“The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them – words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out… You may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it.”
-Stephen King (The Body)
Everybody has a story to tell. It’s a given; you can’t move through life without having lived a tale or two. Some stories will be sad, some will be euphoric, some thrilling, and some touching. Anyway, each of these stories are worth listening to, because each is unique. Since each of us has our own distinct personality and point of view, each story we hear will be unlike any tale we might hear anywhere else. For that reason, it’s important to listen to each other’s stories; that’s what brings us closer together.
Alas, as Mr. King says, sometimes mere words aren’t the best way to tell these stories. What do we do then? Well, we could sing. We could paint a picture. Or, now, we could turn to animation! How might one do this, you ask? It’s simple: just call The Animation Hotline!
The Animation Hotline is the brainchild of Dustin Grella, the director of the award-winning 2009 short Prayers for Peace (It’s beautiful. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here). In 2011, two years after Prayers for Peace released, Grella decided to try something that had never been tried in animation before. Working off the idea that everyone has a story to tell, he set up a hotline number and called it The Animation Hotline. Earlier this year, Grella took the Hotline project to the Sundance Film Festival and, recently, he gave an interview on the project.
The Hotline works like this: Let’s say you have a story you want to share. What you would do is call the hotline number and record your story. Then, each day, Grella gets on his laptop and listens to the recordings that accumulated the day before. He selects one and, over the course of the day, he creates what he calls a ‘micro-animation,’ a very short animated film relating the story.
Grella takes care to release several Hotline shorts a month. This consistency of release is particularly important to him, as it helps maintain the ‘daily comic strip’ vibe he wants to evoke. As Grella states in an interview:
“On some level…when I first started I really thought of it almost like a comic strip. They’re not necessarily always funny. Sometimes they are humorous. But the comic strip was always my favorite part of the newspaper and I would go to that back page and always read ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’ always ‘Peanuts,’ always ‘Family Circus.’ I would read these comics and then close the paper. Sometimes I would cut one out and put it on my refrigerator. It didn’t change the world, but it was something I enjoyed experiencing while I was there.
On some level the Animation Hotline is like a modern day comic strip, where you go there and it might be funny and you show it to your friend, or it might reflect on something you’re working on and then you show it to your mom. They can be passed on as something greater, but at the same time they’re simple and innocent. They’re something that people can digest and then move about their day. It could be something they go back to, check it, and move on.”
The shorts that come out of The Animation Hotline are always really interesting. They utilize a minimalist, impressionistic style of animation that’s rarely seen. They make heavy use of art utensils that are rarely used in animation, such as paints, chalk, etc. It gives the series of shorts a very different, refreshing look.
The stories are the primary focus of each short, though. As Grella says in the interview, the main engine behind the project is that every person on Earth has a unique story to tell. For that reason, the voiceovers, the people telling the story, are the real focus of each film. The animation is cool to look at, sure, but the real reason to watch the films is to hear the funny and sad stories that every person in the world has at their disposal.
If you’re interested in watching The Animation Hotline shorts, you can do so here. If you’re interested in sharing a story yourself, then just call the number below!
What do you think of this project? Will you call The Animation Hotline?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes