A Dan­de­lion Hopes for a New Life

Animation Magazine - - Front Page -

he re­cent anti-im­mi­grant climate in the U.S. had a deep im­pact on an­i­ma­tion di­rec­tor Kevin Hud­son. The di­rec­tor of the new an­i­mated short Weeds says he was pulling weeds in his yard one af­ter­noon when he looked at his neigh­bor’s bar­ren yard and had a deep feel­ing of em­pa­thy for the lit­tle plants that were wilt­ing in it. “Th­ese dan­de­lions were just like peo­ple, trapped and dy­ing in coun­tries fraught with war or lit­tle op­por­tu­nity, look­ing at neigh­bor­ing coun­tries with over­flow­ing ex­cess all the while suf­fer­ing from lack of the ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties of life,” Hud­son says. “As an artist, I wanted des­per­ately to say some­thing about hav­ing em­pa­thy for peo­ple who by no fault of their own were stuck in bad sit­u­a­tions.”

Weeds tells the story of a lit­tle dan­de­lion who is strug­gling to get from the dry, bar­ren side of a drive­way to the other side, where wa­ter is plen­ti­ful and the grass is greener. It was made by an in­ter­na­tional group of 40 artists from 30 dif­fer­ent coun­tries con­tribut­ing in their spare time for around a year and a half. It was mod­eled and an­i­mated in Maya, ren­dered in Hype­r­ion and comped in Nuke, with ef­fects cre­ated in Hou­dini.

The film could never have been made out­side of the realm of an­i­ma­tion, says Hud­son, who has worked as a dig­i­tal artist on Dis­ney fea­tures such as Moana, Zootopia and Big Hero 6, as well as vfx-laden pics such as Harry Pot­ter and the Sor­cerer’s Stone. “One of the big­gest chal­lenges was cre­at­ing the Dan­de­lion char­ac­ter,” he notes. “Our hero had to be clearly a plant while also hav­ing hu­man traits since it would be sym­bolic of a per­son. It couldn’t move like an oc­to­pus, and yet it couldn’t be too hu­man, ei­ther. Pro­ducer Brad Si­mon­son and an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor Hyun-Min Lee in­sisted that the film be true to the life-cy­cle of a dan­de­lion, with the small ex­cep­tion of it pulling it­self up out of the ground and run­ning across the drive­way in a des­per­ate at­tempt to es­cape death.”

The di­rec­tor, who cites Ray Har­ry­hausen, Steven Spiel­berg, Chuck Jones and Dis­ney’s Nine Old Men as huge sources of in­spi­ra­tion, says he has been very for­tu­nate to have worked with amaz­ing an­i­ma­tors and de­sign­ers over the years from whom he has tried to glean knowl­edge. “Many popped up in­side my head to of­fer psy­chic ad­vice dur­ing the mak­ing of this film. I of­ten found my­self think­ing “What would (fill in the blank) do?”, while still hold­ing to the vi­sion I had in my head. I re­ally hope I’ve made th­ese peo­ple proud when they see this film.”

Hud­son be­lieves that an­i­ma­tion al­lows film­mak­ers to tell sto­ries that are af­fec­tive and emo­tional about char­ac­ters that couldn’t ex­ist in real life. “The film is a story of in­spi­ra­tion and per­se­ver­ance,” he adds. “I truly hope that film in­spires peo­ple to make that change from what­ever is trap­ping them from find­ing their bliss…It is the em­bod­i­ment of the pur­suit of the Amer­i­can Dream.”

based on a nu­mer­i­cal scor­ing sys­tem. Thanks to the healthy num­ber of an­i­mated fea­tures re­leased in 2017, we’ll have five nom­i­nees in this cat­e­gory. It’s tough to pre­dict the top con­tenders this early in the game, with sev­eral big ti­tles still un­seen by au­di­ences. How­ever, based on our in­sider sources and trade press spec­u­la­tions, here is how the Os­car race is shap­ing up in early Oc­to­ber!

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