Big Finds a Trumpet is about a happy character called Big who annoys his friend Little with a trumpet he finds. “It’s about relationships… and basically the fact that the people you like most can sometimes be the most annoying,” says London-based Dan Castro who created the animated short.
“I like to make films based on my actual day-to-day life, about being a ‘normal’ person, but kind of through the lens of a big kid. I had just moved in with my partner at the time and she’s incredibly tidy, and I’m not really, so we were getting on each other’s nerves quite a lot,” explains Dan who is currently studying at the Royal College of Art. “You end up in this weird place where your best mate is still your best mate but you basically don’t want to play with them anymore.”
The style of the animation is full of lovely textures and simple line drawings, and Dan sees it as a “love letter to the old VHS tapes of the 1970s and 80s British cartoons my grandad used to plonk me down in front of as a kid”. Describing his style as bright, fun and honest, Dan also draws inspiration from fellow animator Nicholas Ménard.
After sketching out and writing down conversations with his partner as a starting point, Dan then spent a lot of time on the character designs and storyboard. “Almost all of the pre-production work was under the working title Mess and it was a much more literal interpretation of a relationship, which wasn’t working at all until I loosened up and let things just happen,” he explains. “Part of that process was helped by doing a version where I just worked spontaneously and made things up as I went along: ‘where does the trumpet come from?… a car crash!… what then?… he bumps into a giant!’ – I really enjoyed having a basic concept and then working instinctively like that to flesh it out.”
Once the order was sorted, Dan worked scene by scene, creating the character animations in Photoshop and compositing in After Effects, using a “combination of flat digital colour and textures scanned in from bits of paper, paint strokes, ink and the like”. In the short, the character Big sporadically blows the trumpet and these blasts of noise are conveyed visually through swatches of loud, psychedelic patterns, which Dan cleverly achieved by combining digital patterns with traditional 35mm scratch animation. Sound also became a huge part of the animation, keeping up the pace of the film and adding to the nostalgic vibe. Dan was helped out by his friend, and Bafta award-winning sound designer, Kenny Young – who “absolutely got what I waned almost without me having to say anything”.
“More than anything I wanted to make something that felt like it was as fun to make as it was,” says Dan. “The more I do that, the more I realise that that’s something really important to me, and hopefully makes it more fun to watch.”
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