August 18, 2021
To keep track of everything, Blue has a notebook where he catalogs his ideas for stories, no matter how vague or concrete they may be. Sometimes the entries will be as simple as “shadow puppets” or “mirrors.” Others are a little bit more realized like “nursery rhyme characters in an action movie.”
One idea he put on the page and eventually brought to life in an animated short was “characters that play chess but never meet.” He mixed that with themes from Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle,” a song that popped into his head one day while making pizzas at Little Caesar’s. The concept led to “The King and The Pawn,” which earned Blue a gold medal at the 2020 Lake Placid Film Festival.
“I want to tell real world stories that resonate with people, but show them in an exciting, new way that engages people of all ages,” Blue said. “Animation offers a lot of control.”
The film focuses on a father-son relationship. The son wants to have fun and spend time with his father, but the father is constantly working, hunched over at his computer and answering phone calls till all hours of the night. The only time they connect is when they play chess, but even that is a distant activity. The son moves his pieces during the day, and the father at night when work is over and the son has gone off to sleep.
Like many animated shorts, “The King and The Pawn” doesn’t feature any speaking parts. There are two reasons for that, Blue said.
“One is budgetary reasons,” he said. “Lip syncing is difficult to animate. Hiring voice actors and writing dialog is just extra to the process, especially with student films. Another thing about animation is that it’s hard to do. Limitation does breed creativity. Stories are sometimes even better when there’s no dialog, and you see it all in the character’s face or actions.”
Blue first pitched “The King and The Pawn” as his capstone project at the Savannah College of Art and Design. It took roughly a year to complete.
“I’m a student along with these people, so it was pretty nerve-wracking and a lot of learning when I was put in a leadership position,” he said. “Fortunately, I had a lot of help. I had my teacher and students who knew I was in a difficult position, so it was a great transition into what I hope to do in the future, which is direct more.”
Blue tries to never watch his projects by himself, otherwise he’ll start to pick everything apart.
“I edited the film together, so I looked at these scenes for hours, days at a time with all-nighters,” he said. “Once I watch the film again, I get the war flash backs of what went into it and the daggers-in-the-heart of things that may not have gone perfect. Still proud of it, though.”
Like most kids, Blue grew up loving cartoons. Movies like “The Prince of Egypt” and the Pixar films were huge jumping off points for him. He looked up to animators such as Monty Oum and Michael DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko, the co-creators of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
“Drawing was the only thing I could do at that age,” Blue said. “You can’t really film a movie at age eight. Drawing was how I wanted to tell stories, and it eventually evolved into animated film.”
The COVID-19 pandemic upended the soul and liveliness of a lot of film festivals. Blue would send his film out, maybe get screened and maybe receive an award. Beyond that, there wasn’t much interactivity.
“It’s kind of like shipping a kid off to college,” he said. “But with the Lake Placid Film Festival, they really involved me in the process. I did interviews. We did a live (digital) showing, and I got to physically see the responses and answer questions from the audience. It was amazing.”
Blue currently works as a story board artist with Late Night Cartoons, a company under ViacomCBS. You can also check out his work at calebblue.com