No. 2 to Kettering: School bus memory inspires Disney film

No. 2 to Kettering: School bus memory inspires Disney film

A woman who has made a new Disney cartoon says the idea for her film came from when a stranger smiled at her on a bus, back when she was 13.

No. 2 to Kettering was made by Liza Rhea, who is from Northampton and joined the animation giant in 2017.

Her film was released as part of the Short Circuit series of animations on the streaming service Disney Plus.

The animator said: “I’m always thinking of the things which would be a really good basis for a story.”

The film tells the story of a young girl who gets on a bus in a good mood, but the colour drains from her after some less than friendly interactions with passengers.

The colour returns to her after she makes another passenger on the bus to Kettering laugh.

Mrs Rhea said: “I used to get the number two bus to school every day and I would be in my own little bubble.

“One day someone exiting the bus caught my eye and smiled at me, and my immediate reaction was ‘oh no, what do you want? Don’t smile at me’.

“Then I realised they didn’t want anything, they just wanted to pay forward some happiness.”

‘The smiler’

She said after that interaction she began to smile at people on her bus journey.

“The bus drivers called me ‘the smiler’ and even when I go home and see my mum in Northampton we’d get on the bus and they’ll say ‘hey it’s the smiler,'” she said.

Mrs Rhea said it was later in a meeting she remembered the smile from the passenger, and her smiling at other bus riders, and thought she could “tell that story using colour to convey emotion”.

“It was a bubble of inspiration,” she added.

The art director on the film, Dave Wormsley, is from London so was able to work with Mrs Rhea on “tiny details like the bells and handrails and the fabrics and chairs”, she said.

Mrs Rhea said the concept did take some explaining to some of her other colleagues, because “a lot of people in Los Angeles have their own cars, so they don’t have that interaction with public transport”.

She added: “But I think they got how people can be when you are walking past people in the street, how we can be in our head and how a smile can brighten your day.”

Mrs Rhea studied design at the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts (LIPA) but in her mid-twenties decided she wanted to work in animation and went to study at the University of California, Los Angeles Animation Workshop.

“I grew up in a single parent household on a council estate but my mum and my brother were super supportive,” she said.

She said meeting someone in California who knows where Northampton is was “like [finding] a unicorn”, but was hopeful her animation would help put her hometown on the map.

“It might be overlooked, but it’s a great place,” she said.

Source: Pete Cooper/BBC News

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