Banner for Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

The story of a missing hiker, an isolated park ranger, unforgettable memories, and some ghostly mischief.


Watch Episodes

Tag along with Willow and Ernest on their adventures and find updates on upcoming release dates.

Coming Soon!

Ernest and Willow watching the clouds.

A picture showing a map of Sunset Valley in Ernest's office.

Explore

Learn about the Starlight Mountains, Sunset Valley, and the characters that inhabit the region.


Behind the Scenes

Take a look at the production of the show, the people involved, and some key information.

A GIF showing Ernest lipsync animation (sped up).

A GIF showing Willow holding a mysterious coin.

Support

Help the show and get access to more behind the scenes content, process work, and other insider info!


FCS Shop

Find merch from Where's Willow and other Firefly City Stories projects!

A screenshot of part of the Firefly City Stories official merch online shop.

Episodes


Fire lookout tower 22 from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story

Check out each episode of Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story below, and look out for updates on upcoming releases!Note: This show can include flashing lights, loud noises, and discussions of mental health, loss, and wilderness survival. It is intended for young adult audiences and older. I recommend watching with headphones.


Episode One: The Missing Hiker

Coming Soon!


Extra Shorts

This playlist consists of supplementary shorts for the Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story series. These shorts are nonlinear and do not have any significant bearing on the plot of the main series. They do, however, help explore some of the other adventures and mishaps that characters of the show experience.Some shorts are comedic, some informational, and some simply serve to provide extra trivia about the world of Firefly City and the Starlight Mountains.

Coming Soon!


Official Soundtrack

All music for Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story is composed and performed by Mitch Ran (that's me!). If you'd like to listen to the music of the series separately, you can do so on the following platforms.(If you don't see the streaming platform you use below it might still be on there. My music distributor connects to 30-something platforms (as far as I can tell) by default. I just linked the ones I could actually find myself lol).


about the show


Banner for Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story

Where’s Willow? - A Firefly City Story is an animated cartoon series about the ghost of a missing hiker who roams the wilderness of a vast national park. When she crosses paths with an isolated park ranger who blames himself for her demise, the two embark on a journey of adventure, understanding, and mischief that will guide them both through some of life’s greatest challenges… and beyond.This show is intended for older, more mature audiences due to the fact that it covers topics likely to be more relatable to those with a little more life experience. Topics mentioned include mental health, loss, and wilderness survival. The show may include flashing lights and loud noises.


Starlight Mountains National Park and Preserve

A map of the Sunset Valley region of the (fictional) Starlight Mountains National Park and Preserve.

"The Sunset Valley region of the Starlight Mountains National Park and Preserve is home to an extensive array of mountains, ponds, lakes, woodlands, and other natural wonders. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking along the region's many trails, as well as camping, lodging, rock climbing, rafting, canoeing, and other activities. With so many opportunities to explore, Sunset Valley is an adventurer's paradise."The Starlight Mountains National Park and Preserve (SMNP) is a large national park in the Commonwealth of Aurora (COA). As one of the largest parks in the country, it is divided into several sections, such as the Sunset Valley region (which is the focus in this show).Sunset Valley, which lies between branches of the mountains and counts as a section of the SMNP, is a heavily-forested region with an alpine climate and numerous bodies of water. While most of the region is left to remain a rugged mountain wilderness, the small town that shares the valley's name acts as a hub for most locals to live, work, and socialize.Fun fact: The map was one of the first pieces of artwork I made for the show. It really helped guide the writing process. It took about a week to make all on its own. The hardest part was figuring out how to show dimension in the landscape.


The Residents of Sunset Valley

Willow Brooks

A picture of Willow from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

Willow is a Firefly City University student who disappeared mysteriously during an end-of-summer hiking trip in the Starlight Mountains. Returning to the park as a ghost, she wanders the wilderness searching for a place to call home– and a friend to share it with.Despite her unpleasant situation, Willow has grown used to her spectral state, and is content to stay in this form for as long as she can. Though cut off from her past, her dreams, and even the ability to speak to the living, Willow will go to great lengths to avoid giving up what little she has left, and has grown quite adept at doing so.


