‘If Anything Happens I Love You,’ ‘Canvas,’ and ‘Cops and Robbers’ each tell a unique, socially relevant story through varied animation techniques.
With Netflix casting a bigger and bigger net over the international animation community – witness co-CEO Ted Sarandon’s recently stated plans to release six animated features a year - it makes sense the streaming giant would also start embracing and supporting the distribution of topical, socially relevant short stories told through a diverse collection of animation techniques. Noting that a great story can come in any size, shape or length, the streaming giant has just announced they’ll be introducing three new animated short films in the coming months: If Anything Happens I Love You, Canvas, and Cops and Robbers.
According to Gregg Taylor, Netflix’s director of animated features, “Our goal is to bring our members best-in-class animation in all types of formats - features, series, adult animation, anime, and short form. Animated storytelling is most compelling when it can transport, entertain, and start conversations; and all three of these short films are beautiful examples of that. While each film is deeply personal and uses very different animation styles, all of them are equally powerful.”
The three new films are as follows:
If Anything Happens I Love You
If Anything Happens I Love You is an elegy on grief. Writers/directors Will McCormack and Michael Govier’s beautifully illustrated 2D animated short takes us on the emotional journey of two parents struggling to overcome the hurt left by a tragic event that leaves their family changed forever. The film is a tale that juxtaposes the pain that one can feel with the bounding resilience of the human spirit.
McCormack and Govier noted, “If Anything Happens I Love You was created for the ones lost, and the ones left behind.”
Laura Dern executive produced the short film, which is produced by Maryann Garger, Gary Gilbert, Gerald Chamales, and Michael Govier. More than half the team behind If Anything Happens I Love You is female, including the animation director, composer, producer and all-female animation team. Gilbert Films financed the short and produced along with Oh Good Productions.
Directed by Frank E. Abney III and produced by Paige Johnstone, Canvas tells the story of a grandfather who, after suffering a devastating loss, is sent into a downward spiral and loses his inspiration to create. Years later, he decides to revisit the easel, and pick up the paint brush… but he can't do it alone.
For Abney III, an animator on well-known features like Soul, Toy Story 4, Coco and The Boss Baby, Canvas tells a story we can all relate to. Sometimes in life, things happen that make it hard for you to keep fighting for what you love. It's not so much a matter of ability, but rather a testament to the will of the human spirit. We can all find strength and creativity in the most surprising places and this story exemplifies that.
The film was produced over the course of five years by a passionate team of artists working after hours across three continents. The show’s Black leadership focused on creating a multicultural production team, which embraced the challenge of simultaneously producing both 2D and CG animation sequences.
“We owe it to ourselves and our ancestors to use our gifts to lift and inspire those around us,” the director said. “Canvas is my message to those that have suffered loss and are searching for a way through. In a world where my community must often ignore processing its own tragedies, this film shows that we don’t have to do it alone.”
Cops and Robbers
Cops and Robbers, directed by Arnon Manor and Timothy Ware-Hill, and written and performed by Ware-Hill, was produced in response to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a video of which first surfaced on May 5th, 2020. Manor was inspired to create an animated version of Ware-Hill’s poem, which sparked their collaboration.
Cops and Robbers is produced by Lawrence Bender, Arnon Manor and Timothy Ware-Hill, and executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, Neishaw Ali and Janet Jeffries. More than 30 individual artists, students and VFX companies from around the world collaborated, each creating a short segment of the poem with their own visual interpretation of the subject matter and individual animation technique. Over half of the animators on Cops and Robbers are Black artists.
The result is a powerful message aimed at bringing awareness to the systemic violence, racially motivated killings, and the ongoing police brutality against Black Americans. The short features a portion of the Negro spiritual “Soon I Will Be Done,” performed by Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes.
Ware-Hill and Manor say they made this film “for all the Black men, women, and children who have been victims of racial profiling, police violence, loss of life, and other injustices just for being themselves.”
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.