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John Weldon isn't one of the better-known names in animation, but those who saw his rather dark animated shorts tend to remember them. A Canadian, Weldon is best known in the United States for his shorts that aired on Cartoon Network's compilation show "O Canada." His best known short is the disturbing "To Be," a cartoon dealing with the ethics of cloning and individual existence. Other examples of his work are "The Lump," a bizarre story about a growth deformity changing a man's life for the better, and "Special Delivery," which dealt with murder, adultery, and even had full frontal nudity.
Despite what he got away with, there was one short Weldon made that only a few people have seen or heard of: "Sunlit Nightmare." The exact year it was made isn't known, but indications point to the early or mid 1980s. Weldon had suddenly started to show signs of narcolepsy, falling asleep suddenly at work.
He would wake up screaming and refuse to say anything about what he had been dreaming about. When he wasn't asleep, he worked with feverish devotion on a new animated short, the aforementioned Sunlit Nightmare. Skilled at nearly every aspect of animation, Weldon made the entire short himself, or at least seemed to. He said his newest short was for children, something to air in-between shows on kids' networks. He showed it to some executives at his company, who were terrified and couldn't believe Weldon wanted to show it to children.
Weldon didn't seem to care and went to work on another project as his narcolepsy had disappeared. It isn't clear what happened to the original copy of the short, but O Canada somehow got a copy and aired it once, one night in the summer of 1999. Recently, someone who apparently recorded the sole airing uploaded it online and the short was finally seen.
The short began with a pure black screen; there was no title. What sounded like a small boy was singing.
The shadows at night don't scare me
The sounds in the dark I can let be
I close my eyes and let the darkness come
But the fear isn't there until I feel the sun
I can't tell which one is real
I can't tell apart the feel
Of the nightmares in my head
I don't understand how I'm not dead
After the song, the short transitioned to a small boy in a living room. The animation was very simple; the boy and the furniture were drawn in a squiggly style by a black pen. The background and non-outline parts of the objects were paper white. The boy was nervously looking around the room and was very jittery. While he looked, there was a voice over.
"I used to be afraid of the dark. I would stay up all night, afraid of the monsters that were hiding in the shadows. One day, I was tired from not sleeping the night before. I lay down on the couch and thought I could sleep when it was sunny out. I had the scariest dream ever. I couldn't even remember it all; all I could remember was that a beam of sun was shining on me when I woke up. Ever since then, I haven't been afraid of the dark..."
The boy kept looking and the view changed to behind the couch. A glob of black clay was behind it - real clay. It started to grow and turned into some kind of insect or spider. When it was taller than the couch, it jumped out from behind and started chasing the boy. They ran through several rooms of the house. The drawing quality of the rooms improved with each new one until they were in a bedroom against a live-action, completely frozen backdrop. The monster cornered the boy, grew a gigantic mouth, and swallowed him. The next part is hard to describe. It was all claymation, clay insects, people, and transforming shapes were dancing, warping, and morphing. It was very fast paced, but the music was very slow, played entirely on high-pitched bells. The boy eventually fell out of one of the shapes; he was curled up in fear, sobbing. The view shifted back to the room from the beginning of the short. The boy was lying on the floor, a yellow beam of sunlight shining on him. The singing started again.
Every day it's the exact same thing
The monsters roar and bite and sting
No one is home, no one can help me
I wish I could leave, but outside I see
The burning, dry glare
The brightness in the air
I used to fear the dark, but now I'm the only one
Who had to deal with an endless, hopeless fear of the sun