Frank Abney is one of the brilliant minds behind Pixar hits like Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Coco, as well as Soul, which will premiere on Disney+ later this month. He also served as executive producer for Matthew A. Cherry's beloved, Academy Award-winning Hair Love short. Now, Frank is telling another story and making his directorial debut with an animated short on Netflix inspired by his own experiences and loved ones.
Canvas centres on a grandfather who suffers a heartbreaking loss and as a result lacks creative inspiration. He's brought back to the easel by a curious granddaughter who helps him heal. The emotional story becomes even more touching once you know Abney's inspiration behind it. On Dec. 11, a day after the video premiered, Frank shared his story on Netflix Twitter account Strong Black Lead.
SPECIAL GUEST THREAD: I'm Frank E. Abney III (@iFrankAbney). I've been fortunate enough to animate on some amazing films over the years: Frozen, Coco, Big Hero 6, and Soul, to name a few. Working on these films have been so great, but I have stories of my own to tell. pic.twitter.com/tIzI0arpYb— Strong Black Lead (@strongblacklead) December 11, 2020
"I grew up in a single parent household after losing my dad when I was 5 years old. With a lot of time to myself, I got sucked into books, cartoons, and movies," Frank wrote.
"While pursuing my dream of being an animator/filmmaker, and the many rejections that came along with it, I found that for me to really elevate in my craft and push myself as a creator, I had to make things that really meant something to me. It needed to be personal."
His journey to create Canvas started six years ago, as he was "questioning [his] place in this industry." Frank drew from personal experiences as the inspiration for his animated project. "I remembered my niece as a little girl running around carefree. I remembered my relationship with my grandfather, often wondering why he was always so withdrawn. I remembered watching my mother navigate life after the loss of my dad."
He concluded: "I knew making this film in my spare time would be difficult, but this was my voice, and it mattered, so I was gonna see it through whatever the struggles were. The journey was a direct reflection of our people that's come before us -- making something from what we had.
"The Black community has had to deal with so much struggle, trauma, and loss. We often don't have the chance to heal either, and just have to gather the strength to move on. With CANVAS, I wanted to send a message of HOPE that we don't have to suffer alone."
The full short is available to stream on Netflix today.