This film is an adaptation of Jay Orff’s short story “Bear Paw.” Into the structure of Jay’s piece, I inserted some material from stories my mother and grandparents had told me. Jay’s parents and my own are all from North Dakota and so our sources of inspiration were compatible. The story seemed to demand a style that was naturalistic and evocative of the space of a western landscape. I hired Lindsey Testolin to create the environments in her fragmented collage style and animated drawn characters on top of that. I worked with shadow and highlight on the drawn characters for the first time in this film; it helped the characters inhabit the space of the environments better. For the memory sections I designed a slightly different look that evokes a woodcut or print process. I also assumed sole responsibility for the sound design and enjoyed following eccentric whims in how I approached the foley. In the memory sections I decided I would create all of my synch sound effects only with wood. I spent quite a few pleasant days speeding up and slowing down the sound of sticks breaking to create the cat screech.
One last word, about The Yellow Bird, a glorious animated short by Tom Schroeder feature in this year's edition of Sundance. The film brings together a mélange of animation styles - in fact, a series of different animators took responsibility for individual elements of the film, including one who just focused on blood. The short also makes extensive use of "rack focusing," where elements of the frame come in and out of focus as they become important to the story. Thanks to its technical ingenuity and the sheer variety of styles represented, the resulting animation looks utterly distinct. But it really is The Yellow Bird's story that's remarkable. Based on a short story called "Bear Paw" by writer Jay Orff, the tale is told in a series of (possibly hallucinated) flashbacks belonging to a young man who has accidentally shot off part of his hand. As it turns out, his past is filled with severed limbs, most belonging to small animals that have crossed his path, some injured unwittingly, some deliberately. The story is, by turns, queasy and funny in the manner of a homely folk tale. But, like the best folk tales, it is also meticulously crafted and unexpectedly gorgeous.
Max Sparber, Sparberfans Blog
'The Yellow Bird' feels like a bold shift in tone for the brilliant and underrated Tom Schroeder. Though tinged with melancholy, his previous shorts have largely been balanced with a lightness of touch that makes them amusing, joyous and warm. 'The Yellow Bird', based on a story by Jay Orff, takes things to a much darker place and consequently feels like one of Schroeder's most substantial works yet. Following the story of a farm hand in Montana who accidentally shoots himself, 'The Yellow Bird' largely takes place in the back of a horse-drawn cart as the man tries to reach Havre for medical attention. On the way, he slips in and out of consciousness and recalls images from his past, revealing several key details as to how he ended up where he is. A yellow bird flies alongside the cart, its symbolic significance gradually becoming clearer as we are fed more details. Told without dialogue, 'The Yellow Bird' is similar in visual and storytelling style to Schroeder's previous 'A Plan', although in atmosphere and colour palette it is much darker. Although he remains something of a cult animator, Schroeder's work continues to impress enormously for those who seek it out.
Andy Goulding, 1001 Animated Films You Must See