Demo Duck lends its animation expertise to visualise one young author’s poetry

“The words just flew off the page”; the Chicago production company collaborates with a local creative writing centre for a colourful new animation.

26 August 2022


A new film from production company Demo Duck launches today (26 August), titled Finger Paintings. It was first conceived, however, as a poem by a student author named Isabela who is connected to 826CHI, a non-profit creative writing centre for Chicago youth. The film, which merges colourful 2D animation and expressive voiceover from Isabela herself, traverses themes of nostalgia and youth, unpicking how creative vibrancy can often feel as if it dulls when you grow up. A concept that feels innately visual, the film is a prime example of the wonderful possibilities collaborative youth projects offer the industry – for both the realisation and encouragement companies can offer young voices, and the creative talent they will encounter in return.

Demo Duck is known for its pro-bono projects, with Finger Paintings being the latest in its long-running collaboration with 826CHI. “We worked with their team and another student author to create the animated piece She’Cago in 2018, and were excited for an opportunity to animate another young author’s poem,” Jarrett Hothan, Demo Duck associate creative director tells us.

On first watch of Finger Paintings, the ways in which Demo Duck has engaged with Isabela’s concepts are clear. First, there’s the flowing, undulating quality of the animation, matching Isabela’s own rhythm and writing style, and the use of colour, often seeping in before receding as the poem moves onto themes of maturing, boredom and nostalgia. “We wanted the video to flow like the poem’s reflective thought process, seamlessly moving through memories, places, moments, and dreams,” Jarrett states. “The language was already so visually expressive and descriptive – the words just flew off the page and it made our job easy.”


Demo Duck / 826CHI: Finger Paintings, words by Isabela (Copyright © 826CHI, 2022)

Though Demo Duck often records voiceovers in the later stages of the production process, the audio for Finger Paintings was recorded with Isabela before full design and animation began in earnest. “This allowed us to make sure the motion and pacing of the piece had a natural tie to the rhythm and personality of her reading,” Jarett explains.

Beyond helping to visualise Isabela’s words, Demo Duck also sought to interweave her own personal stamp on the work. Peppered throughout are hidden details from the author’s life, like “her love of books and the Grateful Dead”.

Looking forward, Demo Duck hopes to continue its pro-bono collaborations with 826CHI and others. “We also specialise in live-action video production, and we’re hoping to produce a documentary-style piece or series about a local organisation or individual in the near future.”

GalleryDemo Duck / 826CHI: Finger Paintings, words by Isabela (Copyright © 826CHI, 2022)

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Demo Duck / 826CHI: Finger Paintings, words by Isabela (Copyright © 826CHI, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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