When you ask a small child to make up a story on the spot, you're likely to get something wildly inventive and completely unpredictable in return. When animator Joseph Paone asked his niece, Jolene, to tell him a scary story, he couldn't have anticipated the harrowingly apocolyptic tale she would relate, something so disturbing that it almost seems like a perfect work of horror for our times. Here's the story Jolene told:
We had a chance to talk with Joseph about how he came up with the idea to record his niece, and what kinds of animation inspire his work. Click here to view "Scary Story" and nine other shorts that were finalists and semi-finalists in GoComics' Short Shorts Animation Contest.
GoComics: What inspired you to create this animated short? How did you come up with the idea?
I've always wanted to try something with found sound. I've seen other projects people have done, and the ones with found sound seem to have a fun, inviting quality. If I remember correctly, it was during a family gathering one summer, and I asked my dad if I could use his recording equipment to record my niece's voice. The whole thing was unscripted. I just put her in front of the mic a couple times and she started telling stories. How dark the story got was completely unexpected. Actually, if you listen close enough to the audio, you can hear me and my dad trying to keep our laughter in. It wasn't until a couple of months after where I had to create a final project for an animation class I was taking. I knew it was too much of a task to finish by myself within the time frame we had. That's when I asked my classmate, the extremely talented and awesome Midrell Fitzgerald, to help with the project. He's solely responsible for the whole visual style of the short. We had to work fast, but it was definitely one of the best experiences in filmmaking that I've had.
GoComics: Who are your biggest creative influences?
Personally, too many to count. If I had to pick one, though, it definitely would be Brad Bird. The unashamed amount of quality he puts into his films is amazing and something that is missing from almost ever animated film coming out today.
GoComics: What is your all-time favorite animated feature?
The Incredibles! Bet you could see that one coming, though.
GoComics: What is the most challenging part of the animation process for you?
I think story is the thing I struggle with the most. Not only figuring out what you want to say, but being able to plan it out visually so that your audience gets what you're trying to say.
GoComics: What do you envision yourself doing in five years?
I want to be making animated content that is going to last.
GoComics: How did you learn about the Short Shorts contest? Why did you decide to participate (besides the $25,000 grand prize)?
I think I ran across it on Instagram. I looked over the requirements and "Scary Story" was a total fit. It would have been crazy for us to not submit it. Also, the community around GoComics seems to have a unique quality, which is something that we want to be a part of.