Though Unfinished, 'Mari' Appears the Complete Package

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Though Unfinished, 'Mari' Appears the Complete Package

Several feature-length Korean animated films currently in production are aiming for high-profile releases at movie theaters. They include "Princess Bari," "Wonderful Days" and "My Wonderful Girl, Mari."

"My Wonderful Girl, Mari" ("Mari-iyagi") is due for release at the end of the year and is about three-quarters through production. Recently, the film production company Siz Entertainment held an "interim preview" of some of the work done thus far, along with a film about the making of the cartoon.

Directed by Lee Sung-gang, "My Wonderful Girl, Mari" has attracted much attention since the early stages of planning. This is largely due to the fame of the director, who is considered one of the best of the nation's short film creators.

Mr. Lee was the first in Korea to make the final round of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in 1988 for his "Ashes in the Thicket," which used computer graphics. He also participated in producing "Nudlnude 2," an animated film based on a hit cartoon by Yang Young-soon. The works he has created so far - such as "Lovers," "Umbrella" and "Little Moon," among others - have won him acclaim for his ability to represent profound, philosophical themes in a digestible, attractive visual format.

In this film, Mr. Lee explained at the preview, "I wanted to deliver the message that precious memories from childhood can inspire us even much later on in life to face hardships or difficulties head on."

"My Wonderful Girl, Mari" explores such universal themes as love, memory and dreams. One day, Namwoo, a boy who lives in a seaside village, meets a mysterious girl named Mari at a lighthouse. Together, they experience a world of fantasy, and encounter various plants and animals that seem to be capable of reading the human mind.

On screen, the characters come alive and Mr. Lee deserves good marks for the quality of the picture. Remarkable techniques were used in the film to combine two-dimensional and three-dimensional effects. Production centered on 3D effects, but these were retouched using a 2D process to reduce any cold, stiff visual impressions. For this process alone, eight different software packages from different fields such as animation, design and computer graphics were used.

"My Wonderful Girl, Mari" also has great quality of color. To get the right colors for the fantasy work, Mr. Lee created pastel tones that were not listed under any color chart. He finished the colors for the film neatly by selecting an ash gray color as a base color and using it to finish and tone the other colors.

Lee Byeong-woo, a pop music composer, arranger and guitarist, returned to Korea from Germany to direct the music for the film.

Lighting effects, often neglected in animated films, were created with special care. The intention was to imbue the film with colors that express a feeling - a bit like the way color is used in French impressionistic paintings.

Since "My Wonderful Girl, Mari" was first planned in late 1988, it has gained the attention of some internationally known European distribution companies including Canal Plus and Celluloid Dreams.

Korean animation industry watchers are doubtless interested in whether the film can overcome the chronic problems of Korean animation such as insufficient planning and unsatisfactory quality.

by Ki Sun-min

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