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Animation by Richmond youths says ‘strong people seek support’

Follow along BonBon the bunny's mental health journey.

Four young Richmond artists spent almost a year producing a series of animated videos to tell young people they are not alone.

Strong People Seek Support is a five-episode series that details the mental health journey of BonBon — a cartoon bunny — who ultimately decided to seek help from Foundry BC. These episodes were released between August 2021 and May 2022.

And behind this cute and heartwarming series is a small but mighty team of four Richmondites: Gabrielle Cometa, Isidora Chan, Rotem Levy and Julia Guo.

Due to the size of the team, the members all “did a bit of everything” – from scriptwriting and storyboarding to character design, animation and music, you name it, they’ve done it.

“It was a good chance for us to practice our skills and be able to share them with the world in like a bigger way,” said Cometa.

Strong People Seek Support was created based on a study that interviewed youths at Foundry Kelowna, and the animators worked with the research team to translate the findings into the series.

According to UBC Okanagan assistant professor of social work, Dr. Shelly Ben-David, the purpose of the study was to find out how youths “made decisions about accessing mental health services” and increase the use of these services amongst Canadian youths.

“It has been such a lovely experience co-creating the animated series #strongpeopleseeksupport with Foundry youth animators,” Ben-David.

Although the series was produced for Foundry BC, the team made sure to incorporate elements of Richmond. For example, they chose to make BonBon the bunny their main character due to the abundance of rabbits in the city.

“(Bunnies are) something we see around everywhere, and it’s something that is familiar to Richmond and (hopefully familiar to) the viewers watching it,” said Chan.

This wasn't the only meaningful and creative decision they made.

Animals were used in place of people in the animation to make it more general and inclusive.

“The nice thing about animal characters is it’s super open to interpretation,” explained Cometa. Designs for such characters were inspired by mentors and other people important to the team.

Cometa, who created the music, composed BonBon's theme, which changes throughout the series to reflect the different moods. This is accompanied by Chan’s choice of colour schemes, which transitions from dark to bright during BonBon's mental health journey.

“We definitely wanted to do something that was like, soft, and something welcoming because that’s something that Foundry really stands for – to be a really welcoming presence in people’s lives.

“And we wanted to have the style reflect that,” said Chan. She added that the series was intended to be a straightforward and accessible illustration of young people's mental health journey while introducing Foundry BC's services.

The grind was worth it

Apart from the size of the team, the young artists also faced another challenge – most teammates were amateurs with limited experience in animation projects.

“It was a long process. It felt gruelling at times… There are moments where it’s quite the grind, but the final outcome makes it all really, really worth it,” said Cometa.

But being able to work with "close friends" made it more special.

“My favourite part was creating something with this group of people. And especially because everyone added their own touch to every little part of the project,” said Cometa.

“And it was kind of cool to see all these different pieces coming together to amalgamate into this one really cool project.”

There was a deep appreciation for the creative freedom and the opportunity to learn on the field.

“It was also great to see people’s skills get sharpened throughout the course of the project because, in the beginning, a lot of us had never even tried animated by hand or drawing backgrounds or designing characters or writing scripts,” Chan added.

The team hopes the viewers of the series will "feel less alone" and learn that Foundry BC is here for them, wherever they are in life. They also hope young people watching the series will be inspired to help their friends who think their struggles “aren’t good enough.”

To learn more and watch BonBon’s journey, check out the Strong People Seek Support page on Foundry BC’s website.

Foundry BC offers a wide range of free and confidential services to support youths in areas including health, mental health and substance use. The Richmond centre is located at 101-5811 Cooney Rd., near the Service Canada Centre and PriceSmart Foods.

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