Cool For You: Award-Winning Animated Short Film
“Cool For You”, an animated film based on the book of the same title, explains global warming to children in a friendly way. Incorporating different characters and families, animals and plants, children are introduced to CO2, and positive, easy ways to improve our impact on the earth.
In March 2020, when the world came to a standstill, a friend shared a picture book he thought my kids would enjoy. It was called Cool for You, and it explained the science behind climate change and what we can do about it. In many ways, this book felt alive: The pages were filled with billowing exhaust, swaying trees, and butterflies flitting from flower to flower. While I felt frozen in place, this was a world in motion.
I received permission from illustrator Caitlin B. Alexander and author Marianna Linz to animate their book, and, using Photoshop files from the illustrator, I pieced the artwork together into a three-minute film. With limited resources to record voiceover artists, my family became part of the project, too: My husband and all three kids voiced the characters, and I used music from a lullaby I wrote for my first child for the score. The pandemic had brought my graphic design and animation work to an abrupt halt; in Cool for You, I found the creative outlet I had been longing for.
I hope this film can be a tool—not only for climate-change education—but also as a way to show others how words can be brought to life through sounds, animation, voices, and graphics.
Below is a list of questions included in the Electronic Press Kit used for film festival submission:
1. Tell us about your process: How did you bring this book to life? After I read the book, I knew I wanted to animate it. I read it to my three kids and they loved it too. I contacted the author and illustrator, and they were open to my idea. The illustrator was a little concerned at first especially since I needed all her Photoshop files to do the animation. So, she only gave me one page spread at a time. So, I took that first page, that's set in the living room, and had the camera pan across the room, while the words and word bubble animate and the father's and daughter's bodies moves a little. It wasn't a lot of movement, but it was a process to find a way to make the text move just slightly and have the light beside them focus our attention to them reading. I knew it would be easy to animate this in Aftereffects, because it integrates really well with Photoshop, so that any time I had to just the artwork, it automatically updated the animation.
2. You’re a classically trained composer, how did your background in music influence the film? Well, besides my classical music training, I also worked as a film composer and sound engineer for many years in Hollywood. So, my experience at how visuals and sound work together was very helpful in bringing the story to life. I wanted to use music that was very sweet and endearing, to make sure that the movie felt as warm and inviting as the book. When I was pregnant with my first child, my son Yuri, I wrote an instrumental lullaby for him that I played on headphones and placed on my belly for him to hear in utero and then played it a lot at night to soothe him to sleep. I realized this would be the perfect music for the film.
3. Do you have a favorite section of the book? It's so hard to pick just one part! But, if I had to, it would be about half-way through the book, when the definition of atmosphere is explained; we see the little girl—sitting in the beautiful forest surrounded by trees, plants, flowers and animals — reading a book. It's a 2-page spread in the book and is so stunningly beautiful. But, also seeing it for the first time, I felt like it had to be animated—I wanted to see the fireflies flying, the branches swaying and the deer walking. So, when it came time to animate that section, I felt like a kid in a candy store, looking at all the possibilities for what could begin to move and I could make come alive!
4. Are there any other children’s books you dream about animating? Yes, there are so many great books out there, that would be amazing if they were brought to life and could move! Jessica Hishe, an amazing lettering artist and illustrator has two children's books that came out in 2019 and 2020, called Tomorrow I'll Be Brave and Tomorrow I'll Be Kind. Again, like in Cool For You, the characters and animals have so much energy and movement to them in the drawings. Also, the letters in the text itself are so stunning, it would be so interesting to see them move.
5. What was it like to take on an endeavor like this during a pandemic? It was actually what helped me get through the pandemic. While I feel very blessed and grateful that I still had the comforts of a home, and enough food to feed my family, it was devastating. Suddenly I had no work. My freelance business "flat-lined". I was afraid I would never work again. My kids' schools were closed and I thought I would be taking care of my kids forever, wearing so many hats as mother, teacher, tutor, nanny, lunchlady, camp counselor and cruise director trying to keep my children entertained all day, everyday! When I discovered this book and realized I could take on this personal passionate project, it was my savior during very uncertain times. I would look after my children (ages 2, 5 and 8 at the start of the pandemic), during the day so my husband could work. At 6pm, he would take over and I could put in 4-5 hours of work on making this film. I was so excited to jump on my computer and begin to bring this book to life.