Mythology, folklore, and fairytales were a huge part of my childhood. I practically grew up on mythological creatures and storytelling. And it’s something that I am still passionate about to this day.

And, if you’re anything like me, then you’ll agree that now is the best time to be alive. Mythology and fairytales come in many shapes and forms nowadays—people see them in everything from colorful books to drawing to animation to video games. And the scene is thriving, for a lack of better words.

A team of students from Dundee University in Scotland had a graduation project coming up and, for it, they have decided to tap into the topic of mythos and folklore. The result was an inspiring 6-minute animated short film about the origins of the Aurora Borealis—the northern lights. Bored Panda got in touch with Keilidh Bradley, the director of Fox Fires, for an interview.

A group of students got together for an animation graduation project with a story based on Finnish folklore

Image credits: Keilidh Bradley

Fox Fires is an animated short based on a Finnish folklore beast fable in which the northern lights were brought about by a magical fox that swept its tail across the snow and sprayed it into the night sky. They are hence called fox fires in Finnish (Fin. Revontulet).

“I was really inspired by the works of Hayao Miyazaki! I think it’s wonderful how his films brought international recognition to some cultural gems in Japan, such as the Kodama in Princess Mononoke. I think we have some great folk tales to share in Northern European countries and my goal is to help keep those alive too.”

She continued: “I studied Mythology for a semester and found myself really drawn to the revontulet (Fin. fox fires). I’d been playing for a couple of years with the idea of making up a fable on how the stars were made but could never quite make it feel like a complete story. It all fell into place as a narrative after combining it with the existing tale of the fox fires.”

Keilidh Bradley, an animated filmmaker from Scotland and the director of Fox Fires, pitched this idea back in February of 2018 to a number of her classmates as a potential graduation project. And so a team was born, with each member bringing in a heap of talent and enthusiasm for the project.

Image credits: Keilidh Bradley

The result was a colorful mixed 2D/3D animation short film that swayed people’s hearts and went viral

Image credits: Keilidh Bradley

The animated short starts with the Moon calling upon forest animals to help it light up the night sky. One by one, the animals are transformed into constellations of stars. All except the fox. As the majestic wild animal leaped around looking for its own constellation in the heavenly reflection in the pond, the Moon asked what’s wrong?

The fox explained that it tried so hard, but could not become a star like every other animal in the forest. The Moon, understanding how the fox feels, responded with an inspiring question: Well… whoever said you could only become a star? The fox was thus transformed into the northern lights and soon joined its friends of the wilderness lighting up the night sky.

Making the animated film was no easy feat as there was a lot of planning involved and everything had to be made from scratch under a tight schedule. “Making the film was split into three stages. First up is Pre-Production, where we make the script, storyboard/animatic and figure out the character designs, the overall look of the film and some technical aspects with the 3D,” explained Bradley. “We had a lot of fun going on research trips, especially driving to Loch Ness for the environment research!”

She continued: “Production was the longest stage, we animated the shots and painted the backgrounds while trying to complete a set percentage of the film per week. In Post-Production, we added all the elements of a shot together (animation, background, effects) to get the final film. Sound/music and editing was the final step.”

Image credits: Keilidh Bradley

It is a Finnish folk origins story about the creation of the Aurora Borealis, the northern lights

Image credits: Keilidh Bradley

As is with many projects, this one had its own challenges, as explains Bradley: “Production went very smoothly for us, so I can’t say there were any real challenges related to that, but there were certainly emotional troubles. I had such a supportive team who really believed in me and the film, but I fretted a lot over letting them down at all. I was afraid of the film being poorly received and me having wasted their talents and time as a weak director.”

“There were also some creative decisions that I had to put my foot down about, and I wrestled with doubt over that,” continued Bradley. “I was advised to omit the garbled speech as it was too weird, but I really felt it was important as it made it more universal and easier to project onto the characters. It’s what so many people have said they love about the film, so it paid off!”

Above all, Bradley explained that the biggest challenge was nested in herself: “This film was my attempt to make peace with the time I’d been unwell. I felt it had stunted my improvement and that I’d be so much farther along as a creative if I’d just had no major roadblocks. Fox Fires was my way of telling myself that I may never be able to reach for the stars, but I just have to reach as high as I can and to get halfway there is still pretty great. Imagine my surprise (and many happy tears) when it went viral and connected with so many people! It still just feels like a dream.”

The colorful 2D/3D animation, paired up with a dreamy score by Denny Schneidemesser, swayed the hearts of many as the video received over 2.36 million views on YouTube with over 276,000 upvotes (at the moment of this article). Bradley was absolutely surprised by how the world received the animated short, explaining that people from all over the world got in touch with her to say how much they’ve enjoyed the film.

Image credits: Keilidh Bradley

Here is the full 6-minute animated short

Image credits: Keilidh Bradley

Some people were so amazed by the animated short that they jumped the gap and assumed that Keilidh had no problem passing her class with this film. Bored Panda asked whether congratulations are due, and she said this: “I passed with a first-class honors degree and got an A1, the highest grade available at my University! I’m still so thrilled about this as I really struggled to keep my grades up during high school due to poor health, so it feels like I finally got to prove myself.”

Keilidh Bradley has her own YouTube channel and Instagram, where she posts her creations, if you’re interested in seeing more of her work. You can also support her endeavors on Patreon.

What are your thoughts about Fox Fires? Leave a comment in the comments section below!

Here is how people on the internet reacted to the incredibly-made animated short film…