After finding a coin purse, a man spends some of the money on eyeglasses. This seems, at first, like a good thing to buy, but it unwittingly sets into motion a series of small purchases that get out of control. This is Five Cents, artist Aaron Hughes‘ critically acclaimed animated short.
Using ink, white-out, gouache paint, and gold leaf, the New York-based artist crafts a symbolic exploration of how consumer decisions can be influenced in the modern age. He was inspired by his work for the New York Federal Reserve, as well as his own struggle with student debt.
Why does the man buy the glasses? The umbrella? The mirror? Why did he press ‘1’ on the telephone? What options does he have at the top of the escalator? How much does he spend? Did he have what he needed in the end? And what was he doing before he found the coin purse?
Hughes’ dimensional illustrations contrast with the financial market newspaper pages that they’re drawn on. The mostly wordless film also features a single sentence spoken over the phone—a “free” offer voiced by Succession actor Brian Cox. Cartoon Brew reports that it was arranged by Hughes through the Cameo app. They write:
“Hughes cleverly mixes his hand drawings with real-life symbols of capitalism to create a tangible narrative that should be relatable to anyone who’s ever felt overwhelmed trying to keep up with the Joneses.”
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