Odd Dog

Interview: Director Keika Lee Talks Animated Short ‘Odd Dog’

Odd Dog is about a young boy pleads with his mother to get him a dog but his mother prefers a cat. Years later, the boy runs into what looks like a cat on the street. Can the cat win the boy over with his crazy dog-like antics and become the boy’s “odd dog”?

We were fortunate to have interviewed Odd Dog director/writer/producer Keika Lee!

Odd Dog animated short film

About Odd Dog

This quirky animation has already won three awards including the 2020 Children’s Choice For Shorts All Ages Award at Bay Area International Children’s Film Festival and it received an honorable mention for Best Animated Short at the 2020 Queen Palm International Film Festival.

Odd Dog has already screened at seven film festivals, including Bay Area International Children’s Film Festival, Children’s Film Festival Seattle and Julien Dubuque International Online Film Festival. The film will screen at Giffoni Film Festival in July 2020.

View the official trailer

About Keika Lee

Growing up, Keika Lee dreamed of being an animator. Creating stories and characters to share with children who also dream of being filmmakers. Lee believes and hopes that Odd Dog, which is a delightful 5-minute short about her son and their cat, will charm fans all over the world. Keika has always had a special place in her heart for animation.

Read our interview

How did you come up with the idea for this animation?

Odd Dog by greyscale animation
Graphic credit: greyscale animation

The story was based on my son and our cat and their unique relationship. After my son was born, he and our cat became great friends and have been inseparable since! And after I left my last job a few years ago, I started drawing cartoons of my son and our cat and thought it would be fun to make an animation about them to share with people. So I started to write a short story about them and then contacted old colleagues and friends and it just went from there.

Did you expect Odd Dog to become so successful and win as many awards as it did?

I knew Odd Dog was special. But I didn’t know it was going to become this popular. I just wanted people to see it and enjoy it… to make people smile and laugh. I am grateful for the attention and awards. But I am even more grateful for the audience reactions I hear when I attend a screening.

What challenges did you face while creating Odd Dog

There were many challenges, one being funding. Filmmaking is an expensive medium especially if you want to make something high quality and if you are working with a team. I had to make a lot of sacrifices like cutting the scope of the film and cutting a couple of characters that were originally going to be part of the story. Though that was a heartbreaking decision, it was necessary. And in the end, made it possible for the film to be completed.

I loved the choice of going from black and white to color once the cat was accepted. Could you explain your thought process when coming up with this?

Odd Dog animated short film
Credit: greyscale animation

Sure! Growing up I fell in love with the silent film era and loved Charlie Chaplin films which was why I chose to make the film without dialogue and black and white in the first place. In the middle of production I felt the impact of the acceptance of Cat into the Boy’s life needed to be stronger, more than just the dog collar being red. How could I emphasize this visually without having them speak? So I came up with the idea that the color from the dog collar radiates color to the rest of their world. This reveals acceptance and friendship in a more powerful way than speech.

How did filmmaking and animation become so special to you and why?

My parents and I immigrated to the United States from South Korea when I was very young. And it was a tough time for us. My only escape from reality was animation, specifically Disney cartoons. My first animated film I ever watched was Cinderella and it captivated me. I watched it over and over until I broke the VHS tape! I knew then I wanted to be an animator and create worlds for other children to escape to and find happiness. Little did I know I wanted to be more of a Walt Disney and put together a team of artists to help me create the worlds for the audience to enjoy!

Why do you have such a strong passion towards reaching out to children in your work?

Odd Dog animated short film
Credit: greyscale animation

Children have no boundaries. When you were a child you dared to dream, didn’t you? At least that was me and I am still that way. I make films for those who dare to dream and keep dreaming. Those who set a goal that others think are impossible and just go and do them. I created this film specifically for my son not only because it is based on him but because I wanted to show him what it looked like for his mother to be working on something she was passionate about. I want him to grow up and do the same. 

Are there any common themes/messages you try to communicate through your work?

Happiness doesn’t come from things and other people, it comes from within yourself and appreciation. Odd Dog is about acceptance and friendship and how important those feelings and relationships are for everyone. 

What are some animated films that inspired you when you were young?

Disney’s animated Cinderella was the first animated film I ever saw which inspired me to want to be an animator. Disney’s animated Aladdin was another film that I watched over and over so I could watch it frame by frame just to see how some parts were animated. (Glen Keane rocks!) I was also heavily inspired by Japanese animation with such titles as Inu Yasha and Rurouni Kenshin. Super fun to watch and great reference for facial expressions!

Do you have any advice to young aspiring animators or filmmakers out there?

Odd Dog animated short film
Credit: greyscale animation

Keep moving on! No one can stop you. I had an idea and I just kept moving on it. I had a lot of people encouraging me and I had some who were not so encouraging but that didn’t stop me. In the end I created something I love and now others are enjoying it too! Share your story and someday someone will be inspired by you.

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Featured image credit: greyscale animation

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