During the creation of this project, the team have had to face a lot of “what if” questions.
In particular, we have had to question what the animation short meant personally – the answer is ambiguous. For some members of the team, it is an opportunity to improve their showreels and refine their skills. For others, it was a chance to try out new elements of production that they were yet to experience during their university career.
Despite the ulterior motives, there was also a unanimous answer between all of us – this animation short was a chance to make a difference.
The medium of animation is versatile – as difficult as the process of creating one can be, there is an amazing sense of ability that the team have the tools to create an animated piece, and give that work an important meaning. That is what we had hoped to achieve this semester.
The premise of the boy and the bear story is concise and uncomplicated. The narrative focuses on the relationship between the child and the importance of play therapy as an aid to support them as they explore self-expression. Whilst the animation exaggerates the situation to format it into an informative platform of entertainment, the message is clear – with play therapy, the child is taking the step forward to cope with their mental health condition.
During my independent research, I discovered a significant gap in mental health campaigns for a younger demographic. In summary, the majority of focus within the United Kingdom targets adults who are living with mental health conditions, resulting in children and teenagers to be severely under-represented. The first mental health week specifically targetted towards children and teenagers occurred in 2015, after years of dedicated work and campaigning from organisations, such as Play2Be. The organisation has been at the forefront of the awareness movement, promoting the facilitation of mental health services within educational institutions. I discuss my research in more detail within this post.
Personally, I have always imagined the animation short as one aspect of a larger marketing campaign. Within the university setting, it has been quite difficult to conduct our own research, especially as we have had to consider the moral and ethical implications of approaching the target demographic to acquire such data. However, I feel that there would be an opportunity to work collaboratively with organisations such as Play2Be or PlayTherapyUK, combining their practical knowledge within the profession with the skills and abilities that the team would have, producing material that could be created specifically to appeal to the younger audience.
The Boy and the Bear project has the potential to become a larger brand. It could expand to introduce a diverse range of characters, which would bring a larger base of representation and communicate the message that play therapy is accessible to all children, regardless of gender, skin colour, and social backgrounds. During the production process, that had been a key social element that we had wanted to incorporate within the animation, hence the reason that there is a gender and racial balance of characters featured within the piece.
In what way might the project evolve? It may shift focus from media and promotion to a physical presence within the profession. The brand could introduce the characters as dolls with animal companions, which would have the potential to be introduced within the play therapy sessions. Could the brand follow the approach of other independent toy manufacturers, and create dolls that are designed in the child’s likeness?
It is interesting to consider the different scenarios that this project could aspire towards. The concept that the team has created is not restricted by the medium through which it is represented. Whilst an animated short was our personal preference, the narrative could work as a storybook, a live action film, or even as a comic book. The versatile quality of the project is the unique selling point to organisations if they were interested in implementing animation within their advertising campaign to promote awareness, or willing to invest in an expandable brand.
Regardless of which medium the story of the Boy and the Bear is depicted, the key is to retaining the importance of the relationship between the two characters. It is affirming to know that the team has been able to create a concept that could progress on past the natural end of the semester, and that has the potential to change the criteria of our animation from a competition entry, to a client based project. That would be considerate of whether a collaborative relationship could be established between the team and an organisation could be arranged.
Whilst creating some mock up material for an advertising campaign would not be possible this late in a semester, it is wise to consider how this project could flourish if it had the opportunity to grow beyond an animated short. I have an inclination that we were only beginning to scratch the surface of the bigger picture – perhaps in future, it could be something to revisit and explore in greater depth.