The years between childhood and adolescence are a challenge for any parent, and in no two cases is this ever the same. In this fragile time of life, the most important thing for any parent is to limit and protect the young one from too much exposure to more mature subject material. The question is then: how much is too much? In Pokey Pokey, Junjie Zhang sets out to tackle the topic by means of an animated short that is set in a dystopian world rife with debauchery.
Junjie Zhang’s vision is that of a world of decadence, a Tokyo-meets-Vegas vibe featuring garrish characters that resemble sea creatures more than humans–a stylistic choice which cleverly drapes an overall sliminess over the whole film. For an animated film, the imagery is quite haunting and even at times surprisingly cringe-inducing.
The name of the film is in reference to a fictional product therein called Pokey Pokey, a lime-green drink that is marketed to parents by a man known as Prez. If given to a child, the drink supposedly limits their capacity to take in their surroundings and, in a way, preserve their innocence. Further, the bright and toxic appearance of the drink suggests that it might actually hinder growth–a reverse growth hormone of sorts–which is an even more terrifying idea all in itself.
Outside of the drink, the film also contains some terrifying imagery that involves the eyes. It’s a perfect metaphor, since the eyes are the human vessel for experiencing the world. This last bit of symbolism from Zhang is particularly jarring, and adds a rewarding explicitness to the film which was otherwise unexpected.
This is a short which is not only well-crafted but also undoubtedly original and as captivating as much as any six-minute film is bound to be. The message of Junjie Zhang’s Pokey Pokey is resonant and relevant, and it is tucked behind an aesthetically pleasing style of animation which is harrowing and satisfying grotesque.