Exclusive: Director Michael Cawood talks to AnimationXpress on how, ‘The Wrong Rock’ was rightly created

“Before we can save the world, we must put aside our differences. We’re all on the same rock.” – Michael Cawood Yes indeed! In this world full of comparisons and differences, it is important to stay on the same surface with others. HEROmation’s award-winning short, animated film, The Wrong Rock, which released recently on YouTube is an outcome of pure dedication and hardwork. The Wrong Rock is a tale of equality told through the adventure of a mushroom. Artists from all over the world volunteered to spread the message that despite our differences, we’re all living on the same rock.  Utilising the Artella virtual studio platform, HEROmation creative director and short director Michael Cawood worked with global teammates from countries including Australia, Austria, Canada, Iran, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The film was rendered entirely with consumer graphics cards through Redshift. While talking to AnimationXpress, Cawood said, “I was soul searching, looking for a subject matter that could sustain me through the production of an animated short film while also making a meaningful statement.” Despite racism, sexism, and every other form of bigotry, we are all on this rock together. “The current political and social climate makes this the perfect time for this story to strike a chord with viewers, push them to take stock of their worldview, and take positive action,”Cawood feels. Cawood was most triggered by equality and he decided to make something simple and universal film around the theme. Cawood was coming off a stint of work at DreamWorks when he started working on The Wrong Rock. He started full time, then went part time (supervising the rest of the team) as he took on other work, and after a stretch of supervising on Bumblebee he decided the team had built up enough momentum that he wanted to go back to full time again to see the film through to completion. The film synopsis goes like this: Martin the Mushroom was born on the wrong rock. The mushrooms on his rock look like him, but they don’t share the same enthusiasm. When he notices another rock across the sea, he realizes those mushrooms look different, but share his passion for life. So Martin tries to get to the other rock, which is no easy task for a mushroom. The first time he makes the difficult journey, a native mushroom rejects him and he must return home. He’s down, but not defeated. Instead of giving up hope, he inspires some of his mushroom friends to join his quest. Together they make the dangerous journey across the sea, but the jump onto the rock is too much to bear. Martin helps his followers get on the rock by hoisting them up. As he makes his final leap to his coveted destination, Martin falls and is lost to the sea. The next morning, the sun shines brightly and the sea recedes. We pull back to reveal that the two rocks are really just two peaks of the same rock. Despite their differences, they were all on the same rock all along. This universal tale symbolizes the true unity of the human race. Despite racism, sexism, and every other form of bigotry, we are all on this rock together. The last film created by Cawood, titled Devils Angels & Dating turned out to be a very good test run for working remotely through a crudely hobbled together virtual studio. “It was a no-brainer to try something similar considering the success of Devils Angels & Dating,” added he. The team got fortunate with the new platform, Artella! It provided a more developed version of virtual studio. Though in Beta version, the platform helped the team save a great deal of time in terms of recruiting, storage, platform training, sharing work in progress and giving feedback. The team added other simpler tools like Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive, Mega, Zoom, and Skype to speed up communication and expand storage needs at different stages of production. Talking about the benefits of using animation as a medium, Cawood said, “I think we have found some interesting new ground here though with the ability to change the speed of time to help sell the idea of living toadstools and give an interesting visual transition. We’ve also had a tremendous amount of control over the animation of the sky colors which has really helped with creating a variety of moods, again shifting quickly when needed. These are all things you just can’t do easily in any other medium. It wasn’t easy here, but we could take the time to master it in CG Animation.” When asked about the financial challenges, Cawood mentioned, “95 per cent of the “Budget” is in the time the team volunteered, and their time away from paid work. As a director, my contribution is close to half of the total hours put in, spread out over two years (half part time, half full time). We did pay out of pocket for a few things, about 5 per cent of the total budget, but that’s nothing in comparison to lost earnings and time.” When you need to get a job done which you are passionate about, you work on everything. “I rolled up my sleeves and got my hands very dirty… to make sure we got it done. It was really fun waking up each day to see what had been done, ” Cawood expressed. Produced by Julie Pipher and composed by Grant Kirkhope, The Wrong Rock have Max Pickl as CG supervisor with Ryan Saper serving as character modeler, Marcus NG as modeller and texture artist, Greg Bekken as animator, Matt Berenty as CG consultant and Hans Castro as generalist. The Mrs (music band) wrote and performed an original  and beautiful song for the film.