Animation Hotline

When I was in college, I met a beautiful woman in her early 20s who had a full head of gray hair. At first, I pitied her for being so radiant and yet cursed with such a glaring blemish. But after talking with her for just a few seconds I realized it wasn’t her appearance that I was attracted to — gray hair or not — but her confidence and poise. Her clear self-acceptance, regardless of how others might view her, impressed me so deeply that 30 years later, I still remember the chance meeting. Today, all I remember about her was her hair color and her confidence.

That’s the theme of this Op-Doc video, created from a message left on my home answering machine. It’s part of a project I call Animation Hotline: People are invited to call (212) 683-2490 and leave a short story, poem, secret, passion, life lesson, experience, experiment, list, rant, opinion, news item or really whatever they want. I choose messages to turn into short animations, like the one here. I love this one because it is about a woman whose self-esteem was grounded in approval from others, whether her husband or strangers. Her gray hair became a catalyst for insecurity, until she finally found self-acceptance.

I think that’s what’s really being sold in all those hair dye packages lining drugstore shelves: confidence in a bottle. I find myself often attempting to purchase self-confidence in one form or another, but of course we know that’s never as easy to buy as we wish. Like the woman who left the message in this video, my self-image fluctuates based on who and what’s around me. I hope this Op-Doc reminds us that true beauty is an inside job.

Originally titled "My Silver Hair" this Animation Hotline premiered as a New York Times Op-Docs piece. Over 200 people commented on the piece.

# Uploaded 624 Plays 1 Comment

Animation Hotline

Dusty Studio Plus

Animation Hotline uses crowd-sourced voicemail messages as content for micro-animations. Leave a 10-60 second message on our answering machine and we will choose three message to animate weekly. The topic is entirely up to you.
+1 212-683-2490


+ More

Animation Hotline uses crowd-sourced voicemail messages as content for micro-animations. Leave a 10-60 second message on our answering machine and we will choose three message to animate weekly. The topic is entirely up to you.
+1 212-683-2490

We have animated over 170 voicemail messages that have been screened at Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals and published in The New York Times. If the caller leaves a name we will give a writing credit in any postings, press or film screenings, otherwise messages are anonymous.


What is the telephone number?
+1 212-683-2490

Is there a time limit?
The answering machine is set up to limit the calls to 3 minutes and you are welcome to speak the entire time. However, animation is extremely labor intensive and longer messages will be edited down to the core story as much as possible without altering the context. We usually take out any repetitions, mistakes, "ums", or pauses unless they contribute to the character of the message itself.

Will I be notified if you use my message?
Possibly. If you call from an unblocked phone line (which is basically any phone that shows up in caller ID) and leave your name we will send a text message letting you know when the film will be posted. Will I receive credit if you use my message? If you leave your name on the answering machine we will give you credit in any online postings, press, or film screenings. Specifically, you will receive a writer and/or narrator credit on Vimeo, the facebook posting will have your name and potentially a link to your facebook profile, and if the piece is used in any screenings you will be credited at the end of the film.

What if you don't use my message?
Leave another message. Repeat calls are encouraged, and a few people have been animated multiple times. We usually try to choose an animation that we received that day, or that week, and then work back through the messages from there. So the more often you leave a message the more likely it is that we will use one of them.

What types of messages do you choose?
Honestly the subject matter is completely open. Every message is listened to and then our small team decide which messages they were inspired by, which messages conjure specific imagery or possibly it is a current event that needs to be communicated. It's really impossible to tell what works. In the past we've animated current events, personal issues, poems, quotes (but please name the person you are quoting), lists, insights, questions, visions, memories (we love old New York stories), quests, drunkalogues, passions, abstract statements, opinions, secrets, truths, lies, or anything else you want to talk about in one minute or less.

Where can I see the previous pieces?
They can be viewed here on Vimeo: Animation Hotline

Browse This Channel

Shout Box

Heads up: the shoutbox will be retiring soon. It’s tired of working, and can’t wait to relax. You can still send a message to the channel owner, though!

Channels are a simple, beautiful way to showcase and watch videos. Browse more Channels.