The creation of Mimi-Ni
Forty years ago, Will had a dream that sparked the creation of a personal animated film. After retiring from his career as an animator, he returned to his first love of painting, but he always knew he wanted to finish this animation. Four years ago, he resumed the project, completing it in October 2022.
Where did the idea come from?
While all viewers are encouraged to have their own interpretation of the meaning of this animation, for the curious, here is the artist’s perspective:
“Since I conceived of this project forty years ago, it’s not completely clear to me exactly what I intended. But the film's inception came from a dream I had of a mountain rising out of the sea, and my imagination went from there, using some recurring themes in African creation mythology.
“For me, the theme is that out of nothingness comes life, blooming forth, birthing itself into being, and wakening. When the eyes open, the Golden Triangle (representing consciousness) appears, and the world is created as the mountain rises from the water.
“Some may see it as the original person’s awakening into consciousness, though it could be interpreted as each of us.
“Life's journey takes us over hills, valleys, past waterfalls, up the mountainside, and beyond.
“When the mythological Bull of Heaven with its masked rider appears, it symbolizes the fear of death. The lightning bolt says death is real. The rider dismounts and unmasks. The mask turns into a flower, showing there is nothing to fear. The viewer is drawn into the light of the flower.
“The film starts in darkness and ends in light.”
What was the process?
Traditional animation is a technique in which each frame is hand-drawn. In this film, there were over one thousand drawings. It starts with a pencil test to ensure that the action works. In Will’s case, forty years ago, he drew over a thousand sketches on animation paper and then filmed them, one frame at a time, on an animation stand with a 16mm camera.
Forty years later, Will scanned the drawings into his computer and rendered them. Some frames took four hours to paint, some simpler ones much less. Fellow animators suggested other computer techniques, but he found that, for him, using the mouse worked better than using a stylus.
It was a blessing during COVID, providing him with a sense of purpose. Year by year, he made steady progress. Then, in mid-2022, he came to the last drawing.
All through the creation of this animation, a soundtrack had been softly suggesting itself. So he listened to hundreds of freely-offered sound effects online to find just the right ones, then edited them to fit. Finally, after completing all the creative work, he turned to a good friend with technical expertise to join imagery and sound. And voila!
Here's the finished film.