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Watch a Clip from “The Dam Keeper” by Pixar’s Dice Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo

It’s been almost a year since we’ve reported on the short film project by Pixar artists Dice Tsutsumi (Toy Story 3 art director) and Robert Kondo (Monsters University art director—set design and shading). The 18-minute film, The Dam Keeper, is now finished and will have its world premiere next Tuesday, February 11, at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Pig does everything he can to protect his town but nobody shows any gratitude. He trots tirelessly up and down the stairs, moving heavy levers and making sure the windmill keeps turning. This is the only way he can hold back the billowing black clouds of smoke which threaten to engulf everything. In between all of this, Pig rushes to school before hurrying back to the dam each day. The townspeople continue to ridicule and scoff at him, and he finds himself sitting alone in the back of the bus. Everything begins to change when Fox, a new classmate, joins Pig’s class.

A clip from the film can be seen on the Berlin festival website. The film’s painterly look wasn’t achieved with CG; rather it’s a combination of TVPaint, Photoshop, and amazing skill. (This making of video does seem to imply that some of the shot blocking was done with CG models.) Other Pixar artists like animator Erick Oh and visual development artist Chris Sasaki also contributed to the film. Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen (Forbrydelsen, Sherlock) narrates the film.

For news and behind-the-scenes material, visit the film’s Facebook page or TheDamKeeper.com.

UPDATE (2/6/14): The film’s official trailer has been released:

  • Jake Panian

    looks great!

    Also, a big congratulations to all the San Jose State students who worked on it.

  • GW

    It looks beautiful and shows that working on the art direction for computer animation can have benefits in other media.

  • Strong Enough

    little fact. Dice is married to Hayao Miyazaki’s niece

  • daniel

    Wish they spent less time thinking about the lighting and more focus on clarity, acting, animation and appeal. Just my two cents from the clip.

  • J.M.Walter

    Ironic how while P I X A R (the studio) is trying to drown hand drawn animation , its artists (like Dice whose amazing) are trying to revive it…well more like save it, cause it has never been dead. And it never will.

    ps: I was gonna mention Teddy as one of the saviours to for doing Day&Night but he joined the ¨dark side of the force¨ by collaborating in that weird looking test that will eventually kill Dice Tsutsumi´s point with this film.

  • Alan

    The polish on this is amazing, but I can’t get over how awkward the animation feels, as if it’s stuttering, especially those cogs in the background. More animatic than fully animated I think.

  • Carolyn Bates

    Really beautiful! I love the style and design. Looking forward to seeing the completed short. Congratulations to the filmmakers.

  • Googamp32

    Better then any CGI project ever made!

  • Mike Scott

    Sob. This looks so awesome. I’m a big Dice fan.

  • LoveThis


  • I really like the look. I don’t see a lot of U.S. animators using TV Paint, but this film will probably modify that equation. What I do see some is 3D animators doing more 2D on their own time. It’s bound to be a refreshing experience after massive sessions as a cog in a 3D pipeline.

  • CaJd554

    It “looks” good enough and the effort is to be commended, but the storytelling and weak characters leaves a whole lot t be desired. It’s as if each idea is so precious they couldn’t let go of any of them, no matter how they get in the way of clarity, pacing, and entertainment. And while some might refer to it’s slow pacing as it’s “tone,” it’s just tedium after the first few minutes. It’s sometimes beautiful to look at==as one would expect from talented illustrators–, but that only goes so far. I do look forward to future efforts, as they gain stronger skills at telling stories.