Why People Should Act More Like Whales


Song of the Spindle is a funny and surprisingly insightful conversation between a man and a whale. It turns out that humans and whales have more in common than one might expect; for example, certain species of whales have spindle neurons -- considered to be "the brain cells that make us human." Seattle-based animator Drew Christie talks about his creative process and recommends a few whale-related books in an interview below. 

The Atlantic: How did you get into illustration and animation?

Drew Christie: I have been drawing since as long as I can remember. My dad used to paint and draw for fun and he showed me some techniques when I was younger. He also let me have free reign over our family video camera. It was only a matter of time before I realized that I could combine my love of drawing and my love of film in the magical realm of animation.

The Green ReportWhat was the inspiration for this short?

I had heard a year or two ago on the Thom Hartmann radio show about whales having spindle neurons and just kind of catalogued it in the old brain bank. Then I read the book The Whale by Philip Hoare and loved it. I was thinking of all these interesting and interrelated whale things but didn't have a cohesive reason to do anything with them. When I heard about a film contest I thought this would be a perfect reason to make my "whales are people too" animation.

Did you do both voices?

I did indeed do both voices, mainly because I was in a hurry and didn't know anybody with a deep voice, so I manipulated my own for the whale.

Have you read Moby Dick?

I have indeed read Moby Dick (on the Coast Starlight train from Seattle to L.A. and back) and love the book. I think that Nathaniel Philbrick's In The Heart of the Sea (as well as Hoare's The Whale) is a great nonfiction companion to Moby Dick and would recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it.

What’s next for you?

I am beginning work on an animation that will be a discussion between Eadweard Muybridge (the father of the motion picture) and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts about corporate personhood, the Citizens United ruling and the famous Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad ruling. I think it will be my best animation yet. Also, I just completed animations for a play called House of Gold which is opening at the Atwater Village Theatre in L.A. on October 30th for anyone in the L.A. area. 

For more work by Drew Christie, check out his blog.

Via Vimeo Staff Picks.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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