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Documentary Animation

John Summerson

John Summerson specializes in creative nonfiction animation.

Gleefully conflating visual media like stop motion, digital and hand-drawn animation, and video with inventive reportage practices from creative nonfiction writing, John creates a unique friction between fabricated images and fact. 

His work has exhibited internationally, most recently at film festivals in Budapest, Madrid, Berlin, and London. John has earned several academic and film accolades, including a Princess Grace USA Film Scholarship, the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Educator's Forum Scholarship, the Grand Prize at the LG Art of the Pixel Competition, as well as a distinction from the Royal College of Art for his dissertation, "Animating Nonfiction: How New Journalism Informs Contemporary Nonfiction Animation Practices."

John is passionate about education. In 2019, he taught a short course at the Royal College of Art entitled, "Animating Nonfiction: Note to Self." He has worked as an Admissions Counselor at Pacific Northwest College of Art, and volunteered as an instructor for Stories in Movement, a poetry and animation program for incarcerated youth at the Donald E. Long Detention Center in Portland, Oregon.

He is also an enthusiastic pinball player, a middling outdoorsman, and has a great recipe for fried chicken popcorn.


Degree Details

School of Communication

Documentary Animation

Februarium has taken many forms.

On the surface, it is an annual celebration of the holiday known as “Februarium,” which takes place in late February and pays homage to its patron saint, Dr. Februar, through offerings of buttermilk biscuits, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and the destruction of a two-month-old Christmas tree.  

At its core, Februarium is the result of a group of twenty-somethings, coping with the sudden loss of a close friend, who create a bombastic celebration drenched in comic absurdity — a sincere and heartfelt living eulogy to honor the dead, and to mock the capricious, idiot fate that made them that way. 

I want Februarium to live on forever — like a good wake — as an act that is as joyful as it is fatalist, as sincerely absurd as it is absurdly sincere.

PASSWORD: febworthy

A group of twenty-somethings, coping with the sudden loss of a close friend, do the only thing that makes sense to them in their time of grief: they put on a play.

Date of Production: 2020

Februarium!! was written, directed, & animated by John Summerson

Voices (in order of appearance)
John Summerson / Matt Smiley / Evan Marczynski / Tye Cruver / Ramsay Grove
/ Kayla Minotti / Arlo Hart

Erik Hoofnagle & John Summerson

Maggie-Rose Condit-Summerson & John Summerson

Animation Assistant
Maggie-Rose Condit-Summerson

Liam Elio / Chloe Hamon / Leo Metcalf / Simona Mehandzhieva / Guy Nesfield / John Summerson / Matt Taylor

Sound Design & Mix
Mikolaj Szatko

"Februarium the Musical" (2011-2013) was written and performed by:
John Summerson / Matt Smiley / Evan Marczynski / Ramsay Grove / Adam Slonaker / Arlo Hart / Rita Summerson / Joe Schauble

Additional performers:
Kate Meuth-Alldredge / Cassie Croft / Nathan Dodge / Jared Greene / Kayla Minotti / Kim Ann Ross / Richie Sandborn / Emily Wilson

"Februarium: Live at the Art Bar" (2020) was written by John Summerson

Performed by:
Sanjana Chandrasekhar / James Cheetham / Maggie-Rose Condit-Summerson / Ramsay Grove / Joumana Issmaiel / Richard Noble / John Summerson / Matt Taylor / Fred Williams

With additional support from:
Hannah Brewerton / Chloe Hamon / Dermot Lynskey / Grace Emily Manning / Simona Mehandzhieva

Live Sound Engineer
James Cheetham

Music written and performed by:
Adam Slonaker & Arlo Hart, Order of the Crimson Wizard, John Summerson, and Fred Williams

Thanks to Pabst UK for use of Pabst Blue Ribbon branded beer cans!


Stop motion and 2D animation, video


8 minutes 5 seconds
2D animationAbsurdityAnimationcomedyCreative Non-FictionDocumentarygrieflossNarration / StorytellingPerformanceRitualStop-motion animation
My mother recalls her parents' uniquely long relationship -- one made strong, in part, by their daily habit of playing cribbage together.

Date of Production: 2019


Official Selection. British Documentary Film Festival, 2020. London, UK / Online.
Official Selection. Cheap Cuts Documentary Film Festival, 2020. London, UK / Online.
Runner Up Best Animated Documentary Award. Story? International Student Documentary Festival, 2020. Cork, Ireland.
Official Selection. Cardiff Animation Festival, 2020. Cardiff, UK.
Official Selection. Euregion Film Festival, 2020. Heerlen, Netherlands.
Official Selection. 13th British Shorts Film Festival, 2020. Berlin, Germany.
Winner. Best Animation. White Deer International Film Festival, 2019 (Sept/Oct Season). East Midlands, UK.
Group Exhibition. “BOIL.” Royal College of Art, 2019. London, UK.
Group Exhibition. “The Elephant,” 2019. Elephant West Gallery. London, UK.
World Premiere. Factual Animation Film Festival, 2019. London, UK.


Directed and Animated by John Summerson
Narration: Ann Summerson
Fabrication: Maggie-Rose Condit-Summerson, John Summerson
Compositing: Erik Hoofnagle, John Summerson
Music: Ann Summerson
Sound Design: Ruth Knight, John Summerson
Sound Mix: Ruth Knight
Background Photography: Bill Condit


ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Educator's Forum 2018 Scholarship


Stop motion animation, video


4 minutes 53 seconds
Alex Jones is (Technically) a Human
Semi-sentient burst blood vessel and howler monkey impersonator, Alex Jones, alleges that he is, in fact, human.

Date of Production: 2018


Official Selection. TOO DRUNK TO WATCH, 2020. Berlin, Germany.
Official Selection. Micro Festival, 2020. Madrid, Spain.
Official Selection. ANILOGUE Animation Festival, 2019. Budapest, Hungary.
Gold Medal Award for Shorter Comedy Short. London Worldwide Comedy Short Film Fest, 2019. London, UK.
Official Selection. Depict! 2019 Showcase. Encounters Film Festival. Bristol, UK.


Directed and Animated by John Summerson
Sound Design and Mix by Mike Gallagher
Voice borrowed from Alex Jones' show Infowars


2D animation, gouache


38 seconds
Some of the Bad Men in My Family
A short animated conversation with my dad about some of the more nefarious Summerson men.

Date of Production: 2018


Directed and Animated by John Summerson
Narration: Mark Summerson


Stop motion animation


1 minutes 6 seconds

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