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Video clip synopsis – Humans have always argued over territory; it’s just that the weapons get deadlier and the rules keep changing.
Year of production - 2002
Duration - 5min 0sec
Tags - animation, digital technology, DIY Doco, global citizenship, globalisation, media and society, media text, representations, satire, stereotypes, symbols and symbolism, see all tags


The Global Machine

For copyright reasons this clip is not available as a download.

About the Video Clip


The Global Machine is an episode of the series Human Contraptions (10 × 5 mins) produced in 2002.

Academy Award winning animator Bruce Petty takes a satirical look at the “contraptions” that shape our lives. Education, sex, finance, globalism, art, media, medicine, law, government and even the brain are transformed by Petty into evolving machines. Beginning with a simple concept, he takes us on an anarchic journey through history as each apparatus builds to its complex contemporary form. In the wry, ironic style that is his hallmark, Petty reveals these to be contraptions of a very human kind – imperfect, sometimes unpredictable and always subject to change. A witty, provocative and entertaining series, narrated by Andrew Denton.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Curriculum Focus



Students will learn to:

  • understand and critically analyse a media representation of global issues
  • understand the role of animation in media representations of issues
  • analyse symbols used in animation
  • express their ideas through media forms and gain self-confidence and communication skills through that expression;

Key Concept: Representations
Representations are constructions of people, places, events, ideas, and emotions that are applied to create meaning in media production and use.

This clip is relevant to year 11 and 12 students studying:

VIC- VCE Media Studies: Units 1, 2 and 4.
WA- The Arts/Media: Contexts, Exploring, Responding and Reflecting:
QLD- Film, Television and New Media: Technologies, Representations, Audiences, Institutions and Languages
SA- VET Broadcasting and Multimedia

Go to senior years Media Studies curricula in your state or territory for specific outcomes

Background Information


Academy Award winning animator and political cartoonist Bruce Petty says that ”caricature is a device by which we hope to make complex ideas (at least) accessible, (occasionally) witty and (sometimes) informative”.

His professional life has always been about finding those gaps and niches and trying to fill them in. He explains the challenge in creating the Human Contraptions series in this way: “I wanted Human Contraptions to be a cheerful reminder that as our cars, videos and toasters get smarter and cheaper, the institutions we really need are getting more expensive and unreliable, and are starting to rattle. I hope viewers recognise some of our more bizarre organisational devices and enjoy the general irreverence.

The main aim was to take an impressionistic, shorthand, comic look at over-worked, serious subjects. The series is based on general suspicions people have about the institutions we live in. These bodies are old or biased, often politically disfigured and under-funded – they are familiar targets. Representing them as machines at least suggests they are man-made, they wear out and can be fixed even as they do determine how we live.

The series offered a chance to check the workings of these “contraptions”. Institutions such as the arts carry our “trust” – we are expected to believe in them. We are persuaded that they are self-correcting and that the corrections are properly and democratically monitored.”

Many people are now beginning to suspect that this is not so.

The satirical, witty narration suggests double-meanings while sound effects and music are also important ironic components.

The Global Machine
The main problem with marking out territory is someone else doing it in the same place. In this episode, Bruce Petty looks at the global contraption and continuing efforts to divide the planet, even as a worldwide info net shrinks the globe. Petty’s machine comes fitted with a ‘race-ometer’ for sorting humans according to the shape of their nostrils and numerous refugee holding tanks which are filling up while the fuel tanks are running out.

Classroom Activities


Learning Activities

1. Petty’s global contraption sees a world of conflict, strife and domination.
a) What are two of the main causes Petty sees of global conflict?
b) Do you agree? What other causes can you think of?
c) Do you think Petty sees any difference between global and local conflicts?
d) What role do you think Petty thinks culture plays in his global contraption?

2. The cartoon uses imagery and symbolism to represent the structures and conventions of territory marking, power, globalisation, colonisation and conflict. Discuss how this occurs in:
a) the humourous use of dogs to convey territory marking.
b) the structure of the global machine – for example, use of flags, colours, design.
c) Petty’s demarkation of the world into thin and round nosed peoples.
d) the symbols of western colonisation- for example cricket, western art.

3. Discuss Petty’s style of animation. Is it effective in conveying his meaning?

4. Petty’s machine involves, fear, war, refugees, technological divides and so on.
a) Do you think the global machine is fair?
b) Who are the winners? Who are the losers? Do you agree with this?
c) What role do you think the Media plays in this global machine?

5. Draw, build or otherwise create your own Global human contraption (if you can’t draw, you might like to do this in the form of a diagram or “family tree”). Your contraption will need to show the interconnections that you think there are between the various ideas of single culture and global culture, individual countries and a global community. In your work you will need to include, amongst others, religion, fear, race, technology, cultures, resources, ownership, and the media.

Further Resources


Go to The Age for a profile of Bruce Petty

Go to ABC website to find out more about Bruce Petty

Go to The Age for a colour slide show of various Australia cartoonists presented by The Age.

Cagle, D, The Best Political Cartoons of the Year 2007, Macmillan Computer Pub, 2006.

Petty, B, The Absurd Machine: A Cartoon History of the World, Penguin, Ringwood, Harmondsworth, New York, Toronto and Auckland, 1997.

Go to Screen Education for excellent articles and study guides focussing on all aspects of media teaching.

Read Media 1 by Roger Dunscombe, Melinda Anastasios- Roberts, Juliet Francis, Karen Koch, George Lekatsas and Nick Ouchtomsky and Media 2 by Roger Dunscombe, Melinda Anastasios-Roberts, Kevin Tibaldi and Andrew Hyde. Heinemann Harcourt Education, Port Melbourne, 2007. Go to the books online at Heinemann Media for more detail.

Read Media new ways and meanings by Colin Stewart and Adam Kowaltzke. Jacaranda, Milton, QLD, 2008. Go to a sample of chapters online at Jacaranda Books