Korean animators find success in Hollywood

Garfield’s Pet Force (Photo: Naver Movie)

Korean animators have become major contributors in Hollywood. The Korean animation industry has long established itself as a major player on the world scene, but now individual Korean artists with backgrounds in animation are coming forward to take their places at major US studios.

Kim Sang-jin (Photo: Yonhap News) “Tangled” (Photo: Naver Movie)

One of these new influential animators is Kim Sang-jin, who designed the main characters in Walt Disney's “Tangled.” The first Korean head designer to work at Walt Disney Studios, his work also includes the animated feature films “Bolt,” “Tarzan,” and “Chicken Little.” He started his North American career at Kennedy Cartoons in Canada, where he worked on animated TV series like “Darkwing Duck,” “Goof Troop,” and “Aladdin,” before moving to Walt Disney Studio, becoming one of the industry’s best respected designers in the process.

Jennifer Yuh (Photo: Yonhap News) Kung Fu Panda (Photo: Naver Movie)

DreamWorks Animation also has their own Korean-born animator in director Jennifer Yuh, who helped bring “Kung Fu Panda” to life, first as head of story and story artist, and later as the director of the sequel, “Kung Fu Panda 2.” In addition to being the first Korean-American director at DreamWorks, she’s also the company’s first female solo director. Yuh, who began drawing as a child, won an Annie Award for her storyboarding for the opening scene of the first Kung Fu Panda film in 1999. Prior to her time at DreamWorks, she was best known for her work on the HBO animated series, “Spawn.” Although she was primarily raised in America, Yuh had plenty of praise for Korean animators, saying she thought that the strong Korean market for animation helped create talented animators.

Priest (Photo: Naver Movie) Hyung Min-wu (Photo: Yonhap News)

Koreans aren’t just working behind the scenes to create the films themselves, but also provide some of the stories and inspiration for films. The recently released Hollywood film, “Priest,” is based on a comic book series of the same name by artist Hyung Min-wu. Hyung’s 16-volume work, which tells the story of a vampire-hunting member of the clergy, has been translated in published in countries across Asia, North America and Europe. The film version was produced by Sam Raimi and directed by Scott Stewart, and was released in the United States on May 13. In a press conference on May 23, Hyung said, “A few years after my book was published, Tokyopop exported it to the US. I was very happy to say yes when they asked me to turn my graphic novel into a movie.”

Korean animators continue to work in all aspects of the international film scene, including Hollywood works like “Garfield’s Pet Force” and “Megamind,” along with a wide variety of works on the small screen like the popular TV series “Family Guy.”

By Jessica Seoyoung Choi
Korea.net Staff Writer

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