Cargo Cult is a 2D animated video — short, simple in its execution yet displaying masterful technique in color and motion. The short video centers around a core theme of movement—the animation is constantly in motion, using a flickering technique to bring life to the screen even when the camera is still. Characters and objects in the film are outlined in black, and these outlines make for most of the flickering movement from frame to frame. Even the introductory font, which is a sans-serif handwritten style, has this flickering motion effect.
Movement is almost exclusively reserved to the forefront of the camera, with the background motionless and flat, yet still colorful and lively. The film takes place on a beach or island, and a stark contrast between the old world and the new world come head to head with the presence of a tribal settlement and a war cargo depot. This contrast is the basis for the film’s simplicity—the color palette is limited, shading is conservative, and a guitar, vocals, and tribal drums make for the music score.
There is very little dialogue, only that of the natives for a brief section of the film, but the story is told without any need for the viewer to understand or hear any spoken words. Symbols instead are used throughout to tell story—airplanes and headphones and technology, as well as the imitation of it.
Halfway through the film, the animation style shifts into a dream-like, ameboid state, where white symbols and designs multiply from each other on top of a black background. A steady, quick drum beat sets the pace, building tension as the animation movement grows faster and faster, finally moving back to the original animation style.
The film ends on a slow note, using things such as trees, turtles, and destroyed technology to bring everything to a close. The ocean water barely moves in the background, and the foreground centers on the native man we’ve followed from the beginning, looking up into the motionless sky.
Cargo Cult is a stunning animated video.