Duo with autism creates short film on “The Adventures of Pelican Pete: A Bird is Born” – w/video

PeliganPeteJacksonville, Fla. — Keaton Bicknell was diagnosed with severe autism when he was just two years old. But in less than a decade, he was able to prove his doctors wrong.

At just 11 years old, Keaton started writing a screenplay all on his own. Now at 18, he can finally say that he was able to achieve something he always dreamed of achieving.

The screenplay Keaton started working on several years ago, “The Adventures of Pelican Pete: A Bird is Born,” finally premiered at the San Diego International Children’s Film Festival at Comic-Con on July 12.

But he traveled a long road to get there.

Keaton’s short film on the “The Adventures of Pelican Pete: A Bird is Born” is based on a series of children’s book written by Frances and Hugh Keiser, who hail from the same city where the young playwright is from — St. Augustine.

It was in 2008 when Keaton told the Keisers that he wanted the film rights for “The Adventures of Pelican Pete” series. The filming of Keaton’s first-ever short film started the following year, just a few days before his 12th birthday. But after production wrapped up the film just sat in the dust for several years— until Keaton met Dani Bowman in 2011.

Dani is an animator from Los Angeles who, like Keaton, also has autism. They met at the Joey Travolta’s Summer Inclusion Film Camp at University of North Florida. Back then, Dani was a 16-year-old who was teaching animation at the summer program, while Keaton was there to improve his skills on directing. The two instantly made a connection.

But “The Adventures of Pelican Pete: A Bird is Born” remained sitting in the dust for a few more years until Keaton finally thought about reaching out to Dani for help out of frustration. She told him she could help.

Keaton’s mom, Pamela, recalled:

“He was frustrated. It was a project never completed and that’s when Dani said, ‘Well, I can help you.’”

Dani added animations to the live-action materials originally shot by Keaton. Soon after that, the short film was on its way to the Comic-Con.

The tandem is now looking forward to create short films out of other Pelican Pete stories.

Keaton and Dani have both proven that individuals with autism can be achievers despite their developmental condition. Dani started her own company, Power Light Animation Studios, at 11 years old. Keaton, on the other hand, graduated cum laude at Allen D. Nease High School’s Communications Academy, and is set to to attend Flagler College on scholarship in the fall.

Speaking about Keaton and Dani, Keaton’s sister, Samantha, said:

“It’s amazing on its own that they’re both young and going through all this and making this happen, but they’re also children with autism.”

“There’s no excuse for not going after your dreams.”

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Source: Jacksonville News  Jake Martin Autistic teen from St. Augustine sees script head to screen after a 6-year wait