Commissioned by WeTransfer, this visually-impressive animated short from the Animade studio team presents a relatable tale of love, instinct and obsession. Following a father as he tirelessly strives to do what he believes is right, Tend sucks you in with its vivid style and carefully-considered universe, but its narrative has a real emotive edge that will resonate particularly hard with parents.
Written and directed by Animade’s Tom Judd (Co-Founder & Creative Director) and Ed Barrett (Creative Director), the story was inspired by the duo’s own experiences as fathers of young children and it’s pretty clear what they wanted the message of the piece to be here.
As a father of two young children myself, I’ve quickly realised one of the biggest challenges in this monumental change to your life is trying to find balance. Balance between family and everything else that needs your attention. And like the heavily-bearded Dad in this tale, I’ve often lost sight of what’s most important.
Often as a parent you can all too quickly become tied-up in making sure your provide for you children, you become in danger of robbing them of one of the basic needs – your attention. Tend portrays this parental provision in the shape of the fire, which provides the family with light, protection and warmth.
“It went through various iterations, from a very tech-like, amorphous object to a modernised version of fire – a ‘fire 2.0’”, Judd explains in conversation with Short of the Week. “We knew that people wouldn’t already feel connected with this, so we’d have to spend half the film describing what it was. So then we thought, what if that object was an actual fire? Everybody already knows what it does, and is familiar with the idea that it provides so much. At that point we realised that would be enough to build the story on”.
However keeping the fire burning is just the end goal here, it’s the Dad’s obsession with his “work” that’s really the focus. At the end of the story (SPOILER ALERT!) he needs a sobering reminder that his job isn’t really as important as his blinkered perspective let him believe and I’m sure this is the message Tom and Ed really wanted their audience to walk away with.
“I like the idea that it will conjure up many thoughts and attach itself to different meanings”, says Judd on what he hopes an audience takes away from Tend. “I guess it’ll always be along that concept of overlooking what’s important, of losing sight of that because of something else that’s a bit more alluring and dazzling. But actually, because of the way we poised it, the fire is a positive thing for their relationship. We’re not saying that mobile technology or whatever else you associate with the fire is a bad thing. It’s realising what it’s allowing you to do but not getting too consumed by that.
“I hope people can take anything from it”, Barrett adds. “Through talking to WeTransfer and among ourselves, we made that decision to make it much more open to interpretation than it would have been. We didn’t want to go too far down the parental route because not everyone’s been a parent – in fact when we spoke to people in Barcelona at OFFF (where the film premiered), some people came at it from the angle of being the child, while others saw it from more of an environmental angle, or mental health and addiction, as well as the very simple idea of distraction”.
Dialogue-free, Tend relies heavily on its visuals to tell its story, and as you’d expect from an Animade production the design here is stellar. The character design and colour palette are particular highlights, but visually Tend is a short where all the elements feel like they’re working in perfect harmony. So even if the narrative doesn’t resonate (but it really should), at least you’ve got some gorgeous eye-candy to enjoy!