[FOUNTAIN]Dream on, Korean animators

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[FOUNTAIN]Dream on, Korean animators

A prehistoric painting on the walls of the Altamira Cave in northern Spain portrays a wild boar with eight legs. The Magdalenian people, who are presumed to have made the painting, are thought to have depicted their dreams of hunting as they huddled in the cave starving. The numerous legs portray the boar fleeing. Some experts refer to the boar painting as the first animation.

Walt Disney pioneered feature film-length animation. In 1928, he produced "Steamboat Willie," the first animation with synchronized sound, which featured Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse also starred in the first Technicolor animation in 1935. Disney produced the first feature-length animation, "Snow White," in 1937. The huge success of Snow White enabled Disney to pay off his debts and proved that animations can be box-office jackpots.

The Walt Disney Studio still leads the industry with new ideas more than 30 years after its founder Walt Disney passed away. The studio produced the first 3D animation, "Toy Story," with Pixar, a computer graphics company in 1995.

Japan also boasts a strong animation industry, second only to the United States. Osamu Tezuka's 1963 animation series "Astro Boy," featuring a human cyborg, is regarded as one of the driving forces that perked up the self-respect of the Japanese after their devastating defeat in World War II.

Recently, games and animation tie-ins for Pocket Monster have resulted in trillions of won in sales all over the world. Hayao Miyazaki's 2001 animation "Spirited Away" received the Golden Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film has been seen by 240 million Japanese viewers since its opening last year.

Mr. Miyazaki thanked Koreans last year during a visit here. He was referring to Korean investors who have financially supported the production of his animation. Mr. Miyazaki also praised the Korean animation industry, saying that its accumulated know-how was "world class."

A Korean feature animation, "My Beautiful Girl Mari," directed by Lee Seong-gang, proved that Mr. Miyazaki's remark was not just flattery. It won the Grand Prize at this year's Annecy International Animation Festival. Animations are considered one of the most profitable cultural industries of the 21st century. Koreans are showing world-class prowess in producing animations. The dreams of Koreans may lead them to develop a priceless heritage, just as the dreams of the cavemen at Altamira.

The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Oh Byung-sang

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