Director wins award for 1st 3-D animationIn the mid 1970s, Steve Hahn, an aspiring Korean director, had his hopes dashed by his boss Ralph Bakshi, when the famous animation director refused Mr. Hahn’s request to outsource some production work to Korea.
But Mr. Hahn, a former student of film at the University of California in San Diego, didn’t give up, eventually persuading Mr. Bakshi to entrust some work from his latest feature to the young wannabe in his homeland.
Later that same evening, however, Mr. Bakshi called back to say he’d had second thoughts , and that the deal was off. Without skipping a beat, Mr. Hahn replied that it was too late, as the work had already been passed on to production facilities in Korea. It had not.
Eager to make amends for his fib, Mr. Hahn spared no effort on the work. It was an exciting time for Korean animation companies, who were just starting to emerge from the shadow of their Japanese competitors and make a name for themselves in America. Within a few short years, Korea was home to the world’s third-largest animation production industry.
Mr. Hahn was soon ready for a new challenge. Rather than just producing pieces made by other studios, Mr. Hahn wanted to create entirely new animation in a style never seen before. The answer, for Mr. Hahn, was to make a three-dimensional animation film.
“We needed very sophisticated research to make it fly, so we invited six students from the California Institute of Technology to work with us for six months. I thought it would take around two-and-a-half million dollars and one year, but it ended up costing over four times that, and we didn’t finish up for two years and six months,” Mr. Kim said.
The result, “Starchaser: The Legend of Orin,” opened in 1,100 theaters in the United States in 1985, earning $4.5 million, a more than respectable sum in those days. Despite the success, the film’s distributor went bankrupt, resulting in a long and costly court battle. A disillusioned Mr. Hahn produced just two more works in the ’90s.
Now 65, Mr. Hahn arrived in Korea to pick up an award at the Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival, which opened last Wednesday. The award is in recognition of Mr. Hahn’s producing the world’s first 3-D animation film.
“I was young and afraid of nothing then. I believe this award is for my recklessness,” Mr. Hahn said.
Recently, Mr. Hahn has been back at work in the movie industry, co-producing “The Portal,” a big-budget U.S. feature film. “I hope to contract out a lot of the special effects work to Korea,” he said. He is also planning another 3-D animation movie, “First Pet.”
“The most important thing in making a film is the story. The second-most important thing is also the story,” he said. “This is a time when we need many young talents who are afraid of nothing. They are Korea’s hope.”
by Jung Hyung-mo