Behind the scenes of Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared
As the cult online series airs on Channel 4, two of its creators discuss how they did it, which puppets are the worst to work with, and using “innate dread” as inspiration
To some it sounds like nonsense, to others, it might even be mildly offensive, but to fans of Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, ‘green is not a creative colour’ is a doctrine packed with meaning that far transcends anything to do with RGB or the ineffable essence of whatever ‘creativity’ is.
Indeed, it encapsulates a lot of what makes the cult puppet show brilliant: it’s daft, but has an underlying sinisterness – it might hurt someone’s feelings, at best. It’s surreal and playful and vaguely bleak, with an inexhaustible list of potential interpretations. It’s also a gentle nod to the sorts of conversations that’ll be familiar to most creative industry workers; perhaps a wry in-jokey nod to exasperating project feedback.
Since the first episode aired on YouTube in 2011, those creative industry types were quick to fall for Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, and it’s not hard to see why: not only is it hilarious, with the sort of surreal dark twists that recall both Lynchian dream logic and Cronenberg-style body horror, but it’s beautifully crafted. Each episode weaves in various animation styles alongside the puppetry: sometimes DHMIS luxuriates in the gloopy, melt movie-like possibilities of claymation, sometimes it plays with the conventions of CG imagery, in other shows it uses straightup TV cartoon aesthetics. Stylistically, it feels very ‘commissionable’ (and has arguably been aped by certain brands).
Screengrab from Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared