The Ultimate Relatable Web Series

Life in your 20’s is a sick, sad world. Sometimes it helps just to see it in candy colors. It’s hard not to be intrigued by a show with that solemnly sarcastic truth in its official description. Heeldraggers, the web series created by Brooklyn artist Emily C. Bernstein, is a semi-autobiographical account of transitioning into adulthood. The coming-of-age animated series focuses on relatable struggles–bad dates, paying rent, and other adult things–shown through charming animation. The series is for “people who are really taking their time growing up, aka dragging their heels towards ‘adulthood,’ whatever that means,” creator Bernstein explained. “They’re trying to reconcile the important but boring voice of their inner adult with the spirit and curiosity of their inner child.”

According to Bernstein, we are all ‘heeldraggers,’ dreading the future to an extent. “Growing up is not really something we’re told to be excited about so we avoid it and find ways to stay dumb kids,” Bernstein mused. “You don’t always drag your heels because you’re lazy or boring or young and entitled. In fact, you usually drag them because you care a little too much about the thing you’re moving towards.”

Bernstein was inspired to chronicle her experience after graduating from Wesleyan College in 2014. While most of her friends were living in New York City, Bernstein was living with her parents in a suburban town. “I was like ‘I need to find a way to move out of my high school bedroom but also do what I love otherwise I’ll just be miserable in the city instead of being miserable in my parents’ house,'” Bernstein said. “So I channelled my angst, my humor, and just about everything else into some really sad diary comics.”

Production house End Cue discovered Bernstein’s work, and contributed development financing to produce the five sample webisodes, ranging from five to seven minutes long. “We had seen her comic work, but she taught herself to animate, direct, edit, and even do a decent amount of the voice acting for this project. She was incredibly adaptive moving from the page to the screen and the result is something that is distinctively her voice,”  End Cue principal and founder Andrew Kortschak said. “Through this project, we’ve been able to experiment with animation while continuing to invest in and empower rising, motivated talent like Emily. We’re proud to support a self-proclaimed ‘heeldragger’ grow her talent without sacrificing the magic of her creative integrity.”

A scene from the premiere episode “Barmageddon.”
Bernstein credits End Cue for her project to stay true to its original concept. “They’ve been so committed to bringing my vision to life, and I don’t think this show would be what it is with any other production company behind it,” Bernstein admitted.
The talented and versatile Bernstein wrote, directed, designed, and lead animated Heeldraggers. “We had a really small team for this project on account of my being a control freak,” Bernstein joked. “I wanted complete creative control and an opportunity to learn to animate.” Assistant animator Alex Krokus (“my hero” as Bernstein  credits), music scorer and vocal recorder Adam Gunther, and sound effect artist James Deangelis rounded out Bernstein’s “dream team” for Heeldraggers. 
Yet Bernstein’s passions don’t quite stop at the animated webisodes. “I would love to develop Heeldraggers into a 22-minute animated sitcom. I see big things for this world and it’s characters,” Bernstein said. In the meantime, she is working on a graphic novel about a prescribed cure for heartache paints, pitching her other comic series “The Hex” about a “depressed duck who sells mattresses, a bunny with adult braces, and a sentient pickle who works in customer service” as an animated program, and painting “sexy food” stills. Classic Brooklynite.
But Heeldraggers will always represent her ongoing venture of self-discovery. “[The show] is all about becoming more yourself and finding strength and inspiration in that,” Bernstein said. “That’s the real, long term project I’ll always be working on.”
Heeldraggers is available now on Youtube.