“Be careful what you wish for.”
We’ve all heard that expression and undoubtedly experienced variations of this adage-in-action at various points throughout our lives. But, as adults, most of us have probably forgotten how silly those words sounded to us when we were kids. Careful? About what we wish for? What could possibly go wrong?! Well, our PICK OF THE WEEK—a 3D animated short called Spellbound—attempts to answer those questions and brings this old adage to life in a thoughtful and endearing manner.
Spellbound was created by Ying Wu and Lizzia Xu as their thesis project at Ringling College of Art and Design. In this animated short film, little sister Rene, who is jealous of her seemingly perfect sibling, must grapple with the monsters that are unleashed after her jealousy literally comes to life before her eyes.
- A Film by Ying Wu and Lizzia Xu
- Music by Garrett Crosby
- Sound Design by Glenn Goa
- Faculty Advisor: Heather Thomson
- Pre-Production Instructor: Jeremy Cantor
- Visual Development Advisor: Jon DiVenti
Simple and Elegant Personification (via Character Animation)
There’s a lot to love about Spellbound, particularly when it comes to character animation. Little Rene is adorable with her big glasses, blue barrette and scrunched-up face. Perfect sister Sunny is, well, perfect; she looks kind and contagiously optimistic (though, seeing her through Rene’s eyes, we can understand why that might be annoying!). So the two leads of this animated short are wonderful and yet what impressed me even more were the creatures of Hate. These guys…
Now I will admit to potential bias as I’ve always been a fan of these similar-looking Super Mario Bros. 3 villains…
That said, I do believe that the little personifications of Hate that Wu and Xu have created are notable for much more than that comparison. If for no other reason than the fact that if these characters didn’t work than the entire animated film would pretty much fall flat.
The importance of these Hate critters goes beyond just how much time they spend on screen (a lot). But it touches on the essence of what this film is about: the very real, fragile and complicated emotions of jealousy. And if the characters Wu and Xu created had felt silly, lazy or off-base, then it would be very hard to buy into the emotional through-line of this film. Which is why the balance they struck between fun and serious (and between real and cartoonish) is particularly impressive.
Also quite impressive is how they were able to evolve this character throughout the course of the animated short. A feat that, once again, is not only visually enticing, but imperative for the trajectory of the narrative. To embrace Rene’s change and our human ability to tame jealousy, we have to see that evolution unfold in a way that makes us believe.
Music And Sound Design
Other than a few Hate-muttered words, the entire audio weight of this animated short falls onto the shoulders of the music and sound design. As such, it must be noted that Garrett Crosby and Glenn Goa did an incredible job. Not only in helping to add a consistent and vivacious sensibility, but also in how—despite carrying so much weight—the audio never elbows aside the narrative for its own sake.
Given the strength of this short’s primary characters (Rene and Sunny) and its thematic underpinnings (the jealousy-inspired Hate critters), it would have likely been possible for this animated short to hit the same beats without including Rene’s diary. Meaning that instead of seeing Rene write out her sisterly frustrations, Wu and Xu could have just shown a little monster emerge out of Rene’s frustration. But instead of taking that approach, the filmmakers decided to introduce a physical artifact to deliver the scene.
By introducing this element, not only does it help ground the story earlier on (and give a more interesting origin to the creatures of Hate), but it winds up being a wonderful device to achieve narrative resolution at the end of the film.
To see more of Lissa Xu’s work, you can visit her Vimeo page.