Interview with Animator Matt Burniston (The Mega Plush – Winner Best Film January 2016 Film Festival)

The Mega Plush is a must watch animation action/thriller short film. It was the overwhelming winners of Best Film at the January 2016 WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival, an amazing achievement considering the quality of films that played at the festival.

Watch the Film Here:

I was fortunate enough to chat with Matt about his short award winning short film:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Matt Burniston: Well, the initial idea for the characters was from my friend John Noe, who came to me around 6 or so years ago with some sketches of these teddy bears who instead of looking all cute, were carrying guns and looked battle damaged. When he told me his concept I instantly fell in love with the idea and jumped at the chance to make them in 3D with the end goal of making a short film.

Fast forward about 2 years and nothing much had happened on the project (other than making some 3d models of the characters), but then I decided to have a slight career change and instead of working full time, I would work from home as a freelancer, and in my down time between client work I could dedicate time to making short films for myself… Of course the first project would be Mega Plush. From there it has all kind of snowballed in to what you see today. I’ve managed to finish 2 shorts, and am now working on the third. But I still have to manage my time between clients – paying my rent, and doing what I love – The Mega Plush


Matthew: From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

Matt: Like i mentioned this first film had a lot of down time. From initial conception to final film it was probably around 4 years, but the main bulk of work being done over about 2 years, which again can be broken down to about 6 month full time work, intertwined between client projects.

There were two big challenges I faced while making that film, which were part of the reason it took so long. Firstly working on it for a few weeks then having to work on client work really disrupts the process. Every time I have to stop, go work on something else, then come back to working on the film, it would take me a few extra days to get back into the groove and up to full speed. Secondly I didn’t have any kind of script or plan, The project started out with me doing a run cycle for the bear. That soon progressed to him running down a  dark alley, then I introduced the sock monkey, it was only then that I started to build the story in my head. From there I built it piece by piece, and shot by shot I changing and refining the story as I went. No story boards, no script… Bad Idea.

So the process wasn’t so good for productivity… and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone… Looking back now I think it could have gone really badly, just feeling like a bunch of shots that don’t really build into a full story… but luckily it worked out ok and I ended up with a nice film that worked.


Matthew: How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Matt: Can I have 3? if so? Toy Story meets Expendables… ok that 4 words! sorry.


Matthew: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Matt: Other than the two things I already mentioned (disruption of time, and no planning) the biggest obstacle was really working alone. This was probably the biggest project I had ever tried to accomplish myself, and while I had a pretty decent knowledge of the whole 3D process (modelling, rigging,lighting, animation, render etc) I wasn’t quite ready for all of the work that it entailed. Constantly making bad decisions and having to take 2 steps back to fix rigs and models while in the animation phase took a toll on my confidence. There many where moments when I thought I didn’t have the skills I needed to get it finished. Thankfully tough, I have a great network of creative people around me, and I would share progress shots with them, their enthusiasm of seeing it come together is what really pushed me though to finish the film.


Matthew: What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Matt: I loved it. It was a totally new experience for me. I’ve obviously shown the film to a lot of friends and people I meet, and it is great to see their reaction as they watch the film. But having people who know about film talk about and comment on your work is something very different. The fact that the audience picked up on some of the small details about the characters & story line gives me a renewed devotion to finish up the series. 


Matthew: What is the future of The Mega Plush? You have a sequel, which we will also show at our festival later this year. How many parts are written? Have are you hoping to achieve with this pretty amazing film?

Matt: Wow, That would be great to have you play the second episode, I’d love to hear the feedback on that.

As for next steps, we have the third episode written, and I’m currently working on the animation phase of that. I’m hoping that is wrapped up sooner rather than later (hopefully in the next few months). Then we have a loose script for the 4th instalment, which needs a little work, but the general idea is there. But after that the world is our oyster, I’d love to make a comic book, maybe some video games, I basically have hundreds of ideas how I can expand the universe, but I just need time to do it all…

Outside of me just working on it there is also some kind of plan to try and make this a much bigger thing, selling it as a fully fledged TV series of film would be my absolute dream, I just need to get it to a place where we can start shopping it around.


Matthew: What film have you seen the most in your life?

Matt: Easy… Rocky III…. One of my all time favourite films, I remember watching it as a child maybe once a day at least. I love all of the rocky films, but Rocky III has always had a special place in my heart. It’s funny, in a cheesy kinda way, I think it has always helped me keep my feet on the ground, and to work as hard as I can to achieve what I want. I think a lot of films from that era (late 80’s early 90’s) especially Stallone & Schwarzenegger, have really influenced The Mega Plush story, having that exaggerated action movie style but with a plush spin is always how I imagined it.


Matthew: What is next for you? A new film?

Matt: Well, as long as people keep enjoying Mega Plush, I don’t think I can stop working on it. There is just so much to explore in that world that I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of working on it. As long as I can find a way to keep paying my bills I’ll always have time for these crazy little teddy bears.

One of the big goals I do have for the project though, is to grow a full team of people who want to work with me to get these films out quicker. Animators, writers, comic book artists, game developers, and any one else who can jump in and help I’d love to hear from, that way maybe we can push it to the next level a little quicker and give the whole world what they want… Which is MORE Mega Plush.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of THE MEGA PLUSH:


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival


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