“Telling stories is the best tool we have to help people connect with each other and realize that we are more similar than we are different. I hope my film helps people realize that their own stories are worth sharing and others that those stories are worth listening to.”
– Edwin Chang
Pixar’s SparkShorts is delivering animated content from voices never heard before. Edwin Chang’s “Wind” emerged as one of the most memorable. A heartbreaking story about a grandmother and her grandson foraging their bleak surroundings to build a rocket- with dreams of escape. This story is a moving metaphor for immigrant sacrifice and separation. In a country built on immigrant perseverance, it is shocking how rare a story like this is recognized.
Edwin has been working at Pixar for 15 years, “on a range of projects from Pixar rides at Disneyland to feature films like Up, Inside Out, and Coco.” His work has been, “primarily on the technical side, focusing on clothing and hair simulation.” SparksShorts presented the opportunity for Edwin to write and direct for the first time.
Edwin had been pitching, “short film ideas in various other forums, and the idea for what became “Wind” stuck in many people’s minds.” In his initial pitch, “the characters and their home were continuously falling down a never-ending hole. While the concept was compelling, it became confusing and raised questions distracting from the storyline so we chose to simplify it to their world being suspended by the winds around them.”
Edwin’s technical experience is showcased in “Wind”. From the wrinkles on the grandson’s shirt to the scratches on the wooden potato box, Edwin is a master of character detail. In the absence of dialogue, so much had to be expressed through the environment the two characters shared. The dark colors and strategic use of light effectively conveyed their desperate circumstances. The emotional toll of the immigrant experience is rarely spoken of within Asian families and the silence shared between the grandson and grandmother brought authenticity to these characters. An attestation to Edwin’s technical abilities, it is incredible how the emotions of the characters were communicated through their physical space and movement.
ADVICE FROM EDWIN- “learn as much about filmmaking and all the different roles it has, both visible and invisible, to better understand the work involved”
character design courtesy of Pixar
Edwin has received, “a multitude of kind and generous comments and tearful emojis”. The one reaction that particularly stood out to him was, “a comment left on a Youtube interview I did about the making of “Wind”. The viewer spoke of how in his youth his own grandmother had saved him from a “dark and confusing place.” He went on to say how while watching “Wind”, each detail spoke to him of the sacrifices his grandmother had made for him and the gift her life had been to him. He had lost her several years ago and wrote how Wind had helped him release that grief. It’s hard to read that without tearing up myself, and I’m really grateful that he shared his story.”
“Wind” is just a fraction of what Edwin’s animation experience and creative ideas can bring to audiences.“Wind” provides a glimpse of what is possible for Asian stories in animation. Edwin hopes to “continue making things and telling stories that help people see their lives and the world around them in a unique and meaningful light!”
The reception to Pixar’s SparkShorts emphasizes the importance of diverse content in animation. Asian representation in animation is crucial if there is to be meaningful change in the filmmaking industry. Stories about immigrant determination from an Asian perspective deserve recognition in live-action and animated content. The support of these artists is essential if audiences wish to see content that is engaging a meaningful in animation.
*All images in article courtesy of Pixar