Happy 4th of July: Revisiting the ‘acidburn flashback tabu’ of Vincent Collins’s “200”

By on July 4, 2017

In 1975, San Francisco-based animator Vincent Collins was commissioned by an unlikely sounding organization called the U.S. Information Agency (now known as the U.S. International Communication Agency, they dispensed patriotic propaganda between 1953-1999) to create an animated film short in an attempt to, in his words, “liven up the otherwise banal and uneventful ‘Bicentennial’ celebration” the following year. Here ’tis, Vincent Collins’ “200.”

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According to filmmaker Vince Collins, in making 200 he “put together every animatable symbol, image or icon of the USA.”

Included in the film’s imagery are the official seal, the Statue of Liberty, the Woodstock logo, the Liberty Bell, and Mt. Rushmore. The film layers symbol on top of symbol, with a bald eagle hatching from a red, white, and blue egg and flying past the American Gothic farmers, the U.S. Capitol building, the Golden Gate Bridge, Abe Lincoln’s cabin, and an American bison.

Collins — who was a student at the San Francisco Art Institute and won a Student Academy Award for his first short film “Euphoria,” made in 1974 — was no doubt influenced by some of the hallucinogenic animation he’d been seeing in the previous ten years to this point, from the pop-art explosion of the mid-60s onward, including the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, the work of pop art illustrator Peter Max, and there’s no doubt he was also at least partly-inspired by some of the Bay Area’s other indie animators, including some of his contemporaries, like Lawrence Jordan, Jeff Hale (“Thank You, Mask Man”), and Gary Gutierrez (“The Grateful Dead Movie”).

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One of Collins’ best films — “Life Is Flashing Before Your Eyes” — was collected with other short animated psycho-out films in Tony Vegas’s Acidburn Flashback Tabu, which provides us with as good a neologism as any for what this kind of animated work can or should be called.

Collins continued to make great little animated films, including Malice In Wonderland, in 1982, which we’ll feature separately here on Night Flight because it’s so frickin’ awesome — and Malice is still being screened at animation festivals to this day, like some of his other early films— but over on his Vimeo page, and on his Tumblr too, Collins (who goes by Vince too) says he had to switch over to doing the animation with computers after the price of silver went up, making cell-animated films too prohibitively expensive to do without continuing grants and scholarships or rich patrons paying for it.

(Collins actually gives a kind of short history of why animation is being done on computers now, check it out).

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He’s now making 3D-animated movies, of course, but we sure wish there would be a renaissance of this “acidburn flashback tabu” shit because it’s so damn cool. Expect to see more of it on Night Flight.

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You can download a less-compression version of “200” for free here

By the way, here’s the same “200” film, but someone’s added “U.S. Blues,” by the Grateful Dead from their 1974 studio album, The Grateful Dead From The Mars Hotel.

BONUS: Just because it’s the 4th of July, here’s Chuck Braverman’s history of the United States, from the beginning right up until 1968, in three minutes. Braverman’s montage of 1300 images, set to the music of Sandy Nelson’s “Beat That Drum,” originally aired on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”

Have a Happy 4th of July!

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.