When recent Ringling School of Art and Design graduates Esteban Bravo and Beth David published their animated short In a Heartbeaton YouTube two weeks ago, the four-minute film garnered over 12 million views in less than 72 hours (That’s less than three days!)
In a Heartbeat follows the story of schoolboy Sherwin, who secretly pines over his classmate, Jonathan. (The two characters are not named in the film itself, which is entirely silent aside from the emotional score composed by Arturo Cardelús.) One day, as Sherwin is watching his crush outside their school, his heart – an adorable, big-eyed character in and of itself – literally bursts out of his chest, and he has to stop it before his hidden feelings are revealed.
Bravo and David started the film as a their senior thesis at Ringling in January 2016. That fall, when they were midway through production, they launched a Kickstarter project with the goal of raising enough money to hire a professional composer and sound designer to provide the audio for their story. Their $3,000 goal was more than quadrupled by the over $14,000 the campaign actually brought in. Arturo Cardelús was brought on as the composer and Nick Ainsworth as sound designer, and the rest is history.
In a Heartbeat fills a void in LGBTQ representation, something that while increasing in live-action productions, is still all but absent in animation and in children’s programming. Bravo and David’s original concept featured a boy and a girl character, but the two filmmakers became more invested in the project when they decided to pursue a same-sex couple instead. As Bravo told The Guardian: “…when it’s put in the context of LGBT characters, there were so many more layers to explore, and we could infuse the story with our own backgrounds.”
Bravo acknowledged that big-name studios tend to stay away from LGBTQ representation since it’s still not universally accepted, but he also noted that “it’s really important for them to represent these people because not showing LGBT characters leads to a lot of internalized confusion as kids grow up.” By working in the short film format on their own terms, Bravo and David were able to tell a story arguably more representative than any animated production to date.
A less than 30-second teaser for In a Heartbeat was published roughly two months ago, and although it did start attracting considerable attention, Bravo and David had no idea their first film would go viral in less than three days.
David told the The Guardian, “I do think this kind of entertainment is wanted on a pretty broad scale,” and that she and Bravo hope their film is a small step on the path to LGBT inclusion from studios.
As of the writing of this article, In a Heartbeat has over 25 million views, with over a million likes, on YouTube. If you haven’t seen the film yet, check out the link below and make that viewer count one number higher, then tell us what you thought!
Amber is an imaginative storyteller and visual artist whose greatest ambition is to tell meaningful stories that resonate with people. Since she was young, Amber has enjoyed escaping to faraway worlds through animation, and has continued to follow animation into adulthood because of its limitless storytelling possibilities. Picking favorites is nearly impossible, but Amber would say her top animated films include The Little Mermaid, The Incredibles, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Frozen. She graduated with a B.A. in Interactive Media/Graphic Design and a minor in Journalism, and is currently working as an advertising designer. When she’s not at her day job, Amber can be found working on digital illustrations and photo edits, drafting a new fiction story, or crafting a new cosplay. Send her a tweet at @amber_ld.