Ranger Ernest Green

A picture of Ranger Ernest Green from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

Voiced by: Mitch Ran

Ernest is a new interpretive ranger (park nature guide) in the Starlight Mountains National Park. Despite dreaming of a career as a park ranger his whole life and preparing accordingly for the job throughout his childhood, adolescence, and up to his recent graduation from college in Firefly City, he still finds himself out of his element in the new position.With the sudden shock of Willow's disappearance after only one week of his new job –a tragedy that hits closer to home for him than many realize– he is left questioning his abilities even months later. When considering this in combination with ongoing disapproval from the locals, he often wonders whether he even belongs in Sunset Valley at all.


Chief Ranger Andrea Carter

A picture of Ranger Andrea Carter from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

Andrea is the Chief Ranger of the Starlight Mountains Sunset Valley region. Effectively Ernest's supervisor, she is one of the few locals sympathetic to his situation.Known for her achievements in rock climbing and mountaineering on local peaks, Andrea is well-respected in Sunset Valley for her management of the park throughout her established career. She has knowledge of much of the park's history, hazards, and protocols, and is always willing to offer advice, guidance, and information.


Reggie Branta

A picture of Reggie Branta from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

Reggie is a local resident of Sunset Valley who enjoys hiking, camping, and bushcraft, especially when he gets to do these things with his friends Gina and Bert.Due to his fondness for outdoor activities and his desire to keep the area the same as it has always been for locals, Reggie sees the policies of the park as out-of-touch government interference. With the disappearance of Willow and many subsequent rule changes, he sees Ernest as the focal point of many of these problems and makes no effort to hide his opinions.


Gina Lepo

A picture of Gina Lepo from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

Gina is a Sunset Valley local who enjoys exploring the region to see and document its natural wonders through photography and writing. She can often be found at one of the more scenic local spots, taking in the views and listening to music.Like her friends Bert and Reggie, Gina feels that the park's staff seems to focus on the wrong priorities, causing problems for locals while inadequately managing the local environment.


Bert Arctos

A picture of Bert Arctos from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

Bert is a resident of Sunset Valley and a fan of fishing in local streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. He enjoys cooking and grilling what he catches and sharing with his friends. He'll never turn down a good book, either, especially if he can find a quiet spot to sit down and read a chapter or two.As another local dissatisfied with park management, Bert often backs his friends Reggie and Gina when confronting the annoyances that the SMNP offices create.


Governor Richard Bailey

A picture of Governor Richard Bailey from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

Voiced by: Mitch Ran

Governor Richard "Rick" Bailey is the political overseer of the Commonwealth of Aurora, which includes Firefly City and the Starlight Mountains, among several other places. His self-stated mission is to increase the quality of life in all areas of the Commonwealth, and anything that goes against that mission must be changed, hidden, or stopped.


Willow's Grandma

A picture of Governor Richard Bailey from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

In life, Willow was raised by her grandmother until she went to college. Her house was a place of comfort and refuge from the stresses Willow experienced. Grandma always had an encouraging word, and though Willow was often busy with her art studies, she tried to visit her grandparent as often as possible.


Sam Conley

A picture of Sam Conley from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

Sam is a young Sunset Valley resident who enjoys exploring the local wilderness and going on adventures with her friend Mack.Always seeking to be prepared for any outdoor activities she and Mack may face, Sam is often the one to check guides, study the landscape, and learn key information. Despite all of these efforts, there always seems to be something unexpected that happens along the way.You can read about Sam's adventures later in life in the Bluefire Books - A Firefly City Story comic series!


Mack Blaire

A picture of Mack Blair from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

Voiced by: Mitch Ran

Mack is a long-term visitor from Firefly City who spends his high school summers in the Sunset Valley with Sam.Though he certainly doesn't enjoy being isolated in the wilderness, he greatly prefers it to the alternatives he has back home— namely being around his uncaring family. Adventures with Sam are a welcome escape, but his lack of outdoor experience often causes problems, some of which can be quite dangerous.You can get a look at Mack's life a few years later when he goes to Firefly City University in the Bluefire Books - A Firefly City Story comic series!


Other Voices

Radio Storyteller and TV Documentary Narrator: Mitch Ran


Park Trail Cameras

Want to see some views of the park for yourself? Check out some of these live feeds from fire lookout cameras and other notable trail points! Please note that due to extreme distances they make take a while* to load...

Fire Lookout Tower 22

A camera feed GIF of Tower 22 from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

The view from the north-facing fire lookout camera on the Starlight Mountains National Park's tower #22.

Halo River Crossing - Whirlpool Ridge

A camera feed GIF of the Halo River from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

The view from one of the cameras at a crossing of the Halo River near Whirlpool Ridge. This view faces northeast. Please excuse the support pole in the foreground; the camera is being refitted.

Forever Falls

A camera feed GIF of the Forever Falls from Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story.

View from a camera facing west towards the scenic Forever Falls along the park's Scintilla River, near Filament Peak. Camera may be dirty due to water vapor.

*Forever; these are gifs. GET PRANKED lol.

Behind the Scenes


Want to get some insight into the production pipeline for Where's Willow? Here's a quick rundown of the not-so-quick process!I've done my best to list all of the software and equipment I use for those who may want to get into this kind of animation themselves; none of this is sponsored, just trying to be helpful. Many of these things can be used for free, or are one-time purchases. Great for solo animators with limited budget, like myself.You can see even more behind-the-scenes process screenshots, recordings, notes, and more on the Firefly City Stories Patreon page!

If you'd instead like to help with a one-time donation or tip, check out the FCS Ko-Fi page!

Any support on these sites helps fund the creation of Where's Willow? and other FCS content!


Writing

Screenshot of the storyboard and script for part of the Where's Willow intro theme. Created by Mitch Ran.

Where's Willow? and all other Firefly City Stories content, is a story formed from abstractions of my personal experiences and thoughts that I try to present in a meaningful and interesting way.When writing, I usually start in Notion so that I can organize ideas and insert images easily. As I do the writing and artwork myself, I often continually develop the artwork and script simultanously after their initial drafts, resulting in my version of a storyboard. Rather than rough sketches, the artwork is usually near-complete, and character rigs are simply staged within the pieces. I eventually transfer scripts over to a slightly more standardized form using Google Docs.When jotting down quick ideas and notes, I often use a private Discord server (with just myself in it) which is quickly and easily accessible.Shown above: (Left): The storyboard/script combination for the intro and theme song. The script is written first, which guides the artwork, which guides edits to the script, and so on. It's more efficient for me as a solo creator to put them together in one document. (Right): A page of a cleaned-up script for the first episode, but still merged with a storyboard. This is useful for showing to others if necessary.


Artwork

I make all artwork in vector form, starting with basic shapes and then adding details, textures, and organized layers to create more immersive scenes. Since I work in vector, I can adjust the shapes, colors, proportions, and so on of my creations and use them over again as needed. This lets me save time and keep the originality, legitimacy, and consistency of my work.To make my artwork, I use Affinity Designer to create almost everything, and Krita for the rest.Shown above: (Upper): A screenshot sequence of artwork for the redecorated Tower 22. I often start with a list of what I want to make and then make decisions as I go (you can see some of the yellow text ideas get removed, replaced, or changed). Art creation is by far the most time-consuming part of production. (Lower): A screenshot sequence of the Skylight Lodge and parking lot, where a crowd scene occurs. I start with basic shapes, then add shading, gradients, textures, and other shadows for depth and dimension.


Characters and Animation

Screen recording of Willow walk cycle animation and keyframes. Created by Mitch Ran.
Screen recording of Ernest mouth sync animation and keyframes. Created by Mitch Ran.

I create and use 2D puppet rigs, one of the five types of animation, which involves slicing characters into pieces (arms, legs, body, facial features, and so on) and rigging them to be moveable and poseable (with keyframes). I create my character designs in the same way as all of my other art.My main animation software is OpenToonz (through Tahoma2D), although I also sometimes use Moho Studio Pro.Shown above: (Upper): A walk cycle setup for ghost Willow. Each white dot is a keyframe for a different body part. Green meshes allow the rig to bend using (unseen in the gif) bones. (Lower): A screen recording of Ernest mouth sync animation and keyframes. Each set of manually-placed frames is a different mouth shape relating to a speech sound. I tend to work with a vertical frame sheet due to personal preference; it's like a rhythm game.


Music, Voice Acting, and Sound Effects

Screenshot of the FL Studio playlist for one version of the Where's Willow intro theme song, along with Mitch's microphone setup. Created by Mitch Ran.

Music production has always been a hobby of mine. I try to focus on repeating motifs and sounds while also allowing for versatility to suit different moods. All music is made in FL Studio. You can find the OST's to the show down below, as well as on most other music streaming platforms!For voice acting, I voice several characters myself as this is by far the most expensive (but also most fun) part of production. For characters that I cannot voice or need more variation with, I look for voice talent, usually through Casting Call Club.I record using a Rode NT1 5th-generation condenser microphone, although sometimes I also use a Samson Q2U dynamic microphone or even a Fifine K670B condenser mic. I process sounds through a Focusrite Scarlett Solo using Audacity (v2.4.2), and add pitch, reverb, and cleanup effects in FL Studio and Davinci Resolve. To monitor audio, I use a pair of Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro 80Ω headphones, with a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M20x's as a backup.Shown above: (Left): Part of the arrangement for one variation of the show intro theme. (Right): One variation of my microphone setup (although I had to take some stuff out to capture the whole room). I record in a variety of spots throughout my house (and sometimes with different microphones) to get different sounds and reverberations.


Editing and Compiling

Screenshot of the editor timeline in Davinci Resolve for Where's Willow Episode 1. Created by Mitch Ran.

Editing videos together is the final stage of the production process where all of the animations, sounds, music, and voice acting come together to create a completed project. I manage clip and sound transitions, compositing, audio equalization, and any remaining audio and visual effects at this point.For editing videos together, I use Davinci Resolve.Shown above: Part of the editor timeline for Episode 1: The Missing Hiker.


Key Information

  • I make Where's Willow? - A Firefly City Story with limited resources, but I hope that you enjoy my work and have a meaningful experience.

  • I do not use generative artificial intelligence (gen AI) in any of my work whatsoever under any circumstance for ethical and professional reasons. Doing so would defeat the purpose of me working on Firefly City Stories in the first place and contradict everything I stand for.

  • Firefly City Stories is largely a solo project at the moment, with the exception of voice acting in animations. This may change someday, but it will be announced if so. If there is a need for more people in FCS, it will be shared on social media and relevant casting websites.

  • Events, characters, places, and entities in this story are fictional abstractions. Any relation to real events, characters, places, or entities is coincidental only.


Mitch Ran

Mitch Ran profile image.

Hi! My name is Mitch Ran, and I’m a graphic designer, 2D rig animator, and comic artist from the Cincinnati, Ohio area. My other pastimes include creative writing, music production, voice acting, photography, and scenery artwork.Before working on Firefly City Stories, my main creative project has been WebCanids comics, a gag-based comic featuring canids such as foxes, wolves, and coyotes in cute and funny adventures. I still create this comic alongside FCS, and share new ones every week! I have also made several fan animations for video games that I enjoy on my old fan art channel.This show is the animated half of my current FCS-related work (the non-animated half is Bluefire Books - A Firefly City Story). The two stories occur in the same universe, but at different times (Where’s Willow? occurs a few years before Bluefire Books).