Don't Hug Me I'm Scared

Don't Hug Me I'm Scared (often abbreviated to DHMIS) is a surreal musical horror comedy web series created by British filmmakers Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling. It consists of six episodes, released from 29 July 2011 to 19 June 2016 through the artists' website, YouTube, and Vimeo.[1] The series combines segments in live action, puppetry, traditional animation, and computer animation.

Don't Hug Me I'm Scared
DHMIS poster.png
Official poster
Comedy horror
Created byRebecca Sloan
Joseph Pelling
Written byRebecca Sloan
Joseph Pelling
Hugo Donkin (2014)
Baker Terry
Directed byRebecca Sloan
Joseph Pelling
StarringBaker Terry
Joseph Pelling
Rebecca Sloan
Composer(s)Joseph Pelling
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes6
Executive producer(s)James Stevenson Bretton (2014–present)
Becky Sloan (2014–present)
Joseph Pelling (2014–present)
Thomas Ridgewell (2014)
Producer(s)Benjamin Lole (2014–16)
Hugo Donkin (2014–16)
CinematographyMax Halstead (2014)
Production company(s)THIS IS IT Collective (2011)
Blink Industries (2014–present)
Clapham Road Studios (2014–16)
Electric Theatre Collective (2014)
Orb Studios (2015)
Focus24 (2015)
Peckham Liberal Club (2016)
ARRI Rental (2016)
Panalux (2016)
Pixipixel (2016)
CHEAT (2016)
Conaco (2018–present)
Super Deluxe (2018)
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Original networkYouTube
Channel 4
Original release29 July 2011 (2011-07-29) –
External links

Each episode starts like a typical children's series, consisting of anthropomorphic puppets akin to those featured in Sesame Street and other popular children's TV programmes. The series parodies these programmes by juxtaposing this childlike, colourful environment and its inhabitants against disturbing themes; each episode features a surreal plot twist in the climax, including psychedelic content and imagery involving gore and psychological horror. The six episodes explore and discuss the subjects of creativity, time, love, technology, diet, and dreams.

On 7 July 2020, it was announced by creator Becky Sloan that DHMIS will be airing on Channel 4 as a television series in the future.[2]


Each episode revolves around Yellow Guy (and his father Roy Gribbleston), Red Guy and Duck Guy meeting one or several anthropomorphic characters, who begin a musical number related to a basic concept of day-to-day life with an upbeat melody similar to that of a nursery rhyme. As each song progresses, it becomes apparent that its moral or message is nonsensical or self-contradicting, and that the "teacher" character has ulterior or sinister motives. The climax of each episode typically involves a shock element with use of graphic violence, and sometimes other coercive or warped themes. Later in the series, the characters begin questioning the nature of their reality and the bizarre messages of the teachers.


Sloan and Pelling met while studying Fine Art, and Animation respectively at Kingston University where they started THIS IS IT Collective with some friends.[3] They produced the first episode of Don't Hug Me I'm Scared in their free time with no budget. When they started on the project they imagined making it into a series, but initially dropped the idea after finishing the first episode. After the short film gained popularity, they decided to revisit that idea.[4] Channel 4's Random Acts commissioned the second episode. The show soon attracted mainstream commissioners; however, Sloan and Pelling turned these offers down because they "wanted to keep it fairly odd" and "have the freedom to do exactly what we wanted".[5]

In May 2013, Sloan and Pelling announced that they would start a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to make four or more additional episodes, one every three months, starting in September 2014. They uploaded low-quality camera footage of the characters being taken hostage and held for ransom.[6] A 12-year-old American boy tried to use hacked credit card information to donate £35,000 to the campaign, but he was caught and those funds were thrown out.[7] Their Kickstarter goal of £96,000 was reached on 19 June 2014, and in total £104,935 was raised.[6] Youtuber Thomas "TomSka" Ridgewell became an executive producer on the series after donating £5,000 to the Kickstarter.[8]

In January 2016, Sloan and Pelling collaborated with Lazy Oaf to release a line of clothing based on the characters and themes of the show.[9]


The original short film became a viral hit and the series grew to become a cult phenomenon. The six episodes had amassed 143.4 million views on YouTube in July 2017.[10] Scott Beggs listed the original short film as number 8 on his list of the 11 best short films of 2011.[11] Carolina Mardones listed the first episode as number 7 in her top ten short films of 2011.[12] It was also included in as part of a cinema event in Banksy's Dismaland.[13][14] In April 2016, the main characters of the series were featured on the cover of the magazine Printed Pages, along with an "interview" of the three main characters written by the magazine's editor.[15][16] All six episodes of DHMIS were included in the September 2016 festival XOXO.[17]

Drew Grant of the Observer wrote that the series episodes are "horrifying nightmarish absolutely beautiful" and "mind-melting".[18] Freelance writer Benjamin Hiorns observed that "it's not the subject matter that makes these films so strangely alluring, it's the strikingly imaginative set and character design and the underlying Britishness of it all".[19] Joe Blevins of The A.V. Club praised the show's "sense-to-nonsense ratio" and its production values.[20] Samantha Joy of TenEighty praised the sixth episode of the series, writing that it "creates a provocative end to a pretty dark narrative about content creation".[21]


In a faux interview, Becky and Joe jokingly described the plot as "three best friends who go on a journey to find a magic pirate ship and save the day".[22]

A student writer for Nouse compared the appeal of the first episode to themes in Gothic literature, arguing that they are both "tapping into the same cultural fear of a violent subconscious hiding beneath the facade of normality".[23] In The Wesleyan Argus, another student writer called the series a "fine example of the era of esotericism" and noted that, "There is a building meta-commentary on the relationships between viewer, perception, creator, participant, and art (and perhaps death) that began with the first episode, but what that commentary is trying to say is not yet entirely clear. However, there is an absolute sense that the series is building toward a culmination."[24]


Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling are British graphic designers, artists and animators. Their advertising runs through commercial productions.[10] The duo have worked as part of the THIS IS IT Collective.[25]

Their content consists of videos, graphic design art, animation, music, and working with real-life materials to resemble things in the real world as art.[26] They have won multiple awards, including the 2012 SXSW Midnight Shorts Award,[27][28] and the 2016 ADC Young Guns award.[29]

They have also co-written and did puppeteer work for Cartoon Network's The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Puppets" (season five, episode 36). Rebecca Sloan (who is credited as a writer alongside Joseph Pelling) and Baker Terry provided voices of Grady, Frank, and Howdy (the three puppets featured in the episode, who trap the main characters Gumball and Darwin in their world). This episode features a song where the puppets sing about never ending fun to Darwin with toned down disturbing content similar to the Don't Hug Me I'm Scared series in theme. A series of shorts based on the episode followed, titled Waiting For Gumball, made by the same team as the original TV episode.


On 19 June 2017, a year after the release of episode 6, Sloan hinted towards additional work into the Don't Hug Me I'm Scared series.[30] On 13 September 2018, a teaser trailer titled "Wakey Wakey..." was released on the channel, teasing a new television show made in a collaboration between Blink Industries, Conaco, and Super Deluxe. The 30-second video gained over two million views within 24 hours of its release and peaked at No. 1 on YouTube's Trending list.[31] On 3 December 2018, it was announced that the show's pilot episode would be shown at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and details of the plot were also released.[32] The pilot episode would run at 23 minutes, and would appear in the "Indie Episodic Program 1" alongside other short films.[33]

On 20 December 2019. series director Joseph Pelling would confirm on his Twitter[34] that it was still being worked on, and other co-creator Becky Sloan would announce the same thing on 24 December 2019, alongside a photo teaser featuring Duck Guy reading a newspaper.[35]

On 7 July 2020, it was officially announced the series had been picked up by Channel 4.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sloan, Becky; Pelling, Joseph (3 March 2014). "Awards. Festivals. Talks". Becky & Joe's Art..
  2. ^ a b "Latest Young Audiences Content Fund production slate announced". British Film Institute. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  3. ^ Dazed (6 January 2014). "Becky&Joe are this week's Dazed Visionaries". Dazed. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  4. ^ Boult, Adam (26 October 2015). "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared: Interview with creators Becky & Joe". Metro News. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  5. ^ Coldwell, Will (27 January 2016). "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared: the puppets who sing, dance and eat raw meat". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared : The Series by Becky and Joe". Kickstarter. 20 May 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  7. ^ DiGangi, Christine (25 June 2014). "12-Year-Old Used Stolen Credit Cards to Fund Puppet Show". Archived from the original on 30 August 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  8. ^ "TomSka pledges £5K to Don't Hug Me I'm Scared series – TenEighty – YouTube News, Features, and Interviews".
  9. ^ Shin, Nara (18 January 2016). "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared + Lazy Oaf". Cool Hunting. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Becky & Joe". Blinkink. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  11. ^ Beggs, Scott (30 December 2011). "Year in Review: The 11 Best Short Films of 2011". Film School Rejects. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  12. ^ Mardones, Carolina (3 March 2012). "Seleccionan los 10 mejores cortometrajes de 2011". (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  13. ^ Jobson, Christopher (20 August 2015). "Welcome to Dismaland: A First Look at Banksy's New Art Exhibition Housed Inside a Dystopian Theme Park [Updated 8/22]". Colossal. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  14. ^ "Watch: Banksy Dismaland Preview & Short Film Program". Slashfilm. 26 August 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  15. ^ "Printed Pages, s/s 2016". magCulture. 26 April 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  16. ^ Pritchard, Owen (3 May 2016). "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared – an exclusive interview with Duck, Red Guy and Yellow Guy". It's Nice That. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Our favorite discoveries from the internet's best festival". The Verge. 11 September 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  18. ^ Grant, Drew (3 February 2015). "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared: This Series Will Break Your Brain and It Will Be Magic". Observer. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  19. ^ Hiorns, Benjamin (16 October 2015). "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared by Becky & Joe launches to solve world problems". Creativepool. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  20. ^ Blevins, Joe (7 July 2016). "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared has been baffling the internet for five years now". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
  21. ^ Joy, Samantha (27 July 2016). "Five of the Best: YouTube Animations". TenEighty. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  22. ^ Gilbert, Jan (1 May 2012). "Directors of Short Films at Sundance London". Sundance London. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  23. ^ Licht, Jordan (22 October 2013). "When YouTube gets dark". Nouse. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  24. ^ McGhee, Will (22 October 2015). "'Don't Hug Me I'm Scared' Melds Comedy with Horror". The Wesleyan Argus. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  25. ^ "About – This Is It Collective". Retrieved 25 June 2015.
  26. ^ "Project Focus: Becky & Joe for Tame Impala". YCN. Archived from the original on 13 February 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  27. ^ "FAME". BECKY AND JOE'S ART. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
  28. ^ "SXSW Film 2012 Award Winners". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  29. ^ "Art Directors Club Announces 2016 ADC Young Guns Winners". Animation World Network. 14 September 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  30. ^ Sloan, Becky [@BeckyBocka] (19 June 2017). "It's June 19th!! Big DHMIS news coming in the FUTURE... #DHMIS" (Tweet). Retrieved 20 June 2017 – via Twitter.[dead link][non-primary source needed]
  31. ^ Cooper, Gael Fashingbauer (14 September 2018). "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared is making new episodes". CNET. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  32. ^ "2019 Sundance Film Festival: Indie Episodic, Shorts and Special Events Announced". Sundance Institute. 3 December 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  33. ^ "don-t-hug-me-i-m-scared-08fc1516-a01a-45c6-912f-22995f07b722". Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  34. ^ Pelling, Joe (2 December 2019). "And to everyone asking, apologies for the lack of DHMIS updates! We hope to have some exciting news for you all in the new year....Merry Chrimbis xxx …". @japelling. Retrieved 12 April 2020. External link in |title= (help)[non-primary source needed]
  35. ^ "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared on Instagram: "Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas time!! ❄️🎄☃️✨🎅🏻🎁❄️🎄✨🎅🏻☃️🎁🎄❄️✨ I hope your stockings are filled to the brim with boiled eggs in the…"". Instagram. Retrieved 12 April 2020.[non-primary source needed]

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