One morning in early February, three Seattle Times journalists crowded into the bedroom of a Seattle teenager who had agreed to share her story about struggling with anorexia.

Reporter Hannah Furfaro pulled out a list of prepared questions. Video journalist Lauren Frohne set up audio recording equipment on the teen’s bed. Jennifer Luxton, an artist and animator, soaked in everything she saw. 

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Behind the animation: How a Seattle Times artist brought the emotional experience of an eating disorder to life

The three of us had teamed up in hopes of documenting the emotional toll of living with an eating disorder — and the lengths it took to finally get care. As part of our reporting, we’d decided to create an animated film.

Medin, the teenager, hugged a favorite Hello Kitty pillow to her chest, then dove in.

As we listened, Jennifer took note of the Sanrio collectibles and other Japanese-influenced figurines on the teen’s side tables. Then, Medin showed us her sketchbooks. Anime-influenced figures with large eyes and babydoll faces were mixed with more realistic representations of feminine bodies, Jennifer realized.  


“I found that juxtaposition really interesting in that you’ve got this young naiveté in the faces, but these adult bodies. The awareness of being between the two of them really struck me.”

Other sketches depicted ghostly figures — imagery that heavily influenced Jennifer as she began to draft and storyboard for the film. 

“I didn’t want to project a particular type of body being who experiences this,” Jennifer said. “This is something that could happen to anybody.” 

Read on to learn more about Jennifer’s influences and the other artistic choices behind the animated film, ‘Not Sick Enough: A teen’s story of finding treatment for an eating disorder.’

What drew you to this reporting project?

I really jumped at the opportunity to illustrate such a personal story. Part of the struggle I heard Medin share was the invisibility of her experience. My goal in this was to visualize that in a way that helps readers see what she was going through.

Medin, who The Seattle Times is referring to by her middle name to protect her privacy, talks about how emotionally and psychologically difficult it is to have an eating disorder. What artistic choices did you make to illustrate the emotions she was feeling? 


When we first started, I wasn’t sure where to draw visual inspiration from for this first-person experience. But when she opened her sketchbook for us, there was a trove of ideas and patterns and very personal conversations with herself that really visualized her pain. 

She described working in her book, late into the night to help her sleep. It was really incredible that those sketches were made right in the moment of her experience. I felt really fortunate to have that resource as a North Star through the development process. 

What else influenced your artwork?

I was inspired by risograph printing, which is a retro image reproduction process that’s got inherently imperfect results. In the real technique — which I didn’t actually use here since everything was digitally animated — the smears and streaks of color that come out of the machine make each image unique … with flaws that can lead to serendipitous but inconsistent results. That shifting of image seems like a good visual metaphor for body dysmorphia.

I drew from a youthful, trend-forward color scheme designed for digital media, which is something I don’t often get to prioritize in newsprint. These really vibrant screen-oriented shades are very much the native language of the younger generation today.

I used color that moved the animation from a neutral blue, which I think evokes sadness and deep emotion, to a dark navy as she took us into the depths of her experience. Jolts of neon pink and yellow spoke to the anxiety and shock of not being considered sick enough to receive care. 

What challenges did you face as you thought through how to sensitively portray the illustrated bodies in the film?


Within this whole thing, I was struck by the difference between perception and reality. And I wanted to keep it abstract. I didn’t want to project an image of what the body experiencing this might look like, in a “body image” kind of sense.

I was looking at the proportions that Medin had sketched out which show these long, stringy figures. Maintaining that looseness in my own drawings allowed me to manipulate them in the animation in a way that drawing realistic bodies wouldn’t. 

What goes into creating an animated film?

We interviewed Medin in her home and recorded the audio of her story. 

Then Lauren shared a script that I broke into sections. I sketched out visuals for each chunk of the story, drawing loose reference from Medin’s sketches, and designed how those scenes could be animated. 

From there, I used the graphics editing program Procreate to draw each frame. Then I brought those drawings into After Effects to string them together and layer in the color and texture. I kept the style loose and sketchy.

Lauren did a great job boiling down the interview into the emotional experience Medin had. And the music that Lauren used is so evocative. That really helped me figure out how to animate some of these things.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Medin’s vulnerability — from all of us piled into her bedroom with all of her personal effects around, her being willing to share her poetry, her sketchbook, her experience. Talking about the different ways she coped with this, I think was also very vulnerable of her to share with us. 

For someone so young to have that kind of emotional intelligence was really striking.