ShortList 2015: Animated ‘Bear Story’ Tells Dark, Personal, Political Tale

In Gabriel Osorio’s short, a bear is a stand-in for his grandfather during the bloody Pinochet regime in Chile

Bear Story

Gabriel Osorio’s short film “Bear Story” is an ingenious, dazzling piece of 3D animation, the sad story of a lonesome bear who builds an elaborate mechanical diorama in an attempt to remember (and perhaps recover) the life he used to live with his wife and son, before he was ripped from his home and sent to a circus.

But audiences in Osorio’s native Chile immediately know that it’s more than that — it’s also an allegory for the way families were torn apart during the murderous Pinochet regime in Chile in the 1970s.

“The idea was mainly inspired by the story of my grandfather,” said Osorio, one of the finalists in TheWrap’s ShortList Film Festival. “He was exiled from Chile in the ’70s and spent 10 years in England — I knew that I had a grandfather, but I didn’t meet him when I was a kid.”

Osorio made the main character a bear in part because he remembered his grandfather being physically imposing.

“I felt like the story shouldn’t be too literal,” he said. “But it’s very clear to audiences in Chile what it’s really about. And it’s interesting that in countries that have similar stories, like Russia, they make a connection to their own stories.”

Gabriel OsorioIt took a team of animators at Punkrobot, a Chilean animation company founded by Osorio and two friends, two years of steady work to make “Bear Story” — but those two years were spread out over about five years in total, interrupted by other projects the company is working on.

Punkrobot currently has two animated series on Netflix in Latin America, but the company is exploring options to dub the shows into English and bring them to the American market.

“For me, the biggest challenge with everything I do is to tell the story in a way that can be entertaining, and at the same time get across the message I want,” he said. “You never want to be too obvious, and you always want to do it in an interesting way.”