It’s basically us on weekdays.
For her senior project at Pratt University, animator Amy Xu made a short film that imagines a world wherein people melt whenever they feel stressed.
Aptly entitled Melt Down, the five-minute piece introduces us to a boy who is forced to go outside to run an errand. On his way to the store, he comes across adults who slowly lose their heads (literally) from overly-worrying about minor dilemmas.
An exploration into an abstract style of animation, Amy’s short is beautifully surreal with its imaginative depiction of emotions such as anger, anxiety, and sadness. It not only gives us a fresh visual experience but also gives us something to think about in our daily grind:
“Melt Down is about overcoming a fear of change in a chaotic and rapidly changing world,” she told Lost at E Minor. “I wish for the viewer to find the strength to go out of their comfort zone and explore new versions of themselves like my characters have.”
Here’s the rest of our email interview with Amy, wherein she talks more about herself, her film, and what’s in store for her young career as an animator.
Where did you get the idea to make a film about people melting from stress?
“The idea of an animated film about melting came from an urge to create something abstract. I greatly enjoy animating shapes and forms changing from one state to another in a fluid fashion, especially if these shapes are also figurative.
“More importantly, I wanted to create a world that is ever changing, with people that continuously evolve. In Melt Down, many characters transform from one shape to another, or from one state of mind to another, and I got to portray these changes with liquid-like animation.”
One of the things we loved the most about Melt Down is the visual style. How would you describe it?
“I would describe the style as a cross between modern commercial animation and French/European feature animation. I love the graphic design aspect of commercial animation, where shapes are abstract and clean, and layouts tend to be simple. At the same time, I am inspired by the caricature-like way that French films stylize their people, which are heavily shape-based and exaggerated.”
It must have been hard animating a style that looks so surreal. Could you briefly take us through the film’s creative process?
“It was challenging to work with these surreal characters and sequences in a realistic space. I wanted each scene to start in an immersive and familiar environment and then eventually become dreamlike. A lot of work was put into gathering references and making sure that the perspective and scale felt right. And when it was time to be bizarre, it had to be as intense and grand as possible.”
Also, how long did it take to complete the film? How many revisions did it take?
“It took 16 months to complete the film. Most of the revisions happened during pre-production, which was the first four months. Solidifying my idea and illustrating it in a clear way was the most challenging. Since my narrative was so surreal, I had to figure a balance between what I wanted the audience to understand, and what I wanted to keep ambiguous. It took five or six rounds of storyboards for it to arrive at the current version.”
What’s the message that the film is trying to tell its viewers?
“Melt Down is about overcoming a fear of change in a chaotic and rapidly changing world. The main character, a child without a body, embodies a fear of interacting with external forces and a stubborn wish for things to stay the way they are. I wish for the viewer to find the strength to go out of their comfort zone and explore new versions of themselves like my characters have.”
What are you working on next?
“I am currently working as a freelancer, and surrounding myself with modern design-heavy animation which I greatly enjoy. When I find time between these projects, I’d like to work on another independent short, this time utilizing found sound and exploring LGBTQ issues which I take a great interest in.”