Victorian Cut-out Theatre: A Decent Burial

After nearly 2 years absent, Victorian Cut-out Theatre has returned!

The show is now in color and includes a fancy new intro as well as much smoother animation. I mean, look at that rain. That looks like real rain on the street outside Van Ghoul's Funeral Services! It could be that these slight tweaks to the show may not make the long wait worth it and to that I must say, my absence wasn't entirely due to the development of this show. Much of my time away has been spent acclimating myself to fatherhood. Raising a tiny, pink ape can take up a goodly amount of time, as I'm sure you can imagine. The first three months of parenthood are like being sold into servitude to an alien emperor whose chief means of communication is screaming. After that, it gets better exponentially. I also wrote for PBS, in a round about way, which was a really wonderful experience. Someday I hope to write with the brilliant Stephanie Yuhas and Matt Conant in a room together, making each other laugh and getting paid good money to do so. That would a be a dream come true. I also had other personal matters to deal with during the two years away which I may go into at a later date. So, not every waking moment was poured into the animation you see before you, but a lot of time was poured into learning new technology and the writing. I will say that this is probably the best written season out of the three and definitely the best looking. So win/win! Then again, most of you have likely not been waiting with baited breath, which is kind of a relief.

It would be fair to say that I have long held an odd view of death. In the house in which I grew up there were bubbled photographs of somber Bavarian relatives and happy Irish infants, glowering/giggling over battered furniture filled with horse hair. It's true. The furniture has changed, but the relatives glower/giggle even now. Our living room or "parlour" has been the site of several gatherings to remember the dead. Tears and whiskey and cigarette smoke stains our floorboards. And the walls, still insulated with 1920s newspaper, echo with the sound of music, laughter, and stories. Memorial Day was a family event where we would drive country backroads looking for wildflowers, return to my town's small, but ancient cemetery and place flowers on the graves of family members we'd never meet. The day would culminate in history lessons from my father and grandfather. Some of the graves were so old that they included the rebel flag, denoting confederate military service. Then there were also tragic graves; tiny markers with a single question mark or simply the word "Baby".

In an age where children and adults alike are put off by death in popular entertainment, I have come to view my upbringing as...ahem...unusual. As such, these feelings are entwined with my humor and find there way into Victorian Cut-out Theatre.

This episode was inspired, in part, by the idea of the safety coffins sold in the 18th and 19th centuries. Due to cholera epidemics, rumor, and the popular fiction of Mr. Edgar Allan Poe, the idea of being buried alive wormed its way into the cultural zeitgeist. Fear of live burial made a niche market for those enterprising enough to develop safety devices for the (not so) deceased. There were other funeral contraptions even more interesting than this one, which were written out of the script for time. However, if you get the chance, you should look up the "Fisk Air Tight Coffin". The "Fisk" was essentially a pressurized, steel sarcophagus with a porthole for viewing the decaying body of the interred. Neat, huh.

I had always heard about the bells put on some coffins during the 1800s, especially after reading up on Harry Houdini who did a buried alive illusion, and often sought to use death imagery to promote his shows. I found the idea of them extremely novel and an excellent jumping off point for a sketch about purchasing a coffin. I think it works, with references to bleedings and used caskets. Every fear one can have about burial and internment was explored, at least as much as one can in under three minutes.

This episode and this entire third season would not be possible without the support of the following people. You have them to thank as much as I.

Stephanie Yuhas and Matt Conant. I could not ask for better producers or collaborators. VCoT is better because of their ideas, suggestions, and support.

Chris Potako: He is the reason VCoT looks and plays better. He is a tech genius and a great help.

Dr. Anthony Mandal: He and his team's work on the Database of MidVictorian Illustration is responsible for nearly every frame of the show from episode one onward. I was fortunate enough to write essays for Dr. Mandal who has been a great cheerleader for the series.

Dr. Bob Nicholson: No one appreciates the study of Victorian humor more. I was fortunate enough to make a short video for Dr. Nicholson's Victorian Humor Project and as a result, I think VCoT is better in both look and writing.

Thank you for watching and take care,

-Rob