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Robin Joseph’s ‘Fox and The Whale’ a Visually Arresting Tale of Pursuit and Longing

Recipient the award for Best Environments at VIEW 2016, independently produced 2D/3D hybrid short film is now available for viewing online as a Vimeo Staff Pick.

Fresh off its Oscar-qualifying limited theatrical run in Los Angeles, Toronto-based independent animation director Robin Joseph‘s 2016 short film, Fox and The Whale is now available for viewing online as a Vimeo Staff Pick.

The 12-minute short film, which follows a curious fox who goes in search of an elusive whale, premiered last year at the LA Shorts Fest, and went on to receive the award for Best Environments at VIEW 2016.

A visually arresting tale of pursuit and longing, the independently produced and self-financed Fox and The Whale was directed and produced by Joseph, who was also responsible for the overall design of the film as well as storyboards, backgrounds, 2D animation, VFX, compositing, editing and sound design.

Joseph worked closely with his partner, Kim Leow, who completed the character animation, modeling and rigging for the film. The character rig for the fox was designed by Louis Vottero, and the music for the film was completed John Poon. The sound design was achieved with support and advice from Tim Nielsen, who very generously loaned the field recordings from which majority of the soundscape for the picture was designed.

“The inspiration behind Fox and the Whale was the pursuit of curiosity,” Joseph says of the genesis of the project. “Not so much a primal curiosity behind food, shelter or even play. The grey areas and often abstract pursuits…the drive of wanting to know what lies beyond the abyss. There is something largely conceptual about that drive. It’s a strange compulsion, innately human. There is no promise of reward or assurances of success, yet you take that away, and there is something of inherent value you lose as a species. A lot of it came from being a big fan of exploration and science, especially space exploration. 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.”

Born and raised in the small coastal town of Kerala, India, Joseph moved to Canada at the age of 17 to pursue his animation studies. He has worked in the industry since 2005 as a production designer and concept artist on such animated features as The Secret Life of PetsPenguins of MadagascarMr. Peabody & ShermanThe LoraxRio and Despicable Me.

“I started playing with the concept with different versions of the story and visuals as far back as 2009,” Joseph recounts. “The film was originally conceived as a 2D animated short. Being around my partner Kim, who is a CG animator, gave a window into CG. I really opened up to the short perhaps being a hybrid of 2D & CG. I redesigned the main character for CG and Kim modeled it in Maya. By late 2014 there was enough money saved up to try and attempt making the short.”

The short was also an attempt to achieve a very high level of visual quality technically, but on an independent scale. All the character animation, modeling and rigs were done by Leow in Autodesk Maya. Everything else from design, storyboarding, background paintings, 2D animation, visual effects, compositing, editing, Foley recording and sound design were done by Joseph using the Adobe package of Photoshop, Aftereffects, Premiere and Audition.

“This time around, I decided to take dedicated time off from the industry to make the short film. Production on the short film began in earnest in January, 2015,” Joseph says. “The first three-and-a-half months was storyboarding and cutting the reel, then another month was spent locking the color script and design so that all the characters could be built in CG. Kim still had a day job in animation production, so I had to be very careful on how best to utilize her time on it. I knew how fast she was as an animator. I also knew I could really push the amount of footage if the performance was based in physicality rather than dialogue. The film, characters were all designed and storyboarded to be non-verbal.”

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.