Last week’s Oscars was one of the biggest weeks for Geefwee Boedoe, freelance artist and director of the animated short, “Let’s Pollute”. It was a day that his career path had been building to for a long time.
“I have been drawing since I was a kid, drawing and writing books,” Boedoe said. “I’ve always liked that combination.” His father owned a Super 8 camera with a single frame, which prompted him to start creating flipbooks and shoot them, allowing him to create his first animated movies.
This love of animation stayed with him; after graduating from Cal Arts in the late ’80s, he went to work for Disney, which was just finishing up on “Oliver and Company”. “That was a good place to get my chops in terms of animating,” he said, however, he admitted that during the time “Oliver and Company” was being made, “[a]nimation was dry. It was dead in 1988.” Of course, this the animation downward spiral “Oliver and Company” was treading was before the big Disney Renaissance that happened just a year later with “The Little Mermaid”.
Even though he worked at Disney, Boedoe was adamant about getting his own studio one day. “I wanted to move on…Eventually, I did that, but it took a lot of years…a lot of hard work, money.” After three years at Disney, he took a year off to create children’s books and oil paintings, and when those ventures didn’t prove lucrative enough, he went back to Disney for two more years. Even still, he wanted his own place. “My personality wasn’t the Disney thing,” he said.
After landing a job at Pixar in 1995, he transitioned from animating to visual development, finding more freedom creating sketches and ideas. “[Visual development] was the funnest part of the project,” he said, “You can push the boundaries more…[you] can help expand things.”
2002 is when he finally was able to let go of the corporate system and start on work as a freelancer for companies like Dreamworks, Industrial Light and Magic, and more. Two years later, his children’s book,”Arrowville” was published and in 2006, “Let’s Pollute” was created.
“I had been wanting to do a short animated film, and I wanted to do something that had more of a social consciousness,” he said. “I created a whole list of film ideas–one was ‘Let’s Pollute’…it was the most timely idea, so I went with that.”
The idea of presenting the subject matter in the form of a ’50s educational-type film was one way that Boedoe felt his message would get across to audiences. “I wanted it to be accessible, not heavy handed…I didn’t want to just tell people ‘Don’t pollute,’” he said. “I flipped the idea [of a '50s educational video] on its head…I wanted ["Let's Pollute"] to be concentrated, easily digested, not watered down, but with a clear and decisive message.”
The flipped, subversive quality of “Let’s Pollute”, as well as “Arrowville”, a morality tale about discrimination and differences disguised as a story about a family of targets getting caught in a town of arrows, is one way in how Boedoe attracts people to his work. “My work is one of contrast,” he said. “I like to have layers in things. I like to have work that’s not one note. “Let’s Pollute” has very dismal subject matter, so the point was to turn it around with a light sensibility. Society is still in that consumerism mode, pretending that [bad] stuff doesn’t exist. ‘Arrowville’ had a bit of social consciousness in it too, saying we need to look at other levels below the surface. I’m not trying to be dark just for the sake of being dark. There has to be a purpose.”
His layered outlook on life through animation is set to continue; he plans on making two more films in order to have a “Let’s Pollute” triad. “They will be similar in tone,” he said. “They’ll be called ‘Peace is for Sissies’ and ‘Try Ignorance.’” Along with those two films, more children’s books will be in the works.
As far as the Oscars go, it was, according to Boedoe, “a highlight for a non-studio, non-funded film. It helped with exposure because, unfortunately, not a lot of people see short films.” For a while, “Let’s Pollute” was only shown on French television; now everyone will get the chance to see “Let’s Pollute”on iTunes.
The way of the artist is a long, winding, and trying road, especially one who wants to freelance (the advice Boedoe gives on artists wanting to work that way is to develop contacts at major companies by working in-house at first). But, if you’re hard-working and talented, you just might end up at the Oscars, just like Boedoe.