Debuting in 2017, Double King is a short animated film created by Felix Colgrave. It has garnered over 20 million views on YouTube; quite impressive when one considers that the website’s algorithm is difficult for animators to break through. What separates this animation from the countless others? Why has it amassed such a following? It is because Double King is more than random slapstick, creepy background music, and trippy visuals. This film is littered with themes about greed, power, obsession, and vanity. It’s nearly akin to Shakespearean tragedy, especially given the ending.
Starting with Double King’s first few seconds, The King himself is introduced. Short and draped in robes, he rides in on a glorious chariot being lifted by ambiguous creatures with bulging eyes. The animation feels inspired by rubber hose cartoons in the pre-Disney era. The King brazenly marches into the castle of the rat king, who welcomes him graciously. The King then rips the rat’s skull from his face, snatches the crown, and places it on his own.
This introduces the concept of the film. Here is a main character who wants more power, and will do anything it takes to get it. Without one spoken word of dialogue, The King runs from one kingdom to another murdering kings and queens for their crowns. And it appears that is all he wants; periodically, there will be sequences of ambassadors waiting at The King’s castle. But of course, he is much too busy collecting the trophies of his conquests.
Size or shape matters little to The King. If it’s too big, he’ll sit in it. If it’s too small, he’ll wear it as a ring. There is an obvious connection to the real world where political leaders spend more time on vanity projects than serving their people. The Roman Emperor Caligula comes to mind as a similar power-craving tyrant (more on him later).
Later on in the film, The King finds himself lost in a mysterious forest atop the mountain king’s head. Driven mad with ambition and obsession, he takes a look at his crown ring, and decides to cut his own finger off. Again, this crazed behavior is reminiscent of Caligula. The Emperor would host regular, rolled around in piles of money, ordered a house for his horse, and even declared himself a god. He was so unhinged, in fact, that he became the first Roman Emperor to be assassinated. Sounds a bit like this crazed, self-mutilating King. There are many interpretations to this moment. It can be inferred that The King is addicted to amassing power, and cutting his own finger off gives him that feeling of satisfaction. However, his addiction gets the better of him as he bleeds to death (this is a funny film, by the way).
The King’s spirit is taken to the afterlife, where he is greeted by Agatha, Matriarch of Death. Along with her are the spirits of the slain kings seen throughout the animation. Seeing a crown on her head, The King immediately dashes to take it, an attempt to conquer death itself. Agatha is too powerful, however, as he is repeatedly flung back to a chair at a dining table. After a few moments of repetition, his impotence begins to enrage him. He violently shrieks and bangs his gloved fists on the table like a spoiled child. Unexpectedly, the sheer annoyance of The King’s temper tantrum was enough to convince Agatha to voluntarily give him her giant crown. He then giddily leaps away and into space, where the film ends on The King floating off into the void.
After conquering Death itself, where is there to go? No more kings left, no more crowns. His entire ambition is complete. The King has nothing left to live for, and decides to end his own spirit’s life. That is one interpretation of that ending. Another theory is that he goes off in search of another planet to steal crowns from, but that seems a bit on the uninteresting side of things.
With its overarching themes that resonate quite easily, it is no wonder Double King is as successful as it is today.