Explore Intimacy and Closeness Through This Illustrated Short for the School of Life

Animation is not an easy trade, but some artists make it look effortless. Daniel Stankler is a 28 year old animation director based in Leeds. We admire his commissioned short film, Intimacy and Closeness, for The School of Life.

Daniel’s film addresses the complexity of intimacy and closeness in modern-day relationships. His work exhibits the tensions of intimacy and desire in a comical fashion, via animated illustrations of animals, abstract and erotic figures, with erotic figures in the mix. Intimacy and Closeness helps tell the story of what a romantic relationship entails today.

“Primarily I think I’m interested in storytelling, as I think is a way for humans to interpret the world around us.”
– Daniel Stankler

We were fascinated with Daniel’s seamless storytelling. In order to learn more about the art of animation, and his short film, we had a chat with Daniel.

THE PLUS: Tell us a bit about your background?
Daniel Stankler:
I’ve had a pretty eclectic career so far, spanning from ancient greek archaeology, to art book publishing, to architecture, and have finally settled on animation after I graduated a year and a half ago from the Royal College of Art Animation MA, in London. One of the good things about having tried a few different career paths is they don’t really ever leave you – they stick around and inform your current practice whether you like it or not, so I think many of my former interests crop up in my animations all the time.

TP: How did you become interested in animation and illustration?
I actually took Classics and Literature at St Andrews for undergrad, and thought for a while I was going to be an ancient greek archaeologist… I only became interested in animation after changing my mind about archaeology and getting work in an architecture firm making explainer videos on Powerpoint! I have always been interested in art and animation though – and my aunt tells me I used to want to be an animator when I was very young, so it looks like i’ve just come full circle.


TP: For how long have you been working as an animator and illustrator?
I’ve been an animator for three and a half years now, although two of those were spent studying for my Masters in Animation at the Royal College of Art. So, technically I’ve been freelancing for a year and a half.

TP: Looking at your different work, it seems that you tend to focus on human behaviour. Can you tell us more about your interest in this topic? What are the different angles you’ve taken to address human behaviour in your work thus far?
Yes, I love to explore human behaviour. Primarily I think I’m interested in storytelling, I think it is a way for humans to interpret the world around us. And it’s how we relate to each other. If you look at it this way, storytelling isn’t really fiction at all – it’s documentary reimagined into a form we can more easily swallow.

It’s ‘showing’ rather than ‘explaining’. And I think that’s why it resonates with us so much. So naturally enough, almost all stories are about human behaviour – even myths, which often don’t involve humans at all, feature gods and monsters with human minds and desires and insecurities, and you realise it’s really about us after all. If you end up workingSince graduating and taking on commercial projects, you’re of course limited by briefs set by clients, but I think that many of these themes tend to resurface in the projects I take on and the way I express visual ideas, and I think clients must like that too.


TP: Folklore seems to be at the center of your work as well. Have you always taken interest to folklore or legends? If so, why? How does this tie into human behaviour?
I’ve been interested in folklore for as long as I can remember! I love to explore what it means is to be human through storytelling, which I think is what myth and folklore is actually about. Myths and fairytales say a lot about human preoccupations and anxieties, I think they’re a way forof a culture to ‘exorcise’ them, and I think this is still happening even in the modern age. We’re still worried about the same things – love, death, whatever we don’t understand.

So old stories are always relevant and I think that’s why even the oldest ones are still around today. My graduation film from the RCA, Should You Meet A Lady In A Darkened Wood, was actually a feminist re-telling of the Greek myth of Artemis and Actaeon, but half way through production, I realised that it worked equally as a analogy for objectification in modern online dating.


TP: Can you tell us about the process for creating your work, Intimacy and Closeness, commissioned for The School of Life? What did the content creation look like for this work?
I’m a traditional frame-by-frame animator, which basically means that anything that needs to move, needs to be redrawn twelve times for every second of movement. Commercial deadlines are pretty tight and frame-by-frame animation is a time-consuming process so I try and be as efficient as I can when it comes to pre-production so that I can have as much time as possible for animation. (I’m not a naturally organised person so I’m learning!) so that I can have as much time as possible for animation.

I’ve always had a slightly weird streak, and was keen not to lose this in my commercial work. For this film, I tried to make funny, cute and slightly weird characters that almost might be human, but aren’t. I also left them purposely ungendered, which I think adds to the surrealness of the film but also more importantly, shows that love, intimacy and closeness and domesticity transcend sex and gender roles.

TP: Are there any exciting projects that you’re currently working on that you’d like to share with us?
It’s still early days so I can’t share much – but I’m working on a new music video! I’m pretty excited about it as I love the artist, their work is so catchy but with really thoughtful lyrics, and the visuals also are turning out to be super interesting. I can’t wait to show it to you when it’s done!