to be young again) and I can’t do anything like that!

Of course, the thrilling conclusion revealed David as the source behind it all. If you haven’t seen the whole adventure, I highly recommend, nay, command you to watch the entire series compiled together below before continuing on,

As you can probably tell, there are certainly different parts to the story (you might also be able to tell that the voice, and that the cup of tea is a dead giveaway for being Irish) but the over-arching theme is that Octocat is looking for his parents.

The dramatic conclusion is perhaps one of the greatest twists I’ve seen in a film because it plays very much on the difference between what the audience expects and what it receives. Overall, it’s a very melancholy film, there is mixture of excitement, wonder, anguish and ultimate disappointment all in a few short minutes.

The films were a great calling card and certainly got OReilly noticed among the international animation community and beyond. It’s creative ideas like this that can help make someone stand out from the crowd and certainly helped David make a name for himself, which ensured that he had an audience all ready to go for Please Say Something.

Although some people will naturally feel deceived, imagine if they weren’t? Imagine if David had released Octocat under his own name. There’s a good chance it might have garnered a few views and some critical praise from ‘experts’ but the average Joe Schmoe would still not have a clue. Attributing the work to a nine year old, David picked up on the willingness to share and tell others about something that seems genuinely amazing. “A nine year old made THAT? It’s awesome!” rather than “Oh, it’s just another short film that I can’t understand and it’s got some shitty animation that a kid could do”. As I was writing this, I had to go back and check out the comments on the original Cartoon Brew post, and to my non-surprise, they were all positive, with many people gunning for “Randy”.

I think sometimes as adults we tend to get too focused on what we consider the be the ‘standard’ for good animation. In Octocat, the animation does tend to play second fiddle to the story, at least until the end when the roles reverse. David says as much in the blog post that revealed the truth behind the series.

I’m sure I’ll be accused of misleading people again, but I won’t apologize for that. Why? Because you’ve all proved one vitally important point: audiences don’t need polished, slick animation to find a story engaging. They are happy to follow the worst animated, worst designed and worst dubbed film of all time, and still laugh and cry and do all the things you do watching a so-called “high end” film. Its amazing, I’ve never been so excited about independent animation.

He’s right, too. We watched every new segment as it was released because we wanted to see what happened to the poor Octocat. Would he find his parents, what other adventures would he set off on, and most importantly (at least for me), would he have another cup of tea.

The old saying that there are some people out there who are naturally lucky is sort of true, but that’s only because they make their own luck most of the time. David OReilly managed to succeed with Octocat because he took a chance and did something that no-one else had done before (no, not deceive the audience, just have them pre-load themselves with certain expectations). His success since then is proof that a bit of inventiveness and some skill can go a long way to progressing your career.

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