Our core mission is to use animation as a force for good, our latest #BZShorts film sets out to do this and has been our most challenging but important animated short to date.
This resulted in ‘Armour’ directed by Alex Davy in collaboration with the charity Beyond Equality.
Alex is a Storyboard Artist, recent mum, and first-time director who, working with the BZ Shortform team and interns, crafted the film to portray the “armour of masculinity” and the negative impact it can inflict on society.
As a B Corp certified animation studio, we aim to use our animation and platform to create a positive impact. For this reason, our last two BZ Shorts films have been in collaboration with charities to help amplify their important causes. Last year, to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, we crafted Sinking Feeling directed by Mark Spokes for Papyrus UK.
For the new BZ Shorts film, the Executive Team at Blue Zoo wanted to address gender inequality within society. No pressure, right?
From the beginning, the brief was to create a film which aims to address the armour of masculinity from the root of the cause, where young men and boys are taught unequal principles of behaviour and attitudes. If the short could communicate to young men and boys that they can help change the world and make male viewers feel empowered rather than alienated or accused, this film would be a success. We reached out to Beyond Equality to offer to make a pro-bono film for them to amplify their message. Beyond Equality is a UK charity disrupting harmful norms and creating possibilities for positive change, working with men and boys towards gender equality.
In a company-wide session where anyone could pitch their idea and the studio would vote on the best idea, Alex’s idea was elected to be made!
The story of ‘Armour’ begins with a young man, James, in high school who has a crush on a girl, Jess. He starts with naivety but every time he makes a choice that hurts himself or Jess, the weight of performing to destructive expectations of masculinity metaphorically and literally weighs him down with a piece of rusted armour.
James is pressured by his friends, also wearing armour, to speak and act a certain way. Through little moments and micro expressions, you can tell James isn’t being true to himself.
Director, Alex, says, “These kids build up this armour because don’t want to show how they truly feel because that’s not how a ‘man’ acts. It’s about the armour you put up more and more as a young teenage boy until you can’t move anymore, you can’t speak, you can’t see because you’ve got blinders on. We had to make sure the armour didn’t look ‘cool’ like something you’d see on Fortnite. It had to look rusted, a bit rubbish, even painful.”
As the film progresses, the armour keeps appearing until a full suit encumbers James and he must confront himself and his actions.
Early in development, we worked closely with Beyond Equality to ensure the tone was right and every shot of animation would deliver the intended message with the empathy this story deserves.
Alex, who in 2021 became a mum, said, "I had my daughter in my mind throughout the involvement of the film and wondered how her future male classmates might react to it in the schools and spaces where Beyond Equality does such incredible work, and the discussions they might have about the expectations of masculinity."
Daniel Guinness, Managing Director at Beyond Equality, says, “The story captures a challenging time in young people's lives as pressures to fit in end up leading to harm to ourselves and people around us. We hope this video can help people see how the emotional armour we put on can end up weighing us down and restricting us. And hopefully the video will inspire some to find the strength to take off their armour altogether.”
You can now watch ‘Armour’ on Beyond Equality’s YouTube Channel.
Directed by Alex Davy
Art Direction Joe Kinch
Anim Direction by Dane Winn
Production managers Toni Cunningham & Lizzie Hicks
Design Intern Sophie Linney
Storyboard Intern Maria Miranzo, mentored by Rahul Dasgupta
Modelling Sophie Jameson, Emily Hargrave
Animation Sam Potter, Charlotte Binnie-Thompson, Lucie Thomas
LRC Jack McEntire, Francesca Pesce, Emma O'Hara
CG Sup Arthur Tibbett
Music by WMP