Creating a New World: Meet Gabriel Smetzer
What was your favorite childhood story? Why did you love it? If you have children, what’s theirs? Story-telling is a primordial part of being human. Whether in a book, movie, TV show, or game, stories change our world and the best ones inspire and empower us to transcend our personal boundaries and become more. Gabriel Smetzer’s, Flewn, is one of those stories.
Gabriel’s interactive story about a whale on stilts in search of a new ocean has all the makings of a wonderful story–colorful and compelling characters, beautiful graphics, and a sense of adventure, but that’s not why I know Flewn will move the hearts of millions. I know Flewn will touch people’s lives because I know Gabriel.
As he mentions in his Kickstarter video for Flewn, Gabriel came from humble beginnings. He grew up in a log cabin in Fairbanks, Alaska and began traveling the world at a young age by working from farm to farm: “The story of Flewn represents that spirit of adventure–following your dreams through courage and creativity and taking the leap into an unknown world.”
Now, more than ever, our world needs visionaries. It needs people who are adventurous, creative, and real. If our world is to evolve, we need people who can imagine a new way. We need people who inspire us to be our best, who remind us to have strength in the face of the unknown, and who nurture our children’s and our inner child’s sense of insatiable curiosity and wonder at the world and all its possibilities.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” –John Quincy Adams
Gabriel Smetzer is an artist, visionary, and leader. I am proud to know Gabriel and am honored to call him a friend. His Kickstarter Project’s funding ends June 21, 2012 at 7pm EST, so please join over 1,000 other backers and be part of something extraordinary!
Gabriel in his own words:
Tell us about Flewn in your own words.
Flewn is an interactive story about a whale whose ocean has been drained. He dons driftwood stilts and crosses a continent in search of a new ocean. He carries on his back all the sea creatures he can. As he grows a beard and a weary heart, he meets new characters like a frog flying a unicycopter and a rabbit with wings that help him on his journey.
Why are you passionate about Flewn?
I have always wanted to create a great story about adventure with wild characters. It took me many years of practice to develop the skill in order to create a story I would be happy with. Once I felt confident in my skills, it began to be really fun to create all these unique images. I felt as though I could create anything, so it was always a challenge to make things that make sense while pushing the boundaries of weirdness and surrealism.
Where did you get the idea for Flewn?
I set out to write the story with the way I knew how. That is by making characters and THEN writing the story. Each character I would create I would ask, “How can I make this more weird? What does the character do and why? How does this character fit into the larger story?” The characters began to evolve out of these questions and soon a world evolved that was based on certain physics and qualities.
Who’s your favorite character from Flewn and why?
That’s a tough one. I’m creating both young cute characters with big eyes and old bearded characters carrying heavy burdens. The short answer is the Whale. He has so much depth, and you could tell a hundred stories about him.
What do you hope people will gain from interacting with Flewn‘s story?
I hope people will enjoy it with their friends and family. I hope that it take them out of their own world for a bit and that it leaves their heart warm and their mind wandering.
What makes Flewn unique?
The most unique component of this story is its interactivity. Most interactive stories present a scene that the user then blindly presses hoping to get a reaction. In my story the environment constantly changes. You must keep your character flying through the illustrated environments so your automatically aware of your character’s needs and ambitions, while keeping the story alive and moving forward. As the story unravels, new characters are presented to help you or slow you down. This all happens to a cinematic style movie score.
What advice would you give animators just starting out?
Your most important tool is your body. Take care of it or you won’t last long. Make sure to get your exercise and you’ll be able to focus better and longer.
What do you love about animating?
The ability to create another world.
If you had to sum up your life philosophy in 20 words or less, what would it be?
Experience as many things as you can.
What is one thing you would love to accomplish in your life?
To create a great piece of animation that is cherished and loved by someone for many years.
What would you do if you had 6 months to live?
I would wake up in a treehouse in the mountains and depending on the weather I would zipline, ski or paraglide into a library with a futon floor and lots of pillows. One of those ladders you find in libraries would take me up to an observatory with more pillows. A spiral staircase would take me down into a studio where I would work with several talented artists until we got agitated and went outside to play some soccer on the beach or have a dip in the ocean. After the 6 months, I would sell the ridiculous thing and donate the money to wildlife conservation.
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