• Country: United States
  • Initial release: December 10, 2021 (United States)
  • Film Director: Justin Bruce Lee
  • Running Time: 6 Minutes
  • IMDB Grade: 6.6

In the world of animation, First Born stands out as a captivating and heartfelt short film. Directed by Justin Bruce Lee, this animated masterpiece takes viewers on an emotional journey of self-discovery, determination, and the pursuit of familial approval. Through stunning visuals and a compelling narrative, First Born captures the essence of martial arts and the power of perseverance. In this article, we will explore the inspiration behind the film, the animation process, and the importance of music in creating a truly immersive experience.

The Inspiration Behind First Born

First Born draws its inspiration from real-life experiences and personal aspirations. Aerik Bertulfo, the animation supervisor, had a younger sister who excelled in school and dance competitions. This led to his parents showering her with attention and praise, leaving Aerik feeling overshadowed as the first-born child. The impact of this situation served as a catalyst for the film’s storyline, highlighting the protagonist’s desire to prove himself and gain recognition from his family. Additionally, director Justin Bruce Lee incorporated his own experiences with kung fu competitions, adding depth and authenticity to the narrative.

The Animation Process

Creating an animated film requires meticulous planning, attention to detail, and a skilled team of artists and technicians. The journey of First Born began with a six-month planning phase, during which Lee and Bertulfo crafted the story with guidance from advisors at San Jose State University Animation Program. Storyboarding and character design followed, with David Diba assisting Lee in bringing the characters to life visually.

Once the story and characters were finalized, the team embarked on the animation process. This involved months of animating, from rough sketches to refined color illustrations. Simultaneously, David Diba, the art director, meticulously designed and painted the backgrounds, ensuring a cohesive and visually stunning world for the characters to inhabit. Diba’s expertise extended to creating 3D models of the kung fu stadium, enabling dynamic camera movements. Special effects were also meticulously crafted to enhance the overall visual experience.

After completing the animation and background work, David Diba took on the task of compositing the film, combining all the elements into a seamless whole. Finally, Justin Bruce Lee edited the film, ensuring a cohesive and impactful storytelling experience. The entire animation process spanned a year, with the team pouring their heart and soul into every frame.

The Importance of Music

Music plays a vital role in First Born, setting the tone and enhancing the emotional impact of the film. With no dialogue, the music becomes the voice of the characters, guiding the audience through their journey. During the storyboarding phase, Justin Bruce Lee used temporary music from Joe Hisaishi’s Studio Ghibli compositions and taiko drum scores as a reference to convey the desired atmosphere. This temporary music served as inspiration for the film’s composer, Arnie Sainz, and his team.

Arnie and his team embraced the challenge of creating an original score that would complement the visuals and evoke the desired emotions. Despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic, they persevered and recorded the music separately, with Arnie skillfully bringing it all together. Additionally, the team decided to include an original song that would encompass the essence of First Born. Samantha Dacanay and Ezekiel John Saldajeno stepped up to the task, writing and performing the song that beautifully encapsulates the themes and message of the film.

Projects in the Works

With the success of First Born, Justin Bruce Lee and his team are already planning their next venture. While balancing their day jobs, they are channeling their creativity into crafting another compelling short film. The support and encouragement they have received from audiences and the film community have inspired them to continue producing projects that resonate with viewers.

1 Film Review

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  • First Born is a testament to the power of animation and storytelling. Through the skillful direction of Justin Bruce Lee and the dedication of the entire team, this animated short film captures the essence of determination, familial expectations, and the pursuit of one’s dreams. With its relatable characters, stunning visuals, and captivating score, First Born leaves a lasting impression on its viewers. As Justin Bruce Lee and his team embark on their next project, audiences eagerly await the next masterpiece that will touch their hearts and inspire their own journeys of self-discovery.