A few months before Terence McKenna passed away, he gave a last interview to countercultural writer and pundit Erik Davis. The interview, which has since gained mythical status can be listened to on YouTube or downloaded as a podcast from the “Psychedelic Salon” website.
Listening to it recently, my attention was caught by the part in which McKenna discusses the metaphysical meaning of animation and the part where he names some of his favorite cartoons. I then searched YouTube to find some of the cartoons he mentions and enjoyed them quite a bit.
What follows is the transcribed section of the interview in which Terence discusses animation and then the actual psychedelic animation videos which Terence mentions in the interview.
Terence McKenna on Psychedelic Animations – From Erik Davis’s last interview with Terence McKenna
“I encourage everybody to think about animation, and think about it in practical terms. To look at objects, and pose these things to themselves as a model of old problems, because out of that will come a language rich enough to support an actual form of human communication that’s been very elusive and maybe never at hand at all.”
“It’s very interesting when you talk to people or listen to people, how many people who take psychedelics have cartoon-like encounters with beings. And you say: Gee, this is weird, cartoons only go back to 1920 or 1915 or something. How weird that an out there technical phenomena could just grab a whole section of human psychology and camp there with that kind of tenacity. And to me that indicates it has an archetypal claim on that territory”
“Well, The great genius of Disney… Disney is my idea of – beyond Edison and Ford or anybody – of what we really mean by an American genius. Because he had mice who wear gloves living inside his head, but he was able to create a mechanical technology to show people these mice. So instead of just being put quietly away by his brother or something like that, he said: “No, no, you don’t understand. Money! This is worth money! If we can show people these glove wearing mice and talking ducks and all this stuff.”
“And then he was a sufficiently American Yankee genius that he saw how to take a flip book and put it on celluloid and do all that. Yeah, I think Disney is a very very far out person. He went to the platonic ideas and came back with baskets full of [???] released them in American towns and cities, and did very well.”
Erik Davis: “Animation is a great place to see the reflection of things that are happening at the culture at large.”
Mckenna: “And certain people take it to incredible Heights. Do you know that animation called “Asparagus”? You should check it out. It’s about 20 – maybe it’s 15-20 years old – but it’s very highly detailed, as realistic as a van Eyck painting, and totally surreal. Also, do you know that one by Sally Cruikshank called “Quasi at the Quackadero”? that’s a DMT extravaganza carnival basically, a cartoon carnival, but a carnival crazy enough to convince you you should go take drugs basically. And Max Fleischer is a genius and all these people.”
Erik Davis: “Fleischer is great. I think Fleischer is the true origin of underground comics. I think you find the most pregnant images of a certain kind of seedy – like the way that Robert Crumb presents a certain kind of seediness – and sort of failure of the bodies and spaces, and yet that’s infused with a kind of like magical eye. So you really have that both in Fleischer. You really have the mania of the Betty Boom but also a certain kind of quotidian, almost proletarian graininess to these characters.”
McKenna: “Yes, it would be very hard to imagine postmodernity without Crumb’s input. I consider him an absolute psychedelic genius. Very few people have had the influence without the karma that crumb had. He basically did all that stuff, sold the drawings and moved to a chateaux in southern France and called it quits. And got away with it.”
Asparagus – Susan Pitt (1979)
Suzan Pitt’s Asparagus was screened together with David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” for two years on the midnight movie circuit. It has a loose plot, lots of phallic imagery and surreal, psychedelic content.
Quasi at the Quackadero – Sally Cruikshank (1975)
Quasi at the Quackadero is about two ducks and a pet robot who visit a futuristic psychedelic amusement park in which you can view your thoughts, watch yesterday’s dreams, or go visit the past.
Max Fleischer Videos
Max Fleischer was one of the leading pioneers of American animation who worked in animation since the 1910s. He invented the Rotroscope technique which has since been used in films such as Waking Life and Scanner Darkly, as well as a number of other animation techniques. Fleischer’s biggest animation stars were Betty Boop, Bimbo and Popeye the Sailorman. A few of his videos were already featured here on the DPV: Betty Boop – Ha Ha Ha, Bimbo’s Initiation and the Saint James Infirmary Blues in Betty Boop’s Snow White.
Wikipedia says has this to say about Fleischr’s style of animation:
“Fleischer cartoons were very different from Disney cartoons, in concept and in execution. The Fleischer approach was sophisticated, focused on surrealism, dark humor, adult psychological elements and sexuality. The Fleischer milieu was grittier, more urban, sometimes even sordid, often set in squalid tenement apartments with cracked, crumbling plaster and threadbare furnishings. Even the jazz music on Fleischer’s soundtracks was rawer, saucier, more fitting with the unflinching Fleischer look at America’s multicultural scene.”
Below are three short and psychedelic animations by Fleischer Studios. The first one was banned because of the explicit use of nitrous oxide. In the second one, Betty Boop and her partner Bimbo sell a magic potion by the name of “Jippo”, which can cure every malady and cause fantastic transformations. The third one follows Bimbo through his incredible psychic initiation.
Betty Boom – Ha Ha Ha (Nitrous oxide video – Don’t miss the part starting on 4:00)
Betty Boom M.D.