From Toy Story to Finding Nemo and Up, some of the most moving and impactful films of the last few decades have been animations. Time and time again, we’ve seen animated stories that are funny, profound, beautiful and heartbreaking, often in ways that live-action equivalents would struggle to achieve.
But the latest animated film to grab us by the heartstrings isn’t a creation of Pixar, DreamWorks or Disney. Rather, it’s the work of two US university students – and it’s one of the most touching things we’ve seen all year.
In a Heartbeat is a short film by Beth David and Esteban Bravo, animation students at Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida. It tells the story of Sherwin, a teenage boy with a crush on Jonathan, the most popular boy in school.
Sherwin wants to keep his love for Jonathan hidden away, but his very cute heart has other ideas. It leaps right out of his chest and makes a beeline for the object of its affections – and what happens next may well bring a tear to your eye. (More than one Stylist staffer was sniffling after watching the four-minute short.)
If this all sounds suspiciously like In a Heartbeat might be heading for a clichéd tragic gay conclusion, never fear: the film’s ending is as warm, twinkly and emotionally satisfying as those of our favourite animated movies.
A trailer for In a Heartbeat went viral earlier this year, and a Kickstarter campaign launched to fund the film’s soundtrack raised over £10,000 ($14,191). Spanish composer Arturo Cardelús eventually came on board to write a beautiful score for the short, and the Kickstarter money meant that David and Bravo have been able to represent their film at festivals.
Speaking to Teen Vogue about In a Heartbeat, David and Bravo explain that they wanted to address a subject that has so far gone unexplored in mainstream animation.
“There hasn't been like a movie, or at least like a big animated film in which the main character is gay and the subject of being gay is addressed,” says Bravo.
“We really wanted to bring light to a subject that is rarely explored in computer animation and we want people to be a little bit more understanding and aware of what the experience of being gay is like through an animated short that is sweet and light-hearted,” he continues.
David agrees. “I think that young people and innovative new filmmakers and artists, they’re the future of the industry,” she says. “They're the ones that are going to be telling these kinds of stories and I'm glad that we get to be part of that new movement.”
You can watch In a Heartbeat below: