Responses by Northforge.
Background: This project hopes to shed light on the appalling situation faced by caged bears in Armenia, calling on viewers to sign an organized petition. Every year, wild bears are illegally caught or trapped by poachers. After being captured, the animals are often forced to live under terrible conditions in public spaces.
Design thinking: We knew straight away that the choice of animation would be key to the film’s power. The decision to combine 3-D with more traditional animation provides so many creative benefits: the mood is more natural and better reflects the plight of the bears. By combining these disciplines, we gave ourselves more freedom to explore our creativity. Overall, we wanted the film to have a crafted feel, conveying approachability and emotional connection all at once.
Favorite details: In the cub’s POV shot of walking through the grass, some of the blades have been drawn to resemble scythes, bringing up connotations of the Grim Reaper. We love working on narratives like this that feature an actual story with a beginning, middle and end created purely to stimulate our emotions. So it was great to put thought behind every element in each shot, creating things that may not be seen but are hopefully sensed.
Challenges: Most of our challenges lay in finding balances. For instance, in the design of the characters, we had to strike the right balance between realism and caricature to show readable emotional expressions without the bears looking too cartoonish. Of course, the biggest balancing act was in deciding what to show and what not to show. With a story like this, it could easily become quite graphic, so we had to balance that with an approach that made the film both palatable and upsetting as possible.
Time constraints: It was clear that in order to take the viewer on a journey, we had to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time—both in terms of story and the amount of work involved. This drove us to find ways of creating cinematic-looking sequences without huge amounts of time-consuming detail. Using coarsely textured brushes created the illusion of fine detail with the least amount of effort, to which any fans of Bob Ross’s The Joy of Painting will testify!
New lessons: The biggest takeaway was how possible it is to create something close to what you imagine with very little application. At first, it felt like we were just cutting corners. However, we soon realized that we didn’t need those corners. We all have heard design principles like “less is more,” but we don’t always necessarily use them. But in this case, we feel like we’ve actually applied that thinking in an effective way.