Newsletter 68: The Genius of Don Hertzfeldt

Will Leitch
4 min readApr 12, 2019

I’ve decided to start putting some of the best newsletter essays here on Medium, so more people can read them. You’re still better off just subscribing. Here’s one from August 2017, about the filmmaker and animator Don Hertzfeldt. I ended up seeing “The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts,” the film I’m previewing in this newsletter, and it tore me inside out just like I’d expected it to. You can watch it here.

Yesterday, filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt announced — or seemed to announce — a sequel to his Oscar-nominated short film “World of Tomorrow,” called “The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts.” If you don’t know Hertzfeldt, he’s an Austin-based animator who early on in his career worked with Mike Judge but has peeled off to become a one-man studio, subsequently making three of the most amazing films I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

The first is called “The Meaning of Life,” is a 12-minute short, entirely hand-animated by Hertzfeldt, that’s roughly about how human beings will always be caught up in the same vain, petty, pedestrian squabbles for centuries to come, even as we evolve into all sorts of wild, fascinating creatures. You can watch it here.

The second was his first big hit, the feature film It’s Such a Beautiful Day, about a man with a mysterious disease that causes him frightening, painful visions but also keeps him, right with us, hanging on to sanity and life as long as he can. Compiled from three short films Hertzfeldt made about the same man, Bill, it is one of the most profound and sad and funny and heartbreaking movies I’ve ever seen.

But “World of Tomorrow,” which came out two years ago, is even better than both of them.

The story of “World of Tomorrow” packs a lot into 15 minutes. A little girl named Emily is visited by a future version of herself, 227 years in the future. This version of Emily is a third generation clone from a future in which people — particularly wealthy people — can upload their memories into their clones for generations and generations, essentially living forever…

Will Leitch

I write about these tumultuous times 2x a week. Author of five books, including “How Lucky.” NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin.