By Daniel Lahr
It’s fairly safe to say that most people know who Kobe Bryant is, and most of them will agree that he is one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players after he carried the Lakers to multiple championships.
What many people do not know is that Bryant won a different kind of prestigious award this year, an Oscar, for an animated short film, “Dear Basketball,” that is a visualization of the letter he wrote in 2015 announcing his retirement.
To create a team for his new film, he enlisted the help of master animator Glen Keane, who then tapped the Santa Ynez Valley’s own Aidan Terry to be his assistant animator.
Terry is a graduate of Dunn School and a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts/Kanbar Film and Television’s animation program. He was initially approached by John Canemaker, the head of the animation program at NYU.
“They were looking for in-betweeners,” Terry said.
The film was narrated and executive-produced by Bryant and directed and animated by Keane, with additional animation done by Minkyu Lee and Bolhem Bouchiba.
“Minkyu and Bolhem did their own in-betweens, so I handled all of Glen’s,” Terry added.
When we go to the movies, we are watching 24 individual pictures per second. It’s easy to capture that in the camera or record on a computer, but animators must draw each frame of the picture we see. Sometimes an animator doesn’t have the time to do every single one, so they will do every odd-numbered frame and then they have an “in-betweener” come in and do the even-numbered frames.
Terry’s job as an “in-betweener” was to take a stack of drawings from Keane and fill in those frames.
“The most important part was to match Glen’s style in every one of my drawings, so that every drawing appears to have been done by the same hand and flows properly without catching or trapping the eye,” Terry said.
The entire animation department of four people worked endlessly to “make our work as indistinguishable from (Keane’s) as we could, and hopefully that translates to the action onscreen,” he added.
Bryant also managed to recruit legendary Hollywood composer John Williams to score this piece, and Keane was instrumental in getting the animation team together.
“Glen Keane is one of the most generous, talented, and hard-working people I’ve ever met,” Terry recalled. “His contributions to animation and his devotion to solid drawing and embracing new technology … I was thrilled to get to work with him and the crew he assembled for nine months on a demanding project like ‘Dear Basketball’.”
When Oscar season arrived, Terry was already working with Keane on another project.
“It was all quite surreal until I watched Glen and Kobe accepting their awards on television, and at that point it finally sank in, and I felt grateful just to have been a part of it.”
Terry had dreamed of being an artist since his early days in Santa Ynez.
“My parents always encouraged me… and a career as an artist was never something impossible or out of reach, because they taught through example how hard work and kindness pays off,” he said.
After all their hard work, Terry and the rest of the crew can now say they’re directly involved in winning an Oscar.
“Watching the Academy Awards was a reminder of how many people I owe for where I am and what I get to do,” Terry said.
You can watch the six-minute short animation at www.go90.com/videos/261MflWkD3N.