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Spellbound Description

Spellbound was created by Ying Wu and Lizzia Xu as their thesis project at Ringling College of Art and Design. In this animated short film, little sister Rene, who is jealous of her seemingly perfect sibling, must grapple with the monsters that are unleashed after her jealousy literally comes to life before her eyes.

This short video tells a story between two sisters. The top-performing elder sister has obtained kinds of honor and praise, while the younger sister’s performance is run-of-the-mill. She is jealous of her elder sister’s excellence and has hatred of her. The hatred has turned into small demons and they tip elder sister’s prize cups. Even all the small demons assemble and turn into a big demon. What’s worse, it is going to hurt elder sister. No matter how the younger sister try to prevent it, but to no avail. When the chips are down, younger sister changes the hatred in her mind into love. In the end, it’s love that makes the demon disappear.

“Be careful what you wish for.”

On seeing that they embrace at the end of the film, I can’t help but be overcome with emotion. Many times, we’re very competitive like the younger sister. Looking at our friends who are better than us, we more or less feel jealous. Everyday jealousies add up, and then turn into hatred. We hate the excellent friends. Because of their existence, we have no chance to distinguish ourselves, no chance to make others think highly of us and earn their praise.

Sometimes, we want to keep them at arm’s length; sometimes, we judge them behind their back; sometimes, we have rows or fights with them. Even we hate them to the extent that we want to hurt them. Just like the younger sister in the short film “Spellbound”, the small demons in her mind, hatred and jealousy, will have dire consequences.

Spellbound Credits: 

  • A Film by Ying Wu and Lizzia Xu
  • Music by Garrett Crosby
  • Sound Design by Glenn Goa
  • Faculty Advisor: Heather Thomson
  • Pre-Production Instructor: Jeremy Cantor
  • Visual Development Advisor: Jon DiVenti

Simple and Elegant Personification (via Character Animation)

There’s a lot to love about Spellbound, particularly when it comes to character animation. Little Rene is adorable with her big glasses, blue barrette and scrunched-up face. Perfect sister Sunny is, well, perfect; she looks kind and contagiously optimistic (though, seeing her through Rene’s eyes, we can understand why that might be annoying!). So the two leads of this animated short are wonderful and yet what impressed me even more were the creatures of Hate. These guys…

That said, I do believe that the little personifications of Hate that Wu and Xu have created are notable for much more than that comparison. If for no other reason than the fact that if these characters didn’t work than the entire animated film would pretty much fall flat.

The importance of these Hate critters goes beyond just how much time they spend on screen (a lot). But it touches on the essence of what this film “Spellbound” is about: the very real, fragile and complicated emotions of jealousy. And if the characters Wu and Xu created had felt silly, lazy or off-base, then it would be very hard to buy into the emotional through-line of this film. Which is why the balance they struck between fun and serious (and between real and cartoonish) is particularly impressive.

Also quite impressive is how they were able to evolve this character throughout the course of the animated short. A feat that, once again, is not only visually enticing, but imperative for the trajectory of the narrative. To embrace Rene’s change and our human ability to tame jealousy, we have to see that evolution unfold in a way that makes us believe.

Spellbound Music And Sound Design

Other than a few Hate-muttered words, the entire audio weight of this animated short falls onto the shoulders of the music and sound design. As such, it must be noted that Garrett Crosby and Glenn Goa did an incredible job. Not only in helping to add a consistent and vivacious sensibility, but also in how—despite carrying so much weight—the audio never elbows aside the narrative for its own sake.

Spellbound Narrative Resolution

Given the strength of this short’s primary characters (Rene and Sunny) and its thematic underpinnings (the jealousy-inspired Hate critters), it would have likely been possible for this animated short to hit the same beats without including Rene’s diary. Meaning that instead of seeing Rene write out her sisterly frustrations, Wu and Xu could have just shown a little monster emerge out of Rene’s frustration. But instead of taking that approach, the filmmakers decided to introduce a physical artifact to deliver the scene.

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Spellbound Image

About Spellbound

Genre Animation, Short, Fantasy
Directed By Ying Wu, Lizzia Xu
Written by Ying Wu, Lizzia Xu
Produced by Ying Wu, Lizzia Xu
Music Garrett Crosby
Release Date Aug 5, 2016
Runtime 3:05
Country USA
Language None
Aspect Ratio 16:9
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