Interview conducted by Eric Scheur
Anyone out there who thinks that 2D animation is a dying art hasn't been watching the 11 Second Club for the past 9 months. Of those 9 months, only 2 of our winners have been in CG. It kind of makes you wonder if this is simply the beginning of a resurgence of 2D work at large. Sure, maybe it's just the animation community that's clambering for it at the moment… but how long before the enthusiasm leaks out into the general public, and we're seeing new Tarzans, Iron Giants, and Triplets of Bellevilles! After all, there's already a new 2D Disney princess set to hit the big screen this holiday season.
Liane Cho Han took the top spot in September's competition with a performance that captured the raw and reserved energy of the dialogue from the chilling Mommie Dearest. Congratulations to Liane Cho and all who entered. Here's looking forward to more hand-drawn work at the 11 Second Club!
When did you decide that you wanted to be an animator?
I became an animator almost by accident. When I was 18, after my final exam at high school, instead of following computers studies, I decided to learn drawing. I loved video games and I wanted to work in the industry as an concept artist. So people advised me to go to this school called Gobelins. I didn't know that it was an animation school, I just knew that I had to learn how to draw to pass the exam. That's why I attended some art preparation schools where I practiced drawings a lot (especially life drawing), which was very difficult when you've never drawn before. I also met lot of people who had the same goal, so my mind slowly changed to animation without knowing what animation really was.
One year before I got in Gobelins, I took an evening course in animation where I learned some basics like the bouncing ball, the blade of grass and a bit of a walk. It was the very first time that I touched animation, to put some papers on a peg bar and flip them to see the motion. I kind of liked it. So after 3 attempts, I finally got in Gobelins. But almost everyone in my class drew since they were young. I didn't and [it's still not easy for me]: I always need to do a very ugly rough drawing and then put a sheet of paper on top to do something approximately correct. So I just accepted that I'm maybe not made to draw designs, illustrations, or comics. That's why I started to work harder my animation.
Your blog (http://lianecho.blogspot.com/) has great examples of your figure drawing work. (do you mind if I include some in the interview?) Do you practice any other forms of art?
As I said above, animation and drawing are very difficult for me and take a lot of energy. So I still use the majority of my time practicing them. But I'm doing a sculpture evening course that I started this year. It's sculpting from a life model with clay. I did that when I was at prep school and I enjoyed it a lot. And I also know that it's very good for your drawing skills. In a couple of years, once I have more experience, I will start to practice some other arts but it will still be something linked to animation, like storyboarding, etc.
You were an animator on the short film, Voodoo, which was featured in the most recent Animation Show from Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt. Can you talk a bit about your role in the production, and your experience making the film?
Voodoo is a graduation movie we made at Gobelins, and we were 6 people: so 6 directors. We all did a bit of everything but each of us were more proficient in certain skills like designs, storyboarding, backgrounds, computers, colors, effects. My skills were more animation so I kind of supervised that part. But I also did some layout, assisting, shadows, cel painting, etc.
The experience was amazing, I was very lucky to be in this group. I had the chance to work with some amazing and very skilled people. We all wanted to do something with more of an "eastern" than "western" style. Maybe that's why we worked very well with each other. I've learned a lot technically, but also humanly. It's very hard when you are 6 directors to make decisions. So it's wasn't easy every day but we still made it. It's also unique to work on a movie from the very beginning to the very end.
If you had to choose any animated film that you could have worked on, what film would you choose and why?
I would say Grave of the Fireflies because it's my favorite animated movie, but I wouldn't love it that much if I worked on it. The same for all Studio Ghibli's movies that I really love.
So I would say Tarzan, on the Tarzan team. It's one of my biggest dreams to work under Glen Keane's supervision! :D
What are some hobbies you have outside of animation?
Well, I would love to do some sports but I stopped since I started drawing. I don't really cook fancy meals but I love to eat them. I like to draw outside but this still has a link with animation I guess. I love playing video games...it's a good source of inspiration for me.
Whenever we have a 2d winner, I'm always curious about the character designs. Did you create these characters specifically for this 11 Second Club piece?
Yeah, I created them for the contest. I did a drawing for each character and develop them during tie down. The old woman is kind of based on some real actresses…, like Meryl Streep from the movie Doubt or Frances Conroy from Six Feet Under. And for her clothes, I used a design of the character I animated in my previous job.
For the little girl, I didn't use reference. Maybe that's why she has a lot less personality than the other one.
Talk about your animation process.
For this animation I didn't use video reference but I used to film myself when I had to do acting. I'm not a great actor so the animation doesn't look like the reference at all but it helps to get some ideas, and I do thumbnails from it. On this one I felt that I didn't have the time but maybe it was a mistake. I would probably do something better if I filmed myself, I'm sure, and I would have saved more time. But the mirror was my best friend. I think this tool is extremely important.
For my animation process, there is no big plan. I don't start right after hearing the dialogue. I spend some days just thinking about it, then I do a very ugly little story board to have an idea of the composition. Then I blow it up to the real size I am animating, just to put my ideas on a paper.
I draw some poses based on my thumbnails, very rough. I try not to lose too much time to make nice drawings, so I don't feel attached to them. I just concentrate on my line of action, axis, weight, and attitude. Then I do a very rough straight ahead animation using the poses I did before only as reference, where I try to push the animation as far as I can. When I am kind of satisfied of that, I start to tie that down. I take all the spot keys (very important drawings which tell the story) and try to push the drawing as far as I can but still with a very rough line. Then I take all the keys and tie down them by using the spot keys I have drawn, but still quite rough.
Then, I line test everything, make all the fixes because lot of things change from the very rough animation to the tie down. Then all the secondary actions. And finally I polish all of the drawings.
You have a great interplay of energy between your characters; when the mother moves forward, the child reacts by moving backwards, etc. How do you think about these things and plan for them when you're animating?
Well, first I wanted to hold the little girl still, but when I line tested the whole