NeochaEDGE is a daily-curated, bilingual website and discovery engine dedicated to showcasing leading-edge creative content and emerging youth culture in China. Beyond the website, NeochaEDGE is also a full-service idea and execution house passionate about helping clients understand, engage, and co-create with Chinese creative communities, trendsetters, and youth culture opinion leaders. Today they introduce us to five animations that caught their eye in 2009.
China’s animation industry is receiving a huge amount of support from the government in a push to develop China’s creative industries. At the same time, many of China’s emerging independent creatives are producing eye-opening work that more often than not doesn’t make it into the mainstream media channels.
Below are 5 of our favorite indie animations from 2009. Even if you can’t understand Chinese, you’ll enjoy the visual feast. (A special acknowledgment must go out to Plidezus — founder of AnimeTaste and contributor to NeochaEDGE– who as a leading independent animation expert in China has turned us on to many of these throughout 2009).
5. Talk to Another Me
“Talk to Another Me” (对另一个自己说) is an award winning animation by Su Yalin (苏雅琳) and Kang Guangxu (康广旭). Su and Yang are recent graduates of the Communication University of China in Nanjing with degrees in animation — they submitted “Talk to Another Me” as their senior project.
According to Su and Kang, they based the plot to “Talk to Another Me” on the sprouting sexual consciousness of an adolescent child and the longing for sexual interaction of an aging grandfather as a way to illustrate the most basic nature of all human beings. The short also aims to raise awareness and concern for special education / handicapped children and the sense of loneliness felt by China’s generation of youth from single-child families.
Su and Kang present the short’s narration in Shanghainese (with English subtitles) and don”t shy away from sexually explicit undertones and imagery. A ballsy move for a university project in China.4. Water Brain
“Water Brain” is an intensely imaginative and creative 3D animation film from the Ani7ime Animation Studio. The short was produced by a team of students at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (GAFA). “Water Brain” accurately and tragically depicts the incredible performance pressure Chinese school children face throughout adolescence from parents / teachers.
In the world of “Water Brain,” school children’s brains are water. When overstressed, their brains boil and give off steam that serves as food for the schoolbag-shaped monsters (parents / teachers) “enslaving” them in energy factories (classrooms / bedrooms). We don’t want to spoil any of the details — just watch it. We’re certain you’ll love it.
“Water Brain” was recently awarded the Best Graduation Film Award at GAFA and presented at SIGGRAPH 2009, an international animation and computer generated graphics exhibition.3. Magic Cube & Ping Pong
Ray Lei (雷磊), an extraordinarily talented multimedia designer originally from Jiangxi and consistently one of our favorite emerging animators in China.
Below is a short animated film of his titled “Magic Cube & Ping Pong.” It could perhaps be one of the greatest love stories ever told (in our humble opinion). Ray’s inspiration for the film came from fond memories of playing ping pong with his parents during Chinese New Year’s celebrations past. The soundtrack, by Li Xingyu (李星宇), is also excellent — a collage of playful melodies, 8-bit sounds, and a remixed Pink Floyd sample.
2. Dragon Fist” and “Super Baozi”
Sun Haipeng (孙海鹏) is one of the most talked-about computer graphics (CG) designer in China at the moment. His 3D animations “Dragon Fist” and “Super Baozi vs. Sushi Man” caught our eye early on and over the past couple of months has received a tremendous response from the Chinese netizentry. Below are some selected excerpts from an interview with NeochaEDGE.
1. See Through
Why did you decide to use a baozi as your main character?
Back in 2004 when I was still just learning animation, someone online asked me how to make an animated baozi model. After thinking about it for a while, it seemed quite challenging. I like challenges, so I decided to try to make one myself. I gave the baozi eyes and a mouth and made it sing and dance. The initial creation was really just the result of a practice exercise. When I started getting more serious about animation I dusted off my original baozi character and decided to make him more complete, more alive. That’s the story of Super Baozi’s creation.
How long did it take you make these two videos?
It took me about 2 years from initial designs to final product / content. It took such a long time because I did it all by myself and only in my spare time. If I really pursue it as a proper series, I think I will need to wait until I get some sort of sponsorship. Otherwise, it will just be me, and the process is just too slow with one person.
What about the local Chinese CD designers / animators? How do they comparing with their foreign counterparts? Where do they fall short? Where do they excel?
The overall skill level of CG / animation overseas is very high. Especially in Europe and North America. They have so much freedom to be experimental and the market is mature. Their designs are incredible no matter how long the segments are. Compared to them I’m like an elementary student, but we are rich with traditional Chinese culture. We have great potential if we make good use of our cultural legacy.
After working on it for three years, the Chinese animator known as Jokelate recently released a 16 minute computer graphics (CG) animation film that has become a massive online viral success and a source of pride for many in the local Chinese animation industry. The anti-war themed animation titled “See Through”, follows the story of two world leaders who use playing cards as metaphors for soldiers, tanks, and other weapons to engage in a never-ending globe-spanning battle. Two opposing combatants end up stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the war and develop a friendship that supersedes the absurdity of the war they were sent by their governments to fight.
The environment and circumstances in which the film was made are not what you would typically expect — they truly reflect the determination and idealistic dreams of young Chinese creatives. While studying medicine in Chengdu, Jokelate began studying computer graphics and animation during his third year of college. Working briefly for an advertising company after graduation, Jokelate quit to pursue his dream of becoming an “original animator.” Around this time, his father passed away and his mother was surviving off her measly retirement fund. The following three years were difficult for Jokelate and his mother — they lived in a run-down apartment, only ate cheap vegetables, never bought new clothes and stayed within 40 km of his house. Even going to the local Internet cafe to play video games was too expensive. (Jokelate also just considered it a distraction from his animation work.)
After three years of solitary work on “See Through,” the animation has created quite a stir online, with many commentators declaring the original work a symbol of pride for the Chinese animation industry.