Inspiration can come from the strangest places. For Minkyu Lee, the idea for “Adam and Dog” came to him while waiting for a friend in the ER. “I was in the waiting room reading a ‘National Geographic’ article about the origin dogs,” reveals Lee. “I thought … every ancient part of the world has dogs. That must’ve happened simultaneously. I then started to think about the story of Genesis, the first man, the first dog. The idea started to take form in a writing workshop. I was given one word, ‘friend,’ and had to work from that.” (Watch the short film at the bottom of this post.)
“Adam and Dog” takes place in the Garden of Eden, and portrays the first friendship between man and dog, and the conflict that arises between them when Eve is introduced into the world. The film has been nominated for Best Animated Short at this year’s Oscars.
Lee graduated from Cal Arts in 2009 and immediately started working at Disney, where he did character design on “Winnie the Pooh” (2011) and “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012). He made “Adam and Dog” while still working full time, working mostly on the weekends and off hours. “It took about two-and-a-half years, maybe three. I took a four month leave-of-absence from Disney to finish it.”
The film was made using the traditional hand-drawn style of animation, an approach that Lee feels is far from dead. “I teach a class at Cal Arts in hand-drawn animation. All the freshmen there are interested in traditional 2-D animation. 3-D has a different quality to it: it’s more realistic, whereas 2-D is more an impression of the world. I think there’s room for both.”
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Lee found influence for the film not through other animated films, but from directors such as Andrey Tarkovskiy, Orson Welles, Terrence Malick, “in terms of narrative approach. Their films are much less about plot, more about the moment, the dimension of character. I felt that Eden should be portrayed that way, and that a traditional animation approach would take away from the sophistication of that.”
Narrative sophistication is something that Lee would like to instill into traditional animation. “There’s room for animation to be a vessel for different kinds of stories. We’re shutting the lid on it before we’ve even given it a chance. 2-D could be that vessel. It has so much potential that hasn’t been realized yet.”