Short Film Showcase: A Rock’s Fantastic, Imaginary Journey Through Time and Space

Animator Seth Boyden imagines one rock’s evolutionary adventure through the ages and the role humans play in its journey on Earth—and beyond. I spoke to Seth about his film An Object at Rest.

When did you first start animating?

I first started animating when I was in sixth grade. My friends and I started making short films in my family’s basement with a cheap stop-motion camera and clay. We had a blast animating monsters and car chases, and I’ve kept at it ever since!

What’s your favorite part of the process?

My favorite part of the animation process is the very beginning, where I establish the character and the story for the film. This is done by hundreds of different drawings that show what the film could look like. The story itself goes through a number of iterations and is constantly changing and moving in different directions. I have the most fun drawing all kinds of different story concepts to shape the story of the film, and determine how each part of the movie fits together.

Who are some of the animators who inspire you?

The most influential artist for me is Bill Peet, who was a famous Disney story artist and children’s book writer and illustrator. He worked on films like Pinocchio, Dumbo, and 101 Dalmatians. Bill Peet also made extremely dynamic and charming stories, and his storytelling aesthetic deeply influences my own sensibilities, especially in this short film.

Hayao Miyazaki’s films and watercolor paintings are also extremely beautiful and influential. His eye for natural detail in movement, character, and design are unparalleled.

Where did the idea for this project come from?

I came up with the story for the film while I was at home and my dad and I were walking down a gravel road beside some farm fields. We started talking about how the limestone rocks that were around for millions of years were ground up and paved into a road in a matter of months, presumably less than the blink of an eye by a stone’s reckoning. From there, I started to formulate a story around a rock that must endure the brunt of human influence on Earth, weaving in scientific and historical ideas based on places in the Midwest where I grew up.

Is there a message you’d like people to take away from the film?

I did not make the film with a specific message in mind. What I feel like I wanted to communicate instead was a sense of significance for an object in nature that we often overlook in our everyday lives. At the same time, we also overlook the brevity of humans’ existence on the planet and how something like a stone would perceive us as a single tiny moment compared to the eons they have existed for. These were the thoughts I had while I was making this film, and hopefully they translated to the final film—and to the audience.

What are you working on next?

Currently, I’m training to become a story artist at Blue Sky Animation Studios and am developing a number of personal side projects in the meantime.

National Geographic’s Short Film Showcase

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the web and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic’s mission of inspiring people to care about the planet. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of the National Geographic Society. Know of a great short film that should be part of our Showcase?

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Changing Planet

Meet the Author
Rachel Link curates content for National Geographic's Short Film Showcase. Each week she features films from talented creators that span a range of topics. She hopes that this work will inspire viewers to explore the world around them and encourages filmmakers to keep pushing the boundaries of visual storytelling.