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By Phil Hall | April 20, 2013

It is always a pleasure to call attention to talented new filmmakers, and today’s spotlight is shined on Justin Melillo, a graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts and the creator of “Kiburi,” a delightful animated short.

The title character is a wee lion cub that has become separated from his mother. The cub meows out calls that fail to generate a maternal response. Unfamiliar sights and sounds, including the rustling of tall grass and the crunching from a giraffe family dining on tree leaves, add to Kiburi’s sense of curiosity and danger. The only attention he receives comes from fuzzy insects that circle around him. But as night falls, the insects reveal themselves to be fireflies, and their glow helps to guide Kiburi to his lion pride.

The 3D animation employed in this short is richly imaginative. The gentle cub stares in wonder with big blue eyes at the purple insects flying around him, pausing only to measure his small paws against the larger lion tracks in the baked dirt.  And the flight of the fireflies in the twilight sky is a marvelous visual achievement.

“Kiburi” was created as a thesis project. If Melillo could achieve this level of work while still in school, I can’t wait to see what he can produce in the professional film world.

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