If you like animations, touching stories and short films, you will absolutely love Warmth! I was so pleased to connect with Erik Boismier, a super talented animator, when he commissioned me to work on the music to his wonderful animated short Warmth. He's been so kind as to let me interview him and to give us all a bit more insight into the creation and thinking behind Warmth. So, let's get to it...
Who are you and how did you get into animation?
'My name is Erik Boismier. I was born in Chatham, Ontario and grew up watching just about every animated series I had the time and capacity for. When I was 8-years-old, I had something of a revelation when I realized that making cartoons was a job, and ever since then, it was what I wanted to do for a living. I went to St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario for their “Tradigital Animation” program; it was a great program for learning several forms of animation (hand-drawn, stop-motion, 3D, etc.).
Some time after graduating, I made an impulsive decision to move to Vancouver, BC and look for work in the animation industry there. A former college classmate was already working in the area and introduced me to a number of her colleagues. In 2013, I got my first job in the animation industry, at Bardel Entertainment as a builder* on the show “Mother Up!”.
I've since gone to work for Atomic Cartoons and have been taking contracts from them exclusively for a few years now.'
*The job of taking finalized designs of characters and props and turning them into animate-able digital “puppets” for lack of a better term.
Where did the idea for Warmth come from?
'A long time ago, in part thanks to an online discussion about animation I was lurking on, I got the idea to do something where I could animate two characters with different animation styles interacting with each other. Clara, the girl in the short, is entirely hand-drawn frame-by-frame. Meanwhile, the robot Aleph is a build; digital cut-out puppet with the pieces pre-drawn and then manipulated to create motion.
Certain elements of the story were definitely influenced, whether subconsciously or deliberately, by Big Hero 6 (a robot with health care abilities) and The Little Match Girl; another short story and animated short(s) about a young orphan struggling in the winter.
Visually, Disney's Renaissance-era movies had a heavy influence on me. Additionally, the new servant robot model seen briefly in the beginning of Warmth is very similar in both design and concept to Robot-1X from Futurama.'
What is Warmth about?
'Warmth is set in a nondescript distant future where robot servants are a household item. When the newest model of robot servant is released, people begin throwing away their old ones. Clara, a young orphan who lives in a junkyard, one morning finds one of the discarded robots at her doorstep and quickly establishes a bond with it. The robot seems to have some malfunctions however, and Clara wants to keep her new and only friend running.'
Were there any challenges in the making of it? Also what are you most proud of from all of this?
'Like a lot of things, the first major challenge was getting started. I had certain story beats worked out very early on but could never figure out a way to tie them together. I began discussing the idea with a friend, and he brought up the idea of a junkyard setting. Once I had that piece, everything else started to fall in place and I began writing the original story treatment.
The next big challenge was the background painting. My skill set is primarily that of a character animator; environments have never been my strong suit, and painting is something I have never excelled at. I took some time to look up and learn painting techniques I was unfamiliar with. There are backgrounds in the short I'm quite proud of, but there are some others that I still sort of wish I could have done a better job on.
Using coloured line work proved to be the most time-consuming part of the animation. For Aleph, it wasn't much of an issue since the nature of his animation meant there weren't too many unique drawings. For Clara however, it meant breaking up the lines around every specific colour fill (skin, hair, scarf, etc.) and then filling those lines with the correct line colour; and doing that for every single drawing of her. I don't regret doing it because I love the look of coloured line work, but it was enough to make me decide against it for whatever my next personal animation will be.
I would say I'm most proud of finishing the short. I've always had a bad habit of starting personal projects with a lot of ambition that end up going nowhere. That, and there are a couple shots I laid out as a deliberate challenge to myself.
When Clara first walks up to Aleph, you see her reflection in his eyes. The moment I got the idea for that shot, I knew I had to do it, but expected it to be complicated to put together. Honestly, that one really wasn't that bad in the end.
The shot of Clara setting up a new TV, on the other hand, was probably the most difficult to animate. I feel like it looks deceptively simple, but there were a lot of layering challenges to work with (her arms and the TV having to go behind and in front of the table in the foreground for example).'
Who was involved in the creation of Warmth?
'Visually, Warmth was basically a solo effort; I wrote the plot, drew the storyboards, painted the backgrounds and animated the characters and effects; but I did have help and support from friends. My friend and roommate Grant, as alluded to earlier, helped me put the story together with the idea of the junkyard setting. He also assisted in updating some of the backgrounds (adding a little more scrap and junk).
Another friend, Rachel, was consistently supportive while I was regularly showing progress updates to her. She also named her daughter “Claira” after I suggested the name (albeit spelled differently) based on the character in the short.
My on-going employment at Atomic Cartoons was also extremely helpful. The experience they've given me has improved the quality of my animation and my proficiency with software like Toon Boom Harmony dramatically.
What part does music play in it?
'While I believe that good animation can sell its mood with or without sound, music is a great tool to emphasize that intended mood. A good balance of music and silence is important too. I'm not a fan of wall-to-wall music placement that some shows use and made a conscious choice early on not to do that with Warmth.
The nice thing about a fully produced piece of media is that each element can compliment the others and elevate them; for instance, good music can often carry an otherwise weak scene. Pacing is something I agonized over throughout the production, often extending or shortening scenes, even by a factor of 3 or 4 frames sometimes. The final timing still had some bits I was unsure of, but your music pulled them together really well.
So the music's role in Warmth was to highlight the moods of the scenes whilst also helping along some of the moments that were maybe a bit weaker on my part.'
Why did you decide to work with me and how was that whole process for you? What do you think of the music now?
'When doing any kind of self-funded production, it's incredibly tempting to use as many free resources as you can to keep the cost down. While I didn't have too many qualms with using public domain sound effects, music was a different matter. The name Kevin Macleod springs to mind as probably the most popular source for free background music. His music is great, but it presents a problem if you want your material to stand out: Everyone uses it.
I watch a lot of YouTube content, and I've noticed a lot of different content producers using the same music. A friend of mine even described the phenomenon as, “the sound of having no audio budget.”
And because I really wanted Warmth to have an individual identity, I decided it needed to have an original (or at the very least, less ever-present) soundtrack. So I began searching for a composer to commission.
I encountered a couple of dead ends along the way, but a Google search did eventually lead me to your website. I listened to a number of the tracks you have available and was impressed by the range I was hearing. While the music on the site is great, I had trouble envisioning the tracks I was listening to as music to use in Warmth, so I opted to contact you directly.
Working with you was fantastic. You composed the soundtrack much faster than I expected and I only ever felt the need to call for a couple minor changes.
I'm quite satisfied with the music too. All the right moods were hit. The “Saving Clara” theme even gets me involuntarily clenching my teeth with worry during the final scene. Exactly the feeling I want the audience to experience.'
Let's take a look at your wonderful creation Warmth...
What are your plans for the short animation?
In my final year of college, I attended the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF), which features several screenings of independent animated shorts. I would really like it if Warmth could be included in one of those screenings, so I'll absolutely be making an effort for that to happen. I'll be looking into other festivals as well.
I'd also like to spread it around online. I'll likely be dropping in on a number of animation communities across Facebook, Reddit, etc. to share the YouTube link.