Local animator screens at Biff
An orange loquat will make you taller, a white one will clone you; violet loquats allow you to fly.
It’s all part of the magic of The Adventures of Raz, Tashel Bean’s cartoon about the leader of a group of pint-sized heroes who live on the fictitious Loquat Island and protect it from evil.
The show will screen at the Bermuda International Film Festival in March. According to Mr Bean, it’s the result of a lifelong addiction.
“Just like every kid, I was obsessed with cartoons, but at 13, 14, I was still obsessed and started to think maybe it was a little more than a childhood obsession,” he laughed.
With no training he and his cousin Domico Watson began “playing around” on Microsoft PowerPoint, creating comics and making them move.
Once he discovered it was something he could do as a career, “it escalated”.
He was then a student at the Berkeley Institute. The senior school offered no classes in animation, so Mr Bean taught himself, inspired by his favourite shows: Dragon Ball Z, SpongeBob SquarePants, Hey Arnold!, The Simpsons and South Park.
“I loved all that kind of stuff,” the 25-year-old said, adding that his early efforts mirrored his own life. “They were all about my adventures in school. All the teachers were my teachers, all the side characters were my friends.
“My classmates loved them, but it got me into trouble with teachers because I always finished my work first and then started playing around with the cartoons and distracting everybody.”
Somewhere around that time, he got the idea for The Adventures of Raz.
His studies at Savannah College of Art and Design gave him the tools to make it happen.
“I think that’s where the hammer of reality hit on my head,” said Mr Bean, who studied film and television at the art and design university in Georgia.
“Especially with what I’m doing, there are not a lot [of people doing it] in Bermuda and you start to think you are the best.
“At SCAD I realised there are 100 people as good as you are, 50 who are better and 10 people better than you will ever be.
“As a teenager it’s a tough thing to accept, that what I was doing was not as good as I thought it was. It taught me to be the best me I can be; I still have a lot to learn.”
He graduated in 2016 and returned to Bermuda, where he found employment at local TV stations until “the work dried up”.
Mr Bean took it as an opportunity to offer his skills in graphic design and in-motion graphics on a freelance basis.
He also started volunteering in a role he created at Biff, pre-screening films. By the time the 2018 festival rolled around, he had turned it into a paid position.
However, The Adventures of Raz was still rolling around in his head.
“While I was at Biff, I was watching people fulfil their dreams and in my second year saw the fruits of my labour — two shorts we picked were nominated for Academy Awards.
It showed me that I had to start. Instead of judging other people’s work, I had to put something of my own out there and show people what I can do.”
Task completed, he sent the cartoon to “a couple of industry people, who were genuinely impressed”.
“The characters were complete and I had an idea of what I wanted to do with the first episode and had an idea for the first season. I started creating character shorts.”
He also wrote the soundtrack for the show’s six episodes, likely channelling the talents of his musical family: his parents Shelton and Tianja Bean and his grandfathers, Bill Caisey and Tootsie Bean.
Help came from his cousin Domico and the staff of Superbia Productions, who lent their voices to the show.
Bermuda College radio was also “very supportive”, letting Mr Bean record at the studio.
A $5,000 grant from the Bermuda Arts Council enabled him to put it all into play.
His excitement went into overdrive once it was posted on social media.
“I was so nervous to put it out there, but it reached 10,000 people,” he said. “I didn’t know how people would receive it, but for the most part I got positive feedback.”
He created the cartoon with more than entertainment in mind. Ultimately, he hopes it raises awareness about mental health and changes “the status quo”.
“I have been dealing with my own disorders for years and I wish that the topic of mental health was as prominent then, as it is today.
“Through my art, I’m hoping to lend my voice to the cause of de-stigmatising mental illnesses by showcasing characters with those illnesses as, simply, people, as opposed to people who aren’t ‘normal’ — whatever normal is.
“Particularly in the western world, there is a large sect of society that views animation as just ‘kids’ stuff’ despite the decades and decades of extremely deep and innovative animated content that’s out there.
“While Raz is primarily aimed at children, I hope to incorporate more mature themes, such as mental health, that can elevate the show’s impact.
“In my own way, I hope that I can help open the minds of people out there to think outside of a ‘bubble’ that they may have mentally trapped themselves in.”
He is also hopeful that Raz and his pet lizard Mango, will become part of Bermuda culture.
“The cartoon is not literally in Bermuda, but it has flavours that I think Bermudians will understand,” Mr Bean said.
“I want it to be as synonymous with Bermuda as pink sand and Bermuda shorts — the same as Mickey is to Disney.
“That is what I want for this little kid with curly brown and gold hair and his pet lizard.”
• Visit www.theadventuresofraz.com or look for The Adventures of Raz on Facebook
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