In case you've been living under a rock for the past eight months, two crazy Computer Animation kids at Ringling College of Art + Design set up a Kickstarter campaign last November to fund their thesis short film. They needed $3,000 to pay for a sound designer and a composer. They got $14,191.
"In a Heartbeat," written and animated by Beth David and Esteban Bravo, is about a middle school boy who's almost outed by his own heart when it starts (literally) chasing after the boy of his dreams. Basically, it's a short film for kids about a boy who's in love with another boy.
Movies about the LGBTQ+ community are rarely lighthearted and almost exclusively for adults. 2015's Carol was a huge success for lesbian representation, because most LGBTQ+ movies are about gay men. Last year's Moonlight was a huge success for black representation, because most LGBTQ+ movies are about white gay men. Neither are lighthearted, and both are for adults.
So where does that leave younger audiences? Sure, some kids' movies feature gay characters. But when is the last time a gay character dominated the plot?
The entire production for "In a Heartbeat" went viral this past April, when all anyone had of the film was a synopsis and some character sketches. People recognized that Beth and Esteban were exploring a topic almost exclusively restricted to tragedies (or at the best, broody dramas) in a completely different way.
The full project was released today, and it's even sweeter than I expected. Sherwin and Jonathan, our main boys, just might be summer 2017's most important love story, even if they're not on the big screen.
Sure, his heart goes rogue and Sherwin thinks it’s going to ruin his life, but an animated short about two preteens is never going to carry the weighty angst present in so many other LGBTQ+ films. Brokeback Mountain never made me giggle. It made me cry. We still need better LGBTQ+ representation in popular cinema as a whole, but we especially need it for a target audience of below 17. We need it for people who think homosexuality must be heartbreaking to be worth caring about.
"In a Heartbeat" fits the bill exactly. And if four minutes can generate this much excitement (and by that I mean over 18,000 views in the first hour of release), maybe the Hollywood pros can finally get it in their heads that representation matters for all ages. Then, maybe instead of adding more sad, serious PG-13+ dramas to the list of gay & lesbian cinema, they can add some lighthearted G/PG flicks to open the conversation for younger generations. If kids can be told (and shown) that girls can kiss boys and boys can kiss girls, they should also be told that girls can kiss girls and boys can kiss boys—and both can be beautiful, innocent things.
Disney has given us at least 20 different animated heterosexual love stories. Beth and Esteban have now given us one in the other direction. "In a Heartbeat" isn't a professionally produced and distributed film, but sometimes change starts small. Maybe the mold is set now to be built upon. Maybe in time we'll have a feature-length love story that started in a Florida college classroom with Sherwin and Jonathan.
As for right now: This is hugely important, and this is enough.
Feature picture by Beth David and Esteban Bravo.
For more info on the film, see the official Facebook page.