Animation is a vastly huge enterprise that requires hundreds, if not thousands, of artists to toil on Macs; untold numbers of man-hours to produce even a few minutes of movement; a “render farm” of computing power that would take up a full floor of processors, climate-controlled to keep those computer stacks from burning up; and lots and lots of money…or one artist, a Sharpie marker, one Mac mini, and a Kickstarter fund to pull the thing together.
That is how the short film Cabbit came about answering three questions: what happens when you mix a cat and a rabbit (the least important part, honestly); can quirky, highly artistic animation still be made and find an audience; and can we still confront the issues of ecological responsibility (like Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax) without slipping into crude slapstick and killing tons of resources in order to produce the statement (the movie of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax)?
According to Associate Producer Emma Koster, “The entire film was made with Sharpies and a Mac Mini and I suspect it was the toxic fumes from the markers that actually inspired some of the imagery.” That’s correct. The individual elements in the film were created as hand-drawn images via ordinary, off-the-shelf Sharpie markers by the film’s creator Soogie, a “mostly housebound artist from Missoula, Montana.”
“It has taken us three painstaking years to produce this thing due to the fact that the artist, Soogie, deals with a chronic illness,” Koster explained. “Soogie dedicated an entire year developing his style experimenting with drawing and animation techniques. Mostly housebound, it began as a hobby to fight boredom and as an outlet for his creative quirks. He began experimenting with expensive fine art pens but soon realized that he favored the brutally unrefined look and feel of the Sharpie’s pen tips.” Koster and crew is located primarily in Australia, as Soogie necessarily stays in Montana.
“He had initially planned on using a copy stand and a digital camera but found that resulting images were not up to par. He abandoned that technique and developed a new process using his Mac Mini, a scanner, and paper ‘puppets.’ Each of the background illustrations took anywhere between 2 weeks to an entire month to produce and the same amount of attention than the characters in the foreground. Each of the background plate drawings on 11×15 or 12×18 watercolor board paper drawn in a start to finish/do or die fashion that did not involve pencil sketching or planned composition.”
“He likes to think of Cabbit as ‘Pink Floyd’ meets ‘Frog and Toad Are Friends’ meets ‘Pedobear,'” Koster said.
The eco-concerned story was something that developed over time, and was not initially a part of the plan. “In the beginning stages of Cabbit was a handful of abstract scenes and seemingly unrelated ideas that were not tied together by linear narrative. Each scene was created and brought to life as they came to his head and there was no storyboard or structure guiding the process. A story eventually emerged naturally as he began collaborating with (co-producer/sound designer) John Kassab and myself, the editor Andre Gorgievski, and Kadavre Exquis (music composer). He is mostly satisfied with the finished product though he hopes he can convince the producers to replace a couple of scenes he finds to be lacking in luster. ”
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the artist’s illness, no long-term goals are being set, according to Koster. “Soogie is not interested in a career as an ‘artist’ or ‘director’. He is currently developing entirely new concepts from scratch which he will work on and release as long as he is around. At this point, he feels his next work will be his last.”
For images from the film, visit: www.cabbit-film.com
To read an interview with Co-Producer/Sound Designer John Kassab, visit here.