Monday, 21 March 2011

The Quay Brothers

Stephen and Timothy Quay AKA, The Quay Brothers are identical twins from Pennsylvania who creates extraordinary stop motion animation. There work is very distinctive because of is dark surrealist style. The plots of the Quay Brothers animations are minimal and vague. This is not a criticism as there animations are intended as an experience; it’s not supposed to be a satisfying narrative (in the traditional sense).
The Quay’s work shows outstanding attention to detail in terms of colour, texture and light. It is especially disturbing when organic and man made textures are mixed. An example of this is the scene with the stopwatch in Street of Crocodiles (1986); the watch opens to reveal that it is full of gore.

Fig 1: Colour, Lighting & Texture

Perhaps there most accomplished short film, or the film that best describes there style is, Street of Crocodiles. Director Terry Gilliam selected Street of Crocodiles as one of the ten best animated films of all time. Gilliam described his admiration for the film saying: I came to Europe and somehow wound up working in a style that felt like Polish animation. As an American, I always wanted to be seduced into this strange decadent, rotting idea of Europe, and the Quays have created that world in a manner which hypnotizes me, but which I don't fully understand.” [Gilliam, 2001]. The Quay’s influence can certainly be seen in Gilliam’s work, the Quays were perhaps the influence for the baby masks in Brazil (1985).

Fig 2: Brazil Masks
The Polish animation Gilliam is referring to is that of animators like Walerian Borowczyk who was a huge influence on The Quay Brothers. Borowczyk's animation Renaissance (1963) shows a similar attention to lighting texture and colour, it has clearly influenced in the Quays work.

TheGuardian, 2001, The Ten Best Animated Films of all Time, [online] Avalible at:

Zeitgest Films, 2007, The Quay Brothers, [online] Avalible at:

Image List

Fig 2, Brazil Masks, 1985, Movie Still, [online] Avalible at:  

Fig 1: Colour Lighting & Texture, Street of Crocodiles, 1986, Movie Still, [online] Avalible at:

1 comment:

  1. nice cross-referencing, Sam - this is the stuff that makes essays tick!