It all began on 20 November 2015, the day Shihab got the first draft of the screenplay of Tomorrow. It made his eyes open wide. This was neither a fairytale, nor a romance, nor was it just a children’s film or a fantasy. It dealt with the most talked-about topic, global warming. The editing of the screenplay then began. It took two years to get the final screenplay. Many of the characters were edited out. Some of the characters were given less screen time. And some became more important. Strong structure is mandatory when building a skyscraper. Then in 2017 the transformation of screenplay to an animated film began. The whole film making was done between 20 July 2017 and 31July 2019.
Let’s Do It
Cycore started its journey on 2013 with the goal of making a 3D animation film. On December 2016 all of the animation studios of Bangladesh arranged an exhibition called ‘Animela’. Cycore made a one-minute short film within 3 days to screen at that exhibition. Shihab showed interest to work with them after watching one of their ‘Project Nanobot’.
It took 15 months just to create the shot of the glacier melting. A three-second shot.
‘Tomorrow’ was first supposed to be made in 2D. Then at one point the director thought, wait, can’t this be made in 3D? He wanted to make something innovative. In the meantime he met Murad Abrar. They discussed the screenplay. Murad was intrigued. Nobody had ever thought of making animated content of that length in Bangladesh. Moreover, the theme was saving the environment which is an important topic globally. Murad Abrar said: “I want to take the challenge. Let’s do it.”
25 Minutes 51 Seconds
A team of 15. Two of them were animators. Actually one was the hero, the other was his sidekick. The two of them made the short film look like a feature film. Animation needs 24 frames per second. It takes 30 to 40 minutes for each frame to be rendered. Overall 4,000 hours were spent in computer processing. It took 15 months just to create the shot of the glacier melting. A three-second shot. At first the shot was not up to the mark. Half of the work was done during the last six months. It took almost a year and a half to make the 1 minute 52 seconds trailer.
The producers were amazed watching it. The film was going to surpass what they had imagined. The animation artists were able to see their work for the first time. They were thrilled; finally something was happening. The project has picked up speed and was finally completed.
It has received endless appreciation from viewers. Director Shihab Uddin, joked, “I’ve become old. I don’t know when I’ll die. I want to create something special by which people will remember me after my death.”
Director of Deepto TV and the said, “We have produced a lot of entertainment, but how much of that has any real value? You can say that we’re doing this work out of social responsibility, we want to create something of value.”
When the producer was asked about the expenditure he replied calmly, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Director Shihab came to rescue and said, “We ran a small studio for two years and ten days. Our total expense was Tk 10 million officially, but this kind of project requires more than that.”
Team ‘Tomorrow’ would come to the office, work all day long and go home still thinking about the characters, technicalities and other problems. Whenever they got stuck, they consulted outside animators. Murad Abrar said, “We got stuck on some problem that YouTube tutorials didn’t cover. Not even the paid online courses. Then we tried to contact foreign artists. Everyone has some special techniques which they keep secret. They don’t want to teach anyone these techniques. But many of them helped us, and we are grateful. And we are grateful to the artistes who worked day and night to make this possible. Without their relentless effort and hard work ‘Tomorrow’ would not have been possible.”
1. The biggest challenge in animation is expressing the emotions of the characters. Children are the target audience. The team was always worried whether they would like it. Children are used to watching Disney and Pixar animation. That’s why content has to be interesting to grab their attention. If the story and visuals are not interesting, children won’t watch it.
“If they don’t watch it, all of our hard work would be wasted. That’s why we worked with utmost care on every shot to make it as beautiful as possible. If anything needed research, we did the research. We do not give up on the work. We were meticulous, we focused on smallest of details. How to fly in the air, how to move when walking or running, everything,”, Shihab recalled.
There is a huge a difference between imagination and reality and efforts have to be given to make imagination into reality. The producer also added, “In the screenplay it just says that there’s a scene of protest. We needed two weeks just to make this single scene.” Murad also said, “The director used to sit quietly. Suddenly he came to me and said, ‘I need 500 people in this scene.’ And we were at a loss. How can we create so many faces? How will be they move?”
2. According to Murad, “We had a certain standard of good animation before. The animation made in Bangladesh was up to a certain level. We've been able to raise that level a lot. Given the limitations, it was a big challenge to get here. Now those who make the animation films will have to compete with this standard. ‘Tomorrow’ proved that in Bangladesh, young people can reach a higher standard.”
Children want be Ratul. This is the greatest achievement of ‘Tomorrow’
3. When making animation the artiste can’t see what it will look like when it’s finished. The animation goes through many steps to create a scene. Every day, everyone is making clothes, making characters, making trees, making sets. But nobody can see what it will look like when they are all put together. To keep working for a long time with no output is challenging enough. Sometimes even the director gets frustrated. The biggest challenge was to get the job done. In fact, once it seemed like "Tomorrow" would never be finished. Keeping everyone motivated for such a long time was a big challenge.
Every child wants to be Ratul
‘Tomorrow’ has been viewed on YouTube 608,000 times so far. Many pirated versions have been uploaded too. Those versions also have more than hundred thousand views. The five thousand comments on YouTube show that most viewers are confused whether this short film was made in Hollywood of locally. They thought it was a dubbed film. When they learned the truth, they were surprised. Some of them complained that this type of work doesn’t go viral. A large studio in India watched ‘Tomorrow’ with their 1500 employees. They said, “Even though we are such a big studio we can’t think of creating a work like this. How did you do that?”. They did not know it was just a 15-person team. People at home and abroad commented, shared their opinions. Swore oaths to save the environment. Children want be Ratul. This is the greatest achievement of ‘Tomorrow’.
The "Tomorrow" team was ready to criticised their own mistakes. Firstly, there is no female character in the film. In fact, there were two female characters in early versions of the script, one was the grandmother of the protagonist Ratul, and the other was Bon Bibi. But these characters were omitted because they were not essential to the story. Creating a character in animation is extremely complex, time-consuming and costly.
Couldn't the old man in the air me made into a female character? The answer came with a smile: it had not entered their minds. This was the first criticism.
Another one is that in the last scene of this film on climate change prevention, Ratul, after attending the international conference returned to Bangladesh by air. But aircrafts run on fossil fuels! The film is intended to protect the world from the devastating effects of climate change.
‘Tomorrow’ is made by Bangladesh
Though ‘Tomorrow’ is being compared with Disney or Hollywood, the director said, “We didn’t want to make ‘Tomorrow’ look like Disney or other foreign productions. That was not possible. We know the standard of Disney. We wanted to make a film in spite of our limitations. We wanted Ratul to be like Ratul so people can understand that he’s animated in Bangladesh. We wanted to show our originality in our work. Whether good or bad, it should show our originality.”
Due to the global appeal of this film, the producers are planning to dub it in different languages. Subtitles will eventually be added in 25 languages. Subtitles have already been added in eight languages.