Oscar-Nominated Shorts

Behind the Short: Adam and Dog

Interview with director Minkyu Lee

February 2, 2013
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I recently had the opportunity to speak by phone with Minkyu Lee, the director of Adam and Dog, one of the animated short films nominated for the Oscar. I found the film to be a very interesting look at the Eden story, since it is done from the first dog’s point of view.

First of all, congratulations on your nomination. That’s got to be exciting.

Oh, thank you so much. Yes, it really is. I’m trying to catch up with the crazy world that’s going on.

I appreciate your film. How did you come up with the idea of looking at the story of Eden from the dog’s perspective?

I read a National Geographic article kind of speculating the origin of dogs. These scientists were talking about how dogs came from wolves and how there was that one dog that came down, that separated itself from the wolf pack and came to a human village and the humans started feeding that dog and that was the start of the domestication of dogs. They were doing these experiments with arctic foxes and a similar phenomenon was happening where, in the foxes and these canine animals, there was this domestication gene where docileness or gentleness in dogs or wolves was actually genetic, and if you breed two wolves that have that kind of personality trait then their offspring becomes even more so. I was thinking about that article for a while and I was thinking if that’s true that stuff happened all over the world because in ancient Egypt they had dogs and all the way up in the mountains of Tibet they have their own dogs. So I was thinking about that.

A few weeks later in a film directing/writing workshop we were just doing some writing exercises based on ideas and brainstorming, and that article popped up in my mind and I thought maybe it would be cool to do an origin story of dogs because Greek myths seem to have all these origin stories, so I thought what would a good origin story be. Maybe that could be a good short story. And because of my faith, I think, I went straight to the Genesis story. I was like “Maybe that would be cool if I did a short about that one dog in the Garden of Eden and what that interaction was like with Adam and the dog and how the dog was kind of this unique little oddball of an animal that reacted to Adam differently from all the other animals.”

I also thought it was interesting storytelling. We see all the aspects of the Eden story, but it takes place off screen.

I thought it would be interesting to tell the entire story from the dog’s perspective and never leave the dog. The whole Fall would happen off screen, but that Fall would be so affective to everything in Eden that still you could feel that something was slowly going wrong when that moment hits.

I got that feeling with the scene of the big cat, a panther, and I immediately thought of the way Mark Twain told the Eden story, that Adam is walking along one day and all of a sudden everything begins to kill each other, and he says, “Oh, she ate the apple.”

That’s exactly what I was doing. That’s the only image of death that we ever see. And I wanted to show the dog seeing this panther kill this rabbit and be kind of startled and unsure of what he just saw and keep moving forward because he’s not discovered that aspect of danger yet. One element at a time, things are differently being affected.

Are you working on any other personal projects now?

Yeah, I am. I’m developing a bunch of different stories in various formats. I have a TV show that my friends and I are very passionate about developing full on and several feature ideas that I’m also writing the script for, and also a graphic novel idea that’s kind of been cooking in my mind, and a novel idea, but I don’t think I’ll get to that anytime soon.

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Darrel is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) living in southern California