Kobe Bryant’s animated short film, Dear Basketball, premiered Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival. Based on his poem in which he announced his retirement from the NBA, the animated short was made in collaboration with animator Glen Keane (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid), who illustrated the film. Legendary film composer John Williams (Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, among so many others) provided the score.
Following the premiere screening, Bryant and Keane sat down for a talk hosted by Michael Strahan in which they discussed what the story of the poem meant to them, knowing when it’s time to move on to new endeavors, and attempting new ventures after very successful careers.
Strahan opened the talk by joking that Bryant receiving a standing ovation from the crowd must have been “strange for Kobe, he’s not used to getting cheered in New York!” The entire one-hour conversation was streamed on Facebook Live.
The six-minute short has only been seen in its finished form at the Tribeca Film Festival. Eventually, however, Dear Basketball, will be seen on SI.com. Sports Illustrated co-produced the film along with Believe Entertainment and Bryant’s production company Kobe Studios.
Asked if it was different to illustrate a real person than a fictional character, Keane admitted that animating Kobe Bryant was far more challenging than his previous work for Disney. “Pocahontas was a real person who lived, I approached that differently than The Little Mermaid,” Keane said. “When I was drawing Kobe’s face it had to really really look like him.”
Judging by a still that was released in March, Keane rendered Kobe with pencil and paper quite well.
In a separate interview with Deadline, Bryant explained that he thought about adapting Dear Basketball into something visual. He’s a big fan of animation, ranging from Disney classics to Japanese anime, and thought the form could do a much better job of bringing his poem to life than a live-action version.
Bryant had seen a short film Keane created for Google, titled Duet, and thought its hand-drawn style would be perfect for Dear Basketball.
During the conversation with Keane and Strahan, Bryant admitted that he really enjoys writing, perhaps even “more than I did basketball.” The response to his poem was encouraging, in addition to the reinforcement he got from Keane and Williams while producing the animated short. “They believed that I could do something other than what I’ve been known to do for 20 years,” he said.