It started as a fledgling idea and grew wings. Between sequences on “Shark Tale”, Kyle Jefferson and Cameron Hood, two animators from Toronto who met at DreamWorks, hatched an idea that went from simple beginnings to the first original content 3D DreamWorks animated short. With a creative free reign and the support of the DreamWorks talent and facility, the animated work of art has successfully opened internationally in film festivals and is running before “Over The Hedge” in New York and LA.
How did you turn your idea into a DreamWorks production?
Cameron: You know there are going to be gaps when working on a film, and artists are going to be finding some way to pass the time. But you can only look at the internet so long, so what we tried to do was take it somewhere positive, and push ourselves.
Kyle: It started with Cameron and me in an apartment. A friend or a student would come on board. That led to us getting the reel done, which led to us getting into the studio.
Cameron: People that we had never talked to before came out of the woodwork. Just by empowering these guys, giving them a little extra responsibility, some top talent was anxious to jump on board.
Kyle: There were people that were working in technology that wanted to be FX artists, wanted to be animators. A short creates a sub-culture. Studios have big projects with a large team, but with a small project it's like a little club, and everyone just hangs out and works together.
How long did the project take to complete?
Kyle: About four years from concept to completion.
Cameron: We were getting started when the “Lord of the Rings” started on “ Two Towers ”. Then “King Kong” went from theaters to DVD, and we were still working on the 7-minute short!
What were some of your creative decisions?
Kyle: We were inspired by artists Ashley Wood, Joe Soren , and Odd Nerdum . For the male character, we used Acme Novelty Library for the character inspiration.
Cameron: The B ird's actual body is proportioned to a blue jay, we just gave it a huge head. Ramone Zibach, a top production designer, helped to inspire the look with his concept paintings.
One early decision was pantomime, so we focused on subtle cues to show the character arc. Any time you see a straight line, we balanced it with a curved one. Everything in the fellow we called “Mr. Swift” is a little sharper, like his world could hurt him. We decided go for simplification of color and mass. And we faded to white instead of black for the credits. The short starts with a desaturation of color that gradually increases. Story has to drive the process, not the process drive the story.
Kyle: Objects closer to the camera were more tightly rendered, and objects further away more abstract. And the film is backlit to show how Swift is living in the shadows. No idea is a bad idea. Sometimes something that wasn't working 6 months ago becomes the solution you were looking for the whole time .