A legend gets a Hollywood-style make overThe next feature animation coming your way should easily get your attention. It’s a hodgepodge of animations from two very different worlds ― North Korea and Hollywood.
As odd as it may sound, the project made headlines seven years ago when it was first launched. But the production process has been slow, complicated by the fact that coordination with North Korea meant traveling to China first. To prepare for a meeting in Pyongyang at least five days had to be set aside ahead of time, the producers said.
North Korean animators did the sketches and drawings, while Nelson Shin, a South Korean animator and a three-time Emmy winner for his studio’s work on “The Simpsons,” is in charge of the film, filmmakers said.
Based on an ancient Korean folk tale called Simcheong-jeon (Simcheong is the name of the main female character; jeon means ‘story’ in Korean), the animated film “Empress Chung” is about a girl determined to help her blind father gain his eyesight back even if it means she has to sacrifice herself to the sea god.
In the original folk tale, the sea god, moved by her thoughtful actions, grants Simcheong her life, and she becomes an empress of a kingdom. She then meets her father, who miraculously can see again.
The original soundtrack for the film was created by a North Korean composer, Sung Dong-hwan, a member of Pyongyang’s cinema and broadcasting orchestra. South Korean producers said Director Shin introduced Hollywood production skills to the animated film. Director Shin has also been involved in projects with Warner Bros. and Marvel Comics.
The producers are now waiting for North Korea to give the OK for its release to theaters and distributors.
“The film is ready to go, and we are waiting for the result of the final negotiations Director Shin will have with Pyongyang within this month,” said Choi Eun-yeong, who is with Yeonghwain, the film’s promotion company in the South.
Their North Korean counterparts had already said that the film will be shown at the Pyongyang International Cinema House, a major movie theater in the capital city.
But the film is currently being redubbed in the North so the voices of the animated characters will have North Korean accents (The version released in the South will feature characters with South Korean accents).
The redubbing process is expected to be completed by August, also the time the South Korean distributors are hoping to release the film.
Ms. Choi said Director Shin and his crew have been hoping for a long time that “Empress Chung” will get a simultaneous release in both South and North Korea.
“If this works out, this is going to be the first time that the North and South release a co-produced movie at the same time,” she said.
Aside from the South Korean producer’s hope that “Empress Chung” may tug the heartstrings of many pro-unification groups, the producers said they are confident the movie will be good.
The movie already won a special prize in 2003 at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France, the world’s most prestigious animation festival.
It also won the Grand Prix in 2004 at the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival.
by Lee Min-a