Disney dream comes true for Korean animatorPixar Animation Studios and Dreamworks SKG have dominated three-dimensional animation, riding the success of feature-length animations such as “Toy Story” and “Shrek.” Disney, however, has been relegated to distributing Pixar productions.
But the first full-fledged animated 3-D movie by Disney, “Chicken Little,” might change that. And a Korean man is partly in charge of Disney’s new challenge.
Kim Sang-jin, 46, is a lead animator, doing the primary drawings for the film that are then embellished by other artists. After the production for “Chicken Little,” which will be released in November, Mr. Kim is working on character designs for the company’s next 3-D animation project, “Rapunzel,” which will premiere in 2008.
Despite his busy schedule, Mr. Kim took time last month for an interview at Disney’s studio in Burbank near Los Angeles. Mr. Kim is developing different characters for “Rapunzel.”
“Early this year when the production for ‘Chicken Little’ was in its last stage, I was offered two very important positions ― character design chief and supervising animator ― for two different animation projects,” Mr. Kim said. “I wanted to have an opportunity to reinterpret a classic with my fingertips and chose ‘Rapunzel.’”
In the past, Disney succeeded in reworking old classics such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.” Asked why Disney picked “Rapunzel,” Mr. Kim said, “As there could be successful remakes of photographic films, the time period of the subject does not pose any problems in animation.”
Mr. Kim added that the value of these classics as subjects has been already proved, and they only need to be slightly revised. “I know that animation fans, especially Korean fans, are not fond of Disney animations any- more,” Mr. Ki said. “The story lines are self-explanatory and often cliched, revolving around the subjects of good and evil. The soundtracks are similar to one another.”
Mr. Kim said, however, that animation has been Disney’s strength for years, and the studio is well established and has the potential to change.
In the past, Mr. Kim used to work for Korean animation companies that performed contract work for foreign television shows. He moved to a Canadian TV animation company in 1989. In 1995, Mr. Kim landed an opportunity that many animators dream of ― working for Disney. Mr. Kim took part in producing animations like “Fantasia 2000” and “Tarzan.”
Recalling an incident a while ago, Mr. Kim said his first assignment at Disney was to draw Donald Duck. He worked day and night and took the drawing to his supervisor, and the supervisor said to him that finishing work quickly was not always a good thing. The supervisor also told him to bring the drawing when Mr. Kim was satisfied with it.
Although he is an animator, he did not major in art and could not enter art school because he was color blind. After graduating college, he tried to work hard in an art-related field. One day, he read an article on the animation industry and that’s when he decided to begin his career. Mr. Kim said animation is his calling.
by Ahn Hai-ri