Kiwi! is an animation about a Kiwi - a type of bird that cannot fly, who spends its whole life working towards achieving his dream. The kiwi strived to create the illusion that it was flying over a forest as it soared down through the sky from the top of a cliff. Thus, the kiwi spent what must have been its whole life nailing trees to the side of a cliff. All this, to fulfil its one dream of flying, even though it was technically unable to. There are several powerful messages behind Kiwi, but mainly, it makes you think: no matter how absurd and seemingly out of reach your dreams are, what's stopping you from achieving them? Kiwi's had a huge online success, with currently over 1.75 million views and 9000 comments on the online video site 'YouTube' in approximately just 3 days. The animation has been recently featured on YouTube and currently ranks in at the #1 favorited video in the arts and animation category of all time. As I'm sure you'll agree, "Kiwi!" is an inspiration to us all.
ISFAT was given the opportunity of talking to Dony Permedi, the animator and mind behind "Kiwi!". Dony was interviewed by evil (Jordan Bustin) from ISFAT.com, who also wrote this shiny article. In the interview, Dony answers some questions you might be left with after watching "Kiwi!", discussing many of the creative decisions involved - namely the 'thud' at the end of the short film. Dony also talks about the animation industry, one of his older animations, and makes his future plans for Kiwi clear. Yep, he did all this and much, much more! (Unfortunately nothing which involved his tongue, though.)
Enough fantasizing - here's the interview:
Jordan: How long did it take you to make "Kiwi!"? What were some of the different stages involved in its production?
"Kiwi!" creator, Dony Permedi: "It took my second year at graduate school, which ran from September 05 to April 06. For the first few months, I was trying to come up with an actual story which didn't happen until October. October I storyboarded, refined my story and created an animatic - to help time out the pacing of the film. If you don't know what an animatic is, check out any animated DVD like The Incredibles or Shrek, and look at the extras, which show the pre-visualization of the film using drawings and sound effects. This helps in planning the film.
From November until January, I modelled and rigged my character, and started animating in February, which was all done in [a program called] Maya. While I finished animating in April I was also rendering out my animation, and compositing the renders in Adobe After Effects, fixing colors, and shadows.
I don't have the whole process down, and I wish I had more time to spend on the animation. As you might see I am not very good at lighting and texturing. I spent too much struggling with those two, and not coming out with a good result. At first I was going to give the Kiwi fur, but I failed so miserably at that, and decided to give up because I knew the animation was the most important part to me."
Jordan: Was there any reason for choosing a Kiwi out of all the different types of flightless birds, like, say a penguin? Do you have a dark past with penguins?
Dony: "To be honest, when I first came up with the story I had originally thought of a chicken. But then I thought about how chickens were used a lot in cartoons and I felt like penguins were also used alot in animation. I mean, when someone wants to talk about my animation they'll be like, 'Hey did you see that penguin animation?' and the response would be, 'Which one?' There are a lot of memorable penguins in animation, like the penguins in Madagascar, or the one in the second Wallace and Gromit film. There's also about to be more, with Surf's Up and Happy Feet both coming out within the year, which are both animated films featuring penguins. I couldn't think of any animated Kiwis except the one that was in the Tazmania cartoon show that was on in the 90's. But I wonder how many people remember that character."
Jordan: Why did you choose "Kiwi!" as the title? Were there any alternatives you were contemplating for the title?
Dony: "None really, I don't usually spend much time with my titles. The title happens right before I finish my film and I have to make the credits."
Jordan: You also have another animation called "Pony" - any reason for naming your videos after the animals involved in your projects?
Dony: "I didn't think I had an animal theme in my work. I only named it Pony because that's what the confused little girl had dreamed of having. Like I mentioned before, I never put much thought into my titles. It's always an afterthought. It's like, 'Aw sweet it's all done... oh crap I need a title for it!'"
Jordan: Where did the concept of "Kiwi!" come from? Was it based on something that you experienced? If not, are you able to relate to the story in "Kiwi!" on a personal level?
Dony: "I don't know if this will disappoint, but to be honest I didn't spend much time thinking on this. Kiwi is not based on any personal experiences that I know of yet... at least I know I wasn't reaching into my soul or anything for this story. Who knows, maybe I may relate to this Kiwi someday. Really, I just wanted a story that would allow me to be expressive and play with different emotions like happiness or sadness. I decided on this story, because I wanted to create a character that people will like, and then do something to that character, and see if the audience reacts strongly to it. I think it worked out!"
Jordan: The 9000 comments the animation's received seem to agree! In your words, what is the message behind "Kiwi!"?
Dony: "Well, let's see... I think you can take the wrong message away from Kiwi. Some might see it as me telling you that your dreams are worth dying for (if he did die). I don't necessarily believe that, but I think I am showing a character who is like that. Some people can be obsessive over something that only they can understand. I suppose that's why I ended it the way I did. I think part of the sadness, comes from people asking 'Why would he do such a thing? What is driving him to do all of this?'
I like that people are asking these questions, and that some are providing their own answers!"
Jordan: The first time I saw "Kiwi!" 3 or 4 days ago, it only had about a few thousand views on YouTube. Currently, more than 1.75 million people have watched "Kiwi!". How do you feel about the overwhelming boom in popularity that your video has seen in the past few days? Can tell us about how its popularity grew so fast?
Dony: "To be honest, I thought 25,000 views was all I was gonna get. I'm surprised cause I put it up like 4 months ago! I dunno why now it's getting watched all of a sudden! I thought it had its run.
Anyways, I am really happy that people are watching it and are becoming affected by it. It means I am doing something right as an artist, and that makes me feel good."
Jordan: Some people have described Kiwi as "simple yet so powerful", that Kiwi "sticks in your subconscious." I know that whenever I feel sad, I'm going to close my eyes, visualize the thing that's in my way or keeping me down, and 'tilt my head to the side' to see the happy side of it. How's it feel to have created something so powerful that affects the everyday life of thousands, if not millions of people?
Dony: "I'm really not sure yet. All I know, as I've said in the last question, is that I am at least happy that I am able to affect people with my animation, and it makes me feel like I am effective as an artist."
Jordan: At the end of "Kiwi!", we hear a thud as Kiwi assumingly hits the ground. Did you contemplate not including this in the finished movie?
Dony: "Yes, of course. I had many people telling me to end it differently, like give him a parachute, or have him fall in a pond. But I didn't want it wrapped up that tightly. And I think that's what happy endings do - they take care of everything [at the end] with the emotion! I wanted to leave it open and a bit unsettling. But then again some people may see it as an ending."
Jordan: As terrific as Kiwi is, there's another animal I've been dying to talk about: "Pony" - the animation you made during your undergrad about a kid that gets a talking pony on their birthday, only to have it smashed in half like a piñata by the other kids. The other kids offer the kid a piece of the pony, and as the kid looks back at the pony, we see that: it actually is a piñata; the piece of pony in the kid's hand is really candy; and all the other kids now resemble piñatas. There seems to be a lot of different interpretations about this last scene, would you like to clarify what's going on?
Dony: "Well the girl is very confused and disturbed from the very beginning, but in an innocent way. I tried to show this throughout the animation, like her doll talking to her, or her commenting that the other children aren't really her friends, that they are just there for party favors. I wanted to show her as imaginative, but then eventually unstable. The piñata incident is kind of the breaking point. I mean, if she thinks it's alive, how will she deal with him being smashed to pieces? What will she see? Will her fantasy continue? It does as you see, until she takes a bite of the candy. But who says that things make sense after that? Her senses, and her mind shifted, but not back to normal.
I got the idea after watching America's funniest home videos. I saw a little girl crying at a birthday party because they were beating a piñata. It got me thinking about little kids, and things like Calvin and Hobbes, where Calvin is a little boy who thinks his stuffed tiger is real. I thought to myself, "okay, that's cute - that a child has an overactive imagination, but what if it was too over active?" So I wanted to see what happens when you take it a step further."
Jordan: I must say, I'm quite a fan of your imagination! Is there anything that's influenced your work in any way?
Dony: "For the narrative animations I just think of some funny ideas, draw a lot, throw them around with people I know, and work from there. I am always thinking of different ideas, or stories. I just need to sit down and develop them."
Jordan: Time for some randomness. I noticed you're a Mindless Self Indulgence fan! There's something neat about "Shut Me Up" that just makes me want to pick up my furniture and throw it through a window out of joy. Got any personal favorite songs or broken window stories you'd like to share?
Dony: "Oh, I like a lot of music, and I think it would take way too long to list it all. As for breaking windows, I can't say that I get that feeling. The most music makes me want to do is sing. Especially MSI. But as a result of that, I am a huge fan of Karaoke."
Jordan: How close are you to graduating? Why did you want to become an animation artist?
Dony: "I graduated back in May of 06! I wanted to be an animator, because I really just want to make people laugh, and what I got my kicks out of when I was growing up was cartoons and comic strips. So I decided I wanted to be a part of that. So since first grade, really, I knew I wanted to be an animator."
Jordan: What's the best thing about animation and being an animation artist?
Dony: "It's hard to say what the best part about being an animator is. It's just fun to do, and its fun creating something that others can enjoy. It's a way to express myself and tell people who I am."
Jordan: And express you did! "Kiwi!" has had a huge positive response online, with currently over 9000 comments on its YouTube page. Do you have any future plans for "Kiwi!" or any of your other animations? Do I smell a sequel or is that just my shampoo?
Dony: "I have no future plans for Kiwi, except perhaps submitting it to some festivals. No sequel either. Also, people have offered to redo the sound for me, but to be honest I think it is done, and I've known that I was going to move on from it."
Jordan: What about t-shirts and merchandise? I know I would buy a shirt featuring Kiwi! Maybe a picture of Kiwi soaring through the sky with a caption like "what's stopping you?" or something profound like "I'm the kiwi." - now that I'd wear with pride!
Dony: "Hahaha, I'm sorry Jordan, I never intended for the Kiwi to be on any t-shirts or anything. But if people are that nuts about Kiwis, go to any gift store in New Zealand. You will have plenty of Kiwi merchandise options there!"
Jordan: Are you working on any other super fun projects currently? Should we be rushing out to the stores to buy more tissues?
Dony: "Hahah, buy more tissues. I would like to make more animations if I can, but I don't know when that will be. Sorry! I will try to be better about writing my ideas down so I can get my brain rolling on some more work."
Jordan: Do you have any advice for people interested in working in the animation and digital media industry?
Dony: "Not really! I am new myself! If anyone wants advice, they should go to http://www.CGtalk.com - a forum of industry professionals and other students from around the world. It's packed to the brim with all the info you'll ever need for anyone who really wants to learn about the business. People have been asking me what program I used, or what school I went to, and for any tips or tutorials will help them. This is the site to find all this stuff out. And if this doesn't have it, it will usually point you to another site that will.
But here is some general advice: No 3D program is better than the other and none of it is free! They're very expensive, and I was able to use them through my schools. If anyone really wants to get serious about making 3D animations, they need to work really hard, and go through school, or put a lot of time into teaching themselves. As for the best schools, its all a matter of opinion. Look around on CGtalk and you'll see where a lot of students and professionals have studied, and look into obtaining info for those schools. School is what you make of it. There is mediocre work from great schools and there is awesome work from small unknown schools. It all depends on how much you want to do it. So really, I don't want to go and make any recommendations. It would be a better choice if you researched first."
Jordan: Any last words of wisdom?
Dony: "I am only 25! I have no wisdom! In fact, I think I continually screw up daily. That's how I learn."
Jordan: Thanks tremendously for your time, Dony - you have a great mind and extraordinary talent. There's a fantastic message behind Kiwi, and it really touched and inspired me as I'm sure it touched a lot of others too. I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you and especially sharing the Kiwi love with the rest of the world!
Dony: "Thanks for giving me a chance to answer all these questions. I have gotten a lot of emails, and it's really hard to respond to all of them, so I hope this helps to answer most of everyone's questions about my animation."
You can contact Dony and view a demo reel of his work over at his personal website: www.donysanimation.com
Also, click here to watch Pony - one of Dony's older animations!
UPDATE: Article comments were previously posted in this topic, but you can now comment this blog entry directly. Woo!
Hope you liked the interview, kids. Please don't reproduce, republish or duplicate this post. Please link to the article and credit us as a source in your web postings - thanks! "Kiwi!" and "Pony" animations © 2006 Dony Permedi - Images used from "Kiwi!" © 2006 Dony Permedi
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