Research Into Anxiety

Callum Luckwell’s research on the Major Project. I didn’t want to just regurgitate everything he found/said so here is a handy link.

Final Year @ The University of Ulster - Animation

As a part of our Major Project, I delved into research into Anxiety, the disorders associated with it and what sort of ways in which we can portray this throughout our Short Film.

Initially I contacted a friend of mine, Dr. Ryan Oakley, a Mental Health Counselor and acquired his help in both tracking down valuable resources to inform myself from, and getting some aide directly from him in understanding how to better portray it.

One of the first sights I stumbled on was this article from

From this I got an initial direction of where to look for animals that were all capable of feeling anxiety in the same way a Human would.

The Initial list consists of:

  • Elephants
  • Primates
    • Including Chimpanzee’s, Orangutan’s and Bonobo’s.
    • Some Species of Monkey exhibit traits but lack deep enough study.
  • Dogs and other Canine Pack Animals
  • Rodents
    • Specifically Rats, Bats and…

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Anxiety and Fears in Film

Callum is the one who did most of the research on the disorder in the early stages of the project, whereas I looked at other media that portrayed anxiety.

Vertigo (1958)

Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece is about an agoraphobic man named Scottie who also suffers from vertigo following a traumatic event in his past. Scottie’s dissociation and descent into madness is symbolised by a recurring spiral shape that often appears in the character’s eye. There is also the recurring motif of twin pillars. In fact, the entire film is full of psychedelic imagery (which I suppose was commonplace at the time, but not in a horror/thriller) which lends itself to a very surreal and unsettling film.


BoJack Horseman (2014 -)


Netflix’s most depressing cartoon was a big inspiration for this project. The show is also the subject of my upcoming thesis so I felt that it was only right to revisit it as a potential inspiration for the major project. BoJack Horseman is a show about a depressed horse who was a big-show television star in the 90s but has since lost all meaning in his life. A recurring motif in the show is water: this could be in the form of a lake, a swimming pool or an ocean. The water is always brought up whenever our titular character is feeling overwhelmed by life or by his own questionable choices.

bojack drowning

One of the darkest moments of the show involves water, when BoJack admits exactly how he would like to die:

One of the most memorable episodes of the show (Episode 3×04) takes place entirely underwater, and features absolutely no dialogue.

In this episode, BoJack is thrust into a surreal and unfamiliar world, and is caught of guard not only by the culture-shock, but by the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a lost baby seahorse, as well as juggling the dozens of promotional appearances in various clubs and theatres to advertise his new movie. During the entirety of this episode, BoJack appears lost and unsure of what to do. He is trapped by the water. All of the native sea life can communicate no bother, but BoJack is stuck in silence, unable to even hear what the sea creatures are saying. Life is muffled and stifling. He is also confined to the ocean floor, where he walks along the seabed while several species of fish are able to swim above him. The climax of the episode reveals that BoJack embraces the opportunities that water can provide, and swims out of a second storey window completely unharmed, and doesn’t fall to his death as he predicted. He conquers the overwhelming weight of the ocean and instead sees it as a medium of opportunity.

There is also an episode which takes place almost entirely in BoJack’s mind, and gives his depression a voice. During the entire episode BoJack’s inner monologue can be heard, and is given it’s own chaotic art style. It is a brutal portrayal of depression.

BoJack Horseman would serve as one of the biggest inspirations for our short film, as we admired its use of water to symbolise being overwhelmed, but also its surrealism and its effectiveness in making the world seem all the more unfamiliar and terrifying.


There are also dozens of other films and television shows that touch on the topic of mental illness but few decide to express the disorders in a very visual manner.


Major Project Idea

This year we were thrust head first into the project I have been looking forward to every since I first joined the course in 2014. Over three years I had compiled a long list of ideas for an animated short (which is what I really wanted to make). These most of these projects included dragons which would be an absolute nightmare to animate, especially for a longer project. However, I did want the theme of the short film to be something that I personally care about and that I would be invested in over the 10 months or so of production.

I talked to my teammate, Callum Luckwell, about what kind of story he would like to tell. He expressed that he was excited about the possibility of animating a horror film, but not one with a lot of jumpscares. He wanted to make a horror film with a heavy, foreboding atmosphere and creepy visuals. He pitched an idea called “The Diver” which was about a man from the Victorian times being drawn to the ocean in the middle of the night and deciding to dive to the bottom of the sea, where he is inevitably eaten by a massive deep-sea creature. Though we both loved the idea, we realised that it would be technically unchallenging as most of the film would take place in the black ocean depths.

After throwing several ideas around, I proposed to my teammate that we could possibly create a film about anxiety disorders. We were both hesitant at first, knowing that short films about mental illness don’t exactly sit well with the lecturers, but after some discussion we figured out how it could work.

Our plan is to keep the whole anxiety metaphor subliminal, with the main focus of the story being on one character’s journey to overcome his/her fears and be accepted by his/her friends and family. The allusion to mental illness would not be a limitation, but rather an opportunity to showcase some intense visuals and turn a simple story about a character overcoming fear into a gigantic, terrifying experience.


We set up a Redbubble account in order to sell T-Shirts and other merch based on the comic. Redbubble takes a rather large percentage of the money that you gain by selling an item, but they do print the designs into shirts/mugs etc for you, so it seems fair. Also, I have purchased products from Redbubble before, and they are all very high quality.

These are some of the prints that we currently have available:


Animation Student and Notorius dragon enthusiast