“Thought of You” (viewable here) is a short animated film by Ryan Woodward. His past roles at Hollywood studios in effects animation and storyboarding have clear influences on this film in the masterful gesture drawing and beautiful hand-drawn effects. Broadly, it is about the relationship between the two characters featured in it, however while there is a underlying story that went into its creation, Woodward intended for the viewer to draw their own interpretations of what that story might be. In the ‘making of’ film on his website, Woodward states that there is symbolism in the work that he understands the significance of, but the audience may not. Indeed, the comments beneath the video on platforms like YouTube are a testament to this – there are a great many commenters offering their personal interpretations.
Something I find notable about this animation is the weight and authenticity of the figures. Depicted in confident strokes with excellent use of simple anatomical landmarks to turn the forms in space – for the most part, their proportions are kept realistic and their anatomy very ‘everyday’, without exaggeration. Yet they are incredibly evocative all the same, and I think the choice to keep them largely realistic gives the film a nuance and delicacy that a broader treatment would not have permitted.
However, the film is not without more figurative animation choices too. Indeed, these stand out as all the more effective because they contrast so well with the subtler drawings. For example, at one point the male figure’s limbs unexpectedly become thick and heavy like rope, sagging and piling upon the ground (above). This visual metaphor clearly communicates the character feeling weighed down and struggling to move forward, even while the reasons for his feeling this way are left to the viewer to decide. A more abstract example is the change in the way the characters are drawn over the course of the film. Shifting between bare construction line sketches to solid and shaded gestures, and from bright white lines to black ones, is perhaps an intriguing representation of how people and their perceptions of each other change over time.
The staging is also interesting. Woodward made the choice not to include camera movements, close ups, or even facial expressions, and consulted with dancers to create the choreography. This means that the blocking of the characters becomes very important to help convey the intended mood – we see characters surrounded by negative space or positioned low in one corner when they feel small and desolate, and when they are active and excited they expand, their gestures filling much more space, and move around the whole stage freely:
I have always found this animation rewarding to return to and rewatch. The beautifully drawn gestures and the flair of the visual metaphors are inspiring and stylish, and I feel I can learn a lot from examining the creative choices Woodward made.