Something that continues to inspire me is the wealth of passion that exists out there on the internet. Sometimes that passion gets stirred up and might lead to less-than-positive outcomes, but more often than not it results in a vast array of impressive art, music, fiction, and in this case: animation.
Beacon is a ~9 minute short brought to life by Andrew Stadler, a 24 year old animator who recently joined the ranks at Powerhouse Animation (notable studio responsible for Netflix’s Castlevania and the recent Masters of the Universe series, among others). The story follows an unnamed survivor who crash lands on a desolate, snow-covered planet. While his initial call for help appears to be answered, while he’s waiting for rescue, a mysterious S.O.S signal from elsewhere on the planet compels him to go exploring…with dire consequences.
As an independent student project, Beacon may lack the level of polish that comes from a multi-million dollar Netflix production, but it does a fantastic job of committing to its vibe as a space-horror; in the same wheelhouse as Satoshi Kon and Koji Morimoto’s iconic Magnetic Rose from 1995. Indeed, Beacon’s cadence matches closely with it: the sense of dread slowly builds as things go from bad to worse, with extremely limited dialogue that helps to let the environment, and circumstances, do the talking.
Following my screening of the short, I reached out to Mr. Stadler to learn a bit more about his professional journey. He cited Land Before Time as his earliest memory of animation. He was utterly fascinated with the film, to the point of watching it over and over again until the tape broke. In spite of his love for the film, he recalls “wishing the dinosaurs had been scarier.”
Stadler’s view on animation took a turn after his encounter with Akira – “I realized just how versatile animation could be. Every shot was mind blowing and it’s still hard to believe that the film is going on 40 years old, it really showed how timeless 2D animation can be.”
During his high school years, Stadler began to see animation as more than just a hobby – he grew more invested in horror in the animation space, soaking up short films and series like Magnetic Rose, Perfect Blue, Serial Experiments Lain and others.
Eventually, Stadler pursued his degree in animation from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) – studying under the tutelage of John Webber and the late Troy Gustafson, notable animators who contributed to Disney works like Lilo & Stitch, Pocahantas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Each of them had key contributions to Stadler’s studies, and Beacon (which served as Stadler’s senior project), in their own way.
John Webber helped to solidify the tone of Beacon: “John always pushed me from an animator and story sense and when I came up with Beacon never once did he say to tone it down. It really helped keep the film consistent in its tone and ramp up the intensity toward the end.”
While Troy Gustafson sadly passed away last fall before Stadler’s work on Beacon began in earnest, he is credited with keeping the young animator on the right professional path: “Troy was the whole reason I really became an animator. I met him freshman year and I was considering dropping animation altogether. It was a very confusing time, but I took his 2D effects class and really found my love for effects animation.”
Beacon is currently being screened in a number of film festivals across the country, but Stadler is confident there will be streaming options available in the Fall. Look forward to its release in the coming months, and definitely keep your eyes open for more from Andrew Stadler. We’re confident we’ll be seeing great work from this talented young animator in the years ahead.