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The Story Behind “Can’t Beat Me”

When you watch something you like, do you ever wonder how people were able to arrive at that specific story? I always did. That’s why I wrote this behind the scenes of how everything shaped up to eventually become “Can’t Beat Me”.

The idea initially came from the women of MOWE during a briefing discussion, back in March 2019, of what could be done to celebrate International Women’s Day. The idea was great but too close to the deadline we had of March 8th, so we decided to make it a personal project.

Defining the story

The boxing idea started as a desire our illustrator had of working in an action piece, with lots of movements and cameras. Also, we all considered it would be nice to portray women in a sport usually associated with men.

still image from the animation called Can't Beat Me. It shows two people fighting in a boxing rink
A fight that happens inside the ring, between her and her own fears

During our first brainstorming, our producer brought up the issue of having women fighting each other and the impact it could have on our message. Since we wanted to show the women’s strength and not the competition between them, this led to a more significant discussion on what was the central message of the story.

After many conversations, our final briefing for the script was:

  • The video had to be short, between 30 seconds and 1 minute.
  • It should be done mostly using cel animation so we could play with all the possibilities the technique allowed us.
  • Our objective was to show that women are stronger than society usually portrays them to be.
  • Women couldn’t fight each other during the story.
  • We wanted to showcase the arousal and disbelief common to women on a daily basis.
  • The character had to feel real and authentic — both her character design and her actions.
  • She couldn’t be a superwoman because she’s human, she had to go through ups and downs like everyone else.

Since the initial idea was from our illustrator, she grabbed the team’s briefing and came back with a story around 2:30 minutes. Great! We had something… but it was too long. That’s when I started to work on the project, to understand how we could fit the most important things from the script draft into the final one.

I started to rewrite a few segments to understand how things could be chopped into smaller parallel events and how we could play with the flashbacks — which had been a central point of the story since its origin.

In terms of art and creative direction, those four completely different references were what impacted the shape of the story as it is today.

Ping-Pong Animation Tatsunoko
Shudo by Gobelins
Mob Psycho by One
Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse by Sony Pictures Animation

Creating a character that feels natural.

We didn’t want the character to fit a beauty standard, but we all knew she had to be slightly muscular due to her constant training. Also, we want to make sure that the details were adding up well, so we made sure that the character was using the right clothes, the right equipment, and doing the right movements. Oh! She even has cauliflower ears, which is a deformity caused by constant trauma on the area due to punches.

illustration for the animation about boxing called Can't Beat Me. It shows some character design options
Initial studies related to the character’s body shape
illustration for the animation about boxing called Can't Beat Me. It shows some character design options
Facial expression studies
character design sheet from the animation about boxing called Can't Beat Me. It shows some character design options
illustration for the animation about boxing called Can't Beat Me. It shows the final character design
Early sketches of the character and the final version we decided to move forward.

Defining events, timelines and emotions

One of the solutions used to fit the script in the duration we were aiming was using panels to represent different moments attached to the same environment, emotion, or event of her life.

This allowed the creation of complex scenes and the build-up of emotions, using the removal or addition of new frames as a tool, according to the music and the natural rhythm of the video.

The colors also played a big part in the video. We wanted this story to feel raw and honest, the black and white version of a story common to many women. The red color helped both as a highlight on complex scenes that had many different elements and as a tool to create deep and heavy atmospheres when needed. The two flashbacks of pain and suffering that she goes through during the story bring an emotional attachment that is too strong not to be felt by the viewer.

Creating an atmosphere with Sound Design

The Sound Design is the final ingredient for every story and it couldn’t be different for this one. We wanted the experience to sound empowering but at the same time, raw and sensible. Based on that, we decided to utilize the Sound Design in a non-diegetic way, as an integral part of the music. Each sound evolves to become part of the music, and each repetition connects it to the daily grind that our character has to endure.

illustration for the animation about boxing called Can't Beat Me. It shows the main character receiving a punch in the face
Frame from the initial stage of the Frame-by-Frame Animation

In the end, this is not about boxing

When she’s in the ring, she’s fighting her own fears and society, who feeds women daily with fear and judgment in an attempt to make less of them and their dreams. At the end of the day, she fights a monster and when she wins, she’s proving to the entire world that she’s bigger and stronger than any obstacle.

All the details of this video are intended to spark a fire in our belly, incite a reflection, and show to the whole world that women fight, every day, way harder than anyone can imagine.

The dedication and passion of our character showcase the strength required to fuel her perseverance, and the strength achieved as a result of this daily battle.

A woman’s real weapon is not her fists; it’s her mind and her heart.

To all the amazing women in this world. With ♥️ from MOWE Studio.

Special afterword: Surprisingly, it all tied together with something we wanted to do for many years. It has always been a personal goal of our studio to create a short film of an original story. This project checked all the boxes laid out a long time ago, allowing us to explore new ways of storytelling. We couldn’t be happier with the result and the team involved.

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Raff Marques
Raff Marques
Co-founder & Creative Director at MOWE Studio

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