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New And Old Animation Styles Combine For Adventurous Short Film, "Helium Harvey"

This new short film is the closest thing to Looney Tunes' "Merry Melodies," since Adventure Time.

by Erica Gorochow
Apr 8 2014, 4:10pm
Helium Harvey from Something Savage on Vimeo.

“I grew up wanting to make cartoons and got lost along the way, so I guess I'm just getting back to my original plan,” says director, illustrator and animator, Dan Savage. Savage, who we previously mentioned in our article on the best Virtual Reality installation at SXSW, decided to shift his focus from motion graphics and towards character designs and traditional narratives, spending the better part of last year animating his first short film, Helium Harvey. Simply put, it's the story of a boy who, after ingesting a balloon filled with the lighter-than-air gas of its namesake, takes flight on an airborne adventure around the world.

While Helium Harvey may seem geared towards younger audiences, don't let the animation style fool you. I was particularly impressed with the film’s vibrant color palette, which harkens back to the mid-century cartoons of yore like Looney Tunes' Merry Melodies. After coding the film’s many landscapes and worlds in timeless beauty and fascination, Savage explained, “I realized background design is my favorite part of the process." It shows:

Helium Harvey - Orchestra Recording from Something Savage on Vimeo.

In addition to releasing the film, Savage documented his entire process, including the recording of a traditional score with Cyrille Marchesseau and the Macedonia Radio Symphonic Orchestra. In an age where it's increasingly easy to lock yourself in your bedroom and make everything in your home studio, it’s refreshing to watch a room of skilled musicians craft the backbone of an indie short.

Helium Harvey - Making-of from Something Savage on Vimeo.

Opting against the Kickstarter-model and seeing the project as his own, cheaper alternative to grad school, Savage funded the entire project himself: “I turned down most commercial jobs (except the really exciting ones) and read as many books as I could,” he wrote to us via email. One of his more clever means of financing the project involved teaching his animation knowledge in an online class on character animation.

Like the titular character in Helium Harvey, Dan Savage is always looking ahead. He explained, “I wanted this [film] to make a splash, then use it as leverage for the next thing that might actually need funding like printing a book or developing an app (coming soon hopefully).” Also, like Harvey, we'll be holding our breath. 

Follow Erica Gorochow on Twitter: @gorociao