The credits for Robin Joseph’s animated short “Fox and the Whale” are incredibly brief. The 12-minute blend of computer and hand-drawn animation was mostly done by Joseph himself and his partner, CG animator Kim Leow, with no outside funding and very little, yet notable, outside help.
The film is the lyrical tale of a curious fox trying find to an elusive whale that he hears from ashore. “The inspiration for ‘Fox and the Whale’ was the pursuit of curiosity. Not so much a primal curiosity behind food, shelter, or even play. It was more about the grey areas and often abstract pursuits. The drive of wanting to know what lies beyond the abyss,” says Joseph. “The ambitions at the fringes of it often seem one step beyond reach. The fact that we still try instills a sense of awe and wonder. At the other end is an idea of failure, or at least what is perceived as failure. The fortitude to move forward and keep searching in spite of it. It’s a fragile state of mind at times, but to me it holds such optimism.”
“Fox and the Whale” is Joseph’s first professional film, and that drove his decision to do most of the production himself, with Leow doing the CG animation. “Kim was the sole CG character animator. Kim also did the character models and rigs,” Joseph explains. “My role was everything else: from design, boards, background paintings, the odd bits of 2D animation, visual effects, compositing, editing, recording the foley and final sound.”
Joseph did get some valuable help from award-winning sound designer Tim Nielsen. “The Little Prince” director Mark Osborne connected Joseph with Nielsen after Joseph’s original sound designer fell through. The film was already finished, so Joseph tried to do the sound work himself, but didn’t have much money left in the budget. Nielsen didn’t have time to do any work on the project, “but Tim is such a gem of a human being, he surprised me by sending a massive sound library of his field recordings for use in the short. I sourced most of the final sound design from the raw files Tim loaned me,” says Joseph. Nielsen also offered advice throughout the final mix. “He had a busy schedule, yet always left room for me to give him a quick ring,” Joseph recalls. “I really couldn’t have finished the film without Tim. I really, really got lucky here.”
“Fox and the Whale” has played at more than 40 festival around the world, won awards at the Sene Film Festival, the Oxford Film Festival and the VIEW Conference, and has been submitted for Academy consideration. The ambitious short will make it’s online debut today on Vimeo.