Arielle Williams, Howard University News Service
As the entertainment industry calls for an increase of diverse and nuanced content, Terrance Daye, director of the upcoming queer black animation “Pritty not Pretty,” is trying to answer the call.
Based on the forthcoming novel by author and executive producer Keith F. Miller Jr., both Miller and Daye have created a kickstarter to fund the animated short. Their team is further comprised of additional producers such as Natalie Jasmine Harris and Jeremy Truong.
“Pritty Not Pretty” the animation tells the story of Jay, our protagonist, a dark skinned boy from the deep south who follows his older brother to the community pool on a hot summer day. He then meets another young, charismatic boy from the neighborhood who ends up taking him into the deep end of the pool.
“This to me is really a metaphor of the larger journey of coming to oneself,” said Daye. “This is a coming of age story about being given the space as a black boy to just be and not trying to be exceptional or anything other than yourself.”
Daye, who grew up in a Christian household, shared his struggles with coming to terms with his sexuality in relation to his family dynamic.
His upbringing then pushed him to become an advocate for those who couldn’t speak for themselves, a bulk of his work focused on reimagining the black male identity and destigmatizing mental health in communities of color.
“I wanted to create imagery that combated what i saw and had to deal with when growing up,” Daye said, “I had this frustration of not seeing the types of stories that I wanted to see so I realized that I had to be the one to make them.”
It took a year after Daye read Miller’s forthcoming novel that he approached him with the idea of making a short live action film after the novel’s namesake.
The live action film was in the midst of preparation for shooting when the Covid-19 struck a week before their filming date and the way of life we knew it was altered. The team decided it was best to pivot and try something that had not been done before.
“I’ve always loved animation and it was kind of a crazy buzz lightyear moment because covid had changed the dynamics of how we interacted with one another,” Daye said. “But coming up in Morehouse you learn to be resourceful and simply figure it out and that’s what I did.”
After making calls to friends and professionals in the animation industry for guidance, Daye made a plan and went forth with the idea of turning the once live action short film into an animated short.
With inspiration from the esteemed Studio Ghibli, the acclaimed Japanese studio ran by Hayao Miyazaki, films like “Howls Moving Castle” and “Castle in the Sky” gave inspiration for the whimsical and dreamlike style that was pioneered by the seasoned animation house.
“I’ve always said that I wanted Pritty to feel like a breath of fresh air because that’s what I felt when I watched Studio Ghibli films,” Daye said, “It just so happens that we don’t often get queer black animated shorts and I wanted to mirror the type of worlds that Hayao Miyazaki was able to bring to life but with black faces.
After the transition from live action to animation, the budget for the film ballooned from $30,000 to a whopping $1.6 million needed to actualize the film in animation. Daye discussed how financial burdens often deter smaller creators of color to get into animation because of the stifling costs and software needed.
“Unless you do it yourself and unless you’re your own illustrator or any other aspect of the creative process then it can cost tens and thousands of dollars a minute to get your ideas made.”
Even with the obstacles faced, Daye with a bright smile on his face was able to reference his resilience and his need to dream big while keeping the faith in trying times.
But even with his smile, his seriousness and dedication to storytelling came out of a greater need to advocate and protect young men who were not given the opportunities to see and experience the beauty that he sees in the world.
“There are too many stories that I see of young men taking their lives prematurely due to the weight of expectations and boxes placed on them as black boys,” he said. “I’ve always wanted my work to engage in conversation on a community wide level for black people around how we treat one another, how we raise our children and how we view queerness for the generations coming after us.”
He expressed his hopes for what the impact of one of the first black and queer animations will leave on the world and on the future of storytelling.
“For Pritty I wanted people to see how valid and beautiful our stories are without the need to feature trauma and death and pain, which are all real things,” Daye said. “However, it feels like it follows us everywhere even to the movies and I not only want to deviate from that I need to. Pritty to me encapsulates the saying, ‘when black boys play they heal’ and that is what I want to put out into the world.”
Although they did not reach their goal of $1.6 million, they ended their kickstarter with $114,442 in 31 days from 3,274 backers to make the film come to life.