Who says nothing good can come from living it up at summer festivals? Animator Tom Bunker and illustrator Pete Sharp met at Lovebox 2015, and while they’d known of each other’s work previously, this chance encounter in a boozy field sparked a chain of events that eventually led to a glorious piece of animation.
The work in question, Bonzai’s I Did, saw them buddy up on direction and art direction duties, with Sharp illustrating characters and backgrounds, while Bunker managed the storyboarding, concept, and a team of dedicated animators. The result of this first-time collaboration is a technicolor romp through the tropics of some hallucinatory landscape in which a cheeky worm commands a sinister team of slimy assassins. Or at least that was my interpretation of events. Was it part of the brief?
“The original brief was just Bonzai saying she wanted to be climbing a tree and flying in space. That was pretty much it,” says Sharp. “She wanted to be growing on a big tree, away from the people in her past who were holding her back. Something like that,” says Bunker. “We basically couldn’t think of a way of literally translating what she’d said, so we thought we’d just change it to what we wanted.”
From concept to delivery, I Did was produced in only seven weeks, with Sharp and Bunker working round the clock to deliver the finished product on time. While that may have screwed up their sleep cycles, there were positive aspects to working with tight restrictions.
“The turnaround for the project was absolutely mental,” says Bunker. “So we had to sell an idea pretty solidly in the actual treatment because they had to get a sign-off in two weeks. Then five weeks later it was finished. That was the one good thing about the turnaround being insanely quick—if they dragged their feet at all we got to veto anything they said, which meant that we came out with a product that was a lot truer to what we wanted it to be.”
That said, it wasn’t without its share of turmoil. “We’d call each other up in the morning and talk about our stress dreams. It was an insane amount of work.”
“I was doing some 12-hour days,” says Sharp, “then I’d go home and I’d still be getting emails from Tom a good four or five hours later. I’d think ‘What the fuck are you doing, man? I spoke to you at 8 a.m. this morning. You’re still in there doing it?’”
But this level of commitment is pretty standard when it comes to animation, says Sharp.“They’re like, ‘Here’s your money, we need it by this day, so do it.’”
So they did.