Animator Katy Wang on her emotional film for poet Yrsa Daley-Ward's heartbreaking new memoir

Katy used the concept of a "dark fairytale" to promote the British poet’s new book, which explores her own painful childhood, sexuality, addiction and identity.

London-based animator Katy Wang has directed, illustrated and animated a trailer for the beautiful, heartbreaking and extremely raw memoirs of British poet, model and actor Yrsa Daley-Ward. Yrsa's book is soon to be published by Penguin, titled The Terrible.

To mark the launch of The Terrible, Katy (represented by Partizan) has created an animated visualisation of the first words of the book, outlining a moment shared between Yrsa and her younger brother 'Little Roo' when they were children growing up with a single mother in the North West of England. Check it out above. 

To understand the concept of 'The Terrible' a little more, here's how Yrsa explained it to Penguin.

"When I talk about the 'The Terrible' I am speaking to depression, anxiety, addiction and addictive behaviours, old beliefs, low self esteem, passion, loneliness, illness, impatience, being a wild, wild thing, feeling at sea. Who hasn’t entered The Terrible at some stage in their life?"

In this feature Katy discusses her work on the project with Penguin and Yrsa, including initial concepts and creative process.

Preorder The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward from Amazon now. The book will be published by Penguin for £9.99 on June 5.

"This is ultimate power; to talk about things we are encouraged to feel shameful about," Yrsa explains her second book. "This act is a reminder of this – to be of service. Words are how I love myself and everyone else.

"The book came out in lots of different forms. I made a decision pretty early on in its conception to just let it come out as it came out, not to overthink anything, not to dwell in any uncomfortable space for too long and to allow the memories to come back as detailed and as strong as they would."

Katy was approached by Penguin to create the trailer for The Terrible. 

"The extract given to me – which is the opening of the book – is quite ambiguous and is told from the perspective of Yrsa and her little brother when they were children, so the darker topics that come to surface later in the book aren’t immediately apparent in the opening," explains Katy.

"I love the whole first section told from the perspective of Yrsa as a child. The tone perfectly captures the innocence and observations that a child makes of the world around them."

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Katy creates frame-by-frame, hand-drawn animation which although she applied to this project, had to readjust her normally playful, childlike colour palette to reflect the sombre truth of Yrsa's life.

"I chose a colour palette that felt magical and dark at the same time," she says.

"I usually work with a lot more 'happy' colours in my work but because of the nature of the story, I didn’t want to create something that looked too 'fluffy' and cute. I suppose the childlike style of my drawing and the slightly fantastical nature of the visuals suited the tone of the extract, which is itself a very surreal and ambiguous start to the novel."

After listening to the audiobook extract and reading the book itself which she "absolutely loved", Katy was given an "extremely open" brief. After discussing with Sam and Yrsa, the concept of a "dark fairytale" was decided upon and kept throughout the storyboarding and designing process.

"I wanted to create visuals that had a hint of darkness, but mostly surreal and fantastical because of the innocent tone of the writing," says Katy.

"I didn’t want to humanise Linford James too much, and kept the adult’s faces quite ambiguous. The main focus is on the children and how the world looks through their eyes."

Katy began with initial drawings as thumbnails in a sketchbook to figure out compositions and aspect ratios, before sketching the best frames in Adobe Photoshop to create a rough storyboard for the client.

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"I create style frames in Photoshop to show the design and colours of the film," she says. "I also animate in Photoshop using the extension Animator's Toolbar Pro. I composite everything in After Effects and usually export from Premiere Pro."

"I wanted to create something that might entice someone to read the whole story. It’s an absolutely beautiful piece of writing."

Katy graduated in 2017 with a first class degree in Illustration Animation BA(Hons) from Kingston School of Art. Since then she’s already won awards for her ‘Mind The Gap’ animation at Tofuzi and Tindirindis.