He’s drawing our stories to life!
Pixar animator, Frank Abney, debuted his short film Canvas on Netflix on Dec. 11. It features Black people with expertly crafted textured curls and a story about overcoming grief we can all relate to. Abney who was also an executive producer on Matthew Cherry’s award-winning short film Hair Love has been working to get this project live for five years. Two years ago, he teased one of the first animations from the film, which went viral. He then created a Kickstarter campaign, which received more than $62,000 from 38 backers – over $20,000 than its initial goal – to make the film.
I want to introduce you all to the character I teased recently from my shortfilm… Again, I couldn’t do this w/o my talented team of artists! Huge S/O to @TB_sojinchoi (design), @Dekren (modeling), & #ThalesSimonato on the Hair work. #Film #Art #Filmmaking #CanvasFilm #Animation pic.twitter.com/LQFhEXk94z
— Frank Abney (@iFrankAbney) April 27, 2018
“CANVAS centers around a grandfather who is trying to regain his inspiration after suffering a loss.” The Kickstarter explained. “This story is something we can all relate to. Sometimes in life, things happen that make it hard for you to keep fighting for what you love. It’s not so much a matter of ability but rather a testament to the will of the human spirit. We can all find strength and creativity in the most surprising places, and this story exemplifies that.
Abney first thought of the idea in 2014 and then pitched it to a studio he worked for at the time. Although they decided to option it, it ended up sitting collecting dust before Abney could get back the rights following his departure from the company. In an interview with The Root last year, Abney said the inspiration for Canvas came from several sources, including his grandfather, mother, and niece.
“There’s different reasons for each. My grandfather—he’s been pretty stoic and quiet for all the years that I’ve been around him, and so I always wondered what happened to cause that. As an artist and just as a person, in general, we deal with losses, and that affects us in different ways,” Abney told The Root. “I lost my dad when I was five, and I always wondered about my mom and how that affected her on levels [my sister and I] couldn’t see growing up. [As for my] niece, she was pretty young when I first came up with the story. And with her, it was just the idea of how kids can bring joy without really trying.“
Abney working with writers and artists across three continents to bring the story to life.
“I’m overwhelmed,” he told Atlanta Black Star. “We were just working on this in our spare time, and you don’t know where these things are going to go…But I’m just I’m so thankful to be partnering with Netflix and being able to share it with a broad audience. My ultimate goal is I just want people to be inspired by it and also just understand that there are Black filmmakers out there.”
The film has received rave reviews on social media, with people expressing the emotions it brought up and their excitement about Black characters drawn with care, intention, and inclusivity.
Just watched #Canvas and almost cried! Y’all gotta stop!!! I swear I’m not THIS emotional all the time! But that was great! I almost said this feels very Pixar-y and then I remember @iFrankAbney HAS worked on a TON of @Pixar films including @PixarSoul! #CanvasNetflix pic.twitter.com/dYHm1mu1t8
— Shaye Wyllie (@shayewyllie) December 14, 2020advertisement
— e (@etweetin) December 13, 2020advertisement
— ♿️TEE FRANKLIN HAS FAILED THIS COUNTRY (@MizTeeFranklin) December 11, 2020
Afro hair beautifully animated in #CanvasNetflixadvertisement
— Dionne Grant (@DionneGrant) December 14, 2020
Y’all go watch the short animated film Canvas on Netflix! I cried watching it, my emotions are in shambles. So sad, heartwarming and beautiful and can we talk about the hair? 10 out of 10 would recommend #CanvasNetflix pic.twitter.com/CSoVAwdiji
— hotcheri (@hotcheri) December 12, 2020
— Reagan Gomez (@ReaganGomez) December 12, 2020
Your work warms our hearts, Frank!
Photo Credit: Canvas Netflix