Paw’s Journey Home is a frame-by-frame animation that tells the story of the emotional journey of a dog as he navigates the transition from a pet shelter to a new life. Through the dog’s perspective, viewers witness the mixture of anxiety, anticipation and resilience in the face of an unknown future.
This narrative aims to evoke empathy and shed light on the emotional complexities experienced by animals, inviting audiences to appreciate the power of compassion and the transformative impact of a loving home.
Paws Animal Welfare Society is a nonprofit pet shelter dedicated to rescuing and caring for unwanted pets and stray animals. They provide essential services such as vaccinations, deworming, and spaying/neutering before putting animals up for adoption. Adoption fees include vaccinations, microchipping, and starter kits. Their Sponsor-a-Pet-Programme funds food, medication, and neutering.
PAWS is actively fundraising to construct a multi-storey eco-friendly animal shelter. Their commitment to animal welfare and responsible pet ownership makes a positive impact on countless lives. Supporting PAWS through donations or volunteering helps them continue their vital mission of providing loving homes and care for pets in need.
In April 2023, I visited PAWS and was struck by the varying experiences of the dogs there—some languishing for years, while others found homes quickly. The shelter’s deplorable condition, overwhelming stench, and sweltering atmosphere were distressing.
As I walked through, I noticed the sad and lifeless expressions on most dogs’ faces, contrasting with the few eager greeters. Thankfully, the receptionist I spoke with was kind and informative, sharing details about their programs. The visit left a profound impact on me, and I empathized with these animals living in such conditions.
I admired the dedicated staff for their tireless work. Leaving PAWS, I was filled with a strong desire to contribute, using my skills to bring a positive change to their lives.
Following a discussion with the marketing manager of PAWS, a decision was made to develop an animation targeted at primary school children. The purpose of this animation is to promote animal adoption and foster empathy towards shelter animals. It will serve as a complement to the existing talks held at primary schools.
Before starting any project, the first and foremost thing for me to do is to sketch. This allows my mind to roam freely, enabling me to grasp the subject’s form and gradually discover the artistic style that resonates with my vision.
Rather than emphasizing educational content about shelters, I believe that capturing the emotional essence of the story will have a stronger impact. After multiple rounds of brainstorming, I have chosen to centre the narrative around the heartwarming journey of a newly adopted dog on its way home. To truly connect with the audience, I have endeavoured to see the world through the eyes of a shelter dog, brimming with uncertainty, yet filled with hope for its newfound future and the possibility of finding a forever home.
This animation’s primary audience is young children in primary school. The main focus is to evoke empathy and compassion for shelter animals, prioritizing emotions over educational information. By appealing to their emotions, the animation aims to leave a lasting impact, as feelings are what resonate with us the most.
By connecting with the characters’ emotions, kids can learn valuable lessons about kindness, responsibility, and the importance of providing love and support to animals in need.
Influenced by illustrators like Oyowwo and Haolun Liu, I aimed to develop a style that exudes warmth and depth. Employing textured brushes, I achieved a hand-drawn appearance, adding character to my animations by embracing imperfections. I believe that perfection is not always necessary in art. There are no strict rules; it’s the emotions conveyed that truly matter.
Character and props design
I chose the dog as the main character because my research indicated that children generally prefer dogs over cats due to their harmless nature. During the early developmental stage, I discussed with Mr. Martin, one of my mentors various aspects of the dog such as how it walks, and what kind of dog I would be if I were one.
These questions helped me to formulate the dog’s personality in my mind. I envisioned the dog as timid, seeking refuge under a table whenever s/he senses danger, which resonates with my own tendency to hide when stressed.
When it came to designing the character, I aimed for simplicity to maintain consistency throughout the project. While I considered adding some stylized elements, I ultimately went for a more realistic and down-to-earth approach the main goal was to make the character cute and relatable to children, evoking empathy and eliciting an “aww” reaction.
Drawing from my previous experience in stop-motion animation “Adopt Don’t Shop – YouTube”, I realized the significance of eyes in conveying emotions. Consequently, I placed a strong emphasis on the eyes, recognising their ability to communicate emotions effectively.
When a dog feels scared, it may perceive itself as small in comparison to its surroundings, while an anxious dog may feel trapped in a confined space as if the walls are closing in.
These examples illustrate how emotions and psychological factors can alter our subjective experience of space. Similarly, humans also experience perceptual distortions influenced by fear, anxiety, or discomfort. Overall, our mental and emotional state plays a crucial role in shaping how we perceive and interact with the spatial environment around us.
The animation process looks like this: rough outline, clean outline, then colour and finally detail. Using the frame-by-frame technique, I animate on fours (6 fps). The software used was Clip Studio Paint for rough and clean-up animation, Photoshop for colouring and details, and After Effects for compositing and lastly Audition and Premiere Pro for final sound design and editing.
Textures were added using a combination of looping brush textures and painstaking frame-by-frame techniques. To ensure precision, every scene was deconstructed into components, allowing me to animate elements such as body parts, backgrounds, and props on separate layers. This method provided control during the subsequent stages, enabling the application of overlay effects to each layer with a nuanced touch.
The story takes place on a rainy day, where the gentle pitter-patter of raindrops creates a soothing yet somewhat wistful ambience. This rainy setting mirrors the way people often feel a bit melancholic during rainy days, and it tenderly captures the vulnerability of stray animals, adding a touch of empathy to the scene.
In this scene, a dog gazes out from within the confines of a pet carrier, its presence seemingly captured by the enclosure, with only its eyes peering through. This depiction draws inspiration from a moment during my internship wherein I encountered stray kittens displaying vigilance towards humans. This experience resonated deeply, motivating me to portray the emotional depth through the dog’s eyes, encapsulating the sense of alertness and sadness.
In this particular scene, I delved into a heightened dramatic perspective, aiming to infuse the visuals with captivating intrigue. As the dog’s attention becomes fixated on the food, its gaze becomes focused, drawing viewers into its world. Notably, the food itself takes centre stage, dominating half of the screen and effectively amplifying the visual impact. This approach lends an engaging and dynamic quality to the moment, accentuating the intensity of the dog’s attraction to the food.
Startled by the rumble of thunder, the dog quickly retreated to find comfort in the corner of its enclosure. Two gentle hands emerged, carefully draping a blanket over him. Though initially apprehensive, he gradually realized that this touch was tender and harmless, offering not only comfort but also a reassuring warmth. Gradually, a sense of relaxation enveloped him.
Engaging in this project proved to be a bittersweet journey. I derived immense pleasure from bringing Pooti, my central character, to life through animation. Given an extended timeframe, my focus would have been on refining the sound design, enhancing the impact of compositing effects, and enriching the cast with additional characters.
Nevertheless, I view this effort as a promising stepping stone toward even greater accomplishments. My aspiration is to contribute to a brighter future, one where a shift towards adoption, as opposed to purchasing from breeders, becomes more commonplace. I am enthusiastic about extending the reach of my animation work to benefit nonprofit animal shelters, and I wish to create more animations that give voice to the otherwise voiceless.
Watch the animation here:
Visit PAWS Malaysia – Paws Animal Welfare Society to adopt a pet now!