An old man in the midst of a psychotic break enters the cabin of his old pickup truck, seeking refuge from the harsh blizzard outside. As his reality deteriorates, the frost covered windshield in front of him transforms into a screen reminiscent of a drive-in theater. Displayed is an early 20th century styled cartoon of a motherly clown passing out ice cream to wide-eyed children, singing the jingle for Tulsey Town Ice Cream. The black and white figures that dance across the screen are simultaneously comforting and haunting.
This is just one example in an ever-growing body of work that makes Simón Wilches-Castro one of the most exciting animators to step into the public eye. Much of Wilches-Castro’s work draws from classic cartoons to create sequences that fit seamlessly with modern sensibilities. His work is most recently seen in the mind-bending film I’m Thinking About Ending Things by Charlie Kaufman (see the introduction above). It’s a standout moment in a film full of unforgettable and perplexing sequences.
In an interview with critic Carlos Aguilar, the Colombian born/LA based artist touched on how he sees past hardships manifest in art, which would explain why Wilches-Castro’s body of work carries nostalgic imagery that haunts his film’s characters. For Kaufman’s film, he drew inspiration from a vintage Dairy Queen ad and early hand-drawn Disney works. In the music video Hallucinate that he directed for Dua Lipa, the same retro cartoon style meets psychedelic, popsugar euphoria. Both this music video and his 2013 short Semáforo, based on Colombian street performers that have become displaced by rural wars, feature old school aesthetics that descend into a nightmarish void. These pieces initially give the audience their fond memories only as a means to contextualize the underlying trauma that created them.
As for what’s next, the artist is shifting focus to projects centered around his home country and Latin America. If it’s anything like his work thus far, we expect to thoughtfully reconsider our emotional attachment to the past, and we’ll be watching with great interest.
Want to learn more about animation from Latin artists? Check out our interview with Lalo Alcaraz who worked on Pixar’s Coco and Nickelodeon’s “The Casagrandes.”