Name That Trauma:: Philip W. on a Minimalist Animated Nuclear Devastation Short

One fine afternoon in the early ’80s, I zipped my cable box channel indicator to the left, locked on to HBO and caught part of one of the most depressing and bizarre bits of animation I’ve ever been witness to.

It was done up in a very minimalist style, simple colorless line drawings against a blank white background. There were no character voices, only a narrator with a British accent. I don’t know how long it had been on, but here’s the part I caught:

A plane was zipping around the sky, out of control. It was apparently being flown by an outdoorsman who had his team of sled dogs on board. The plane crashed and everyone on board perished.

The next bit involved a child who needed an operation. You saw him standing alone in the middle of the screen and then an arm snatched him off-screen. It was then revealed that due to complications he died during surgery.

There was then a scene featuring a family huddled together. The scene switched to a shed and the narrator revealed that the family sought shelter inside but had no food. It was some sort of storage shed filled with containers of chemicals, and all the family members ended up drinking them and dying. This was represented by several bubbles rising above the roof that then turned into question marks.

At this point I had decided to forgo the ending of this ever-so-joyous offering and quickly zipped right, desperately hoping to catch an episode of “You Can’t Do That On Television” or possibly “Danger Mouse” and forget what I had seen. But it’s stayed with me ever since, and despite searching for clues online, I have never found out what it was.

Given the tone and the times, I figure it had something to do with the after effects of a nuclear war. There wasn’t much more to the narration than descriptions of what was happening with the various characters. And given the narrator’s accent, I assume it was made in the UK. Perhaps the BBC or some film company didn’t want kids to miss out on all of the fun adults were having when watching “Threads” or “The War Game.” So did anyone else out there happen to see this?

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8 years ago

Holy cow. That is right up my nightmare alley. I have no idea what it might be; but I’m on pins and needles waiting to see if anyone else does.

There are some things I should just never, ever watch. And yet, somehow I inevitably do. This may end up being one of them.

Looking forward to joining you in trauma, Philip W.

8 years ago

Oh! I know this one! It’s called “The Family that Dwelt Apart,” a Canadian, animated short from 1973 based on a story and narrated by by E. B. White (of Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web fame). I remember watching it in between features on HBO back in the early-to-mid-80s as well, although I also recall possibly seeing it on PBS a few years before. Anyway, it starts off sort of whimsically, but yeah, then takes a darker turn (sort of like Charlotte’s Web…)

Anyway, here it is:

7 years ago

Oh man, that’s it! A bit less grim than I remember, but twisted nonetheless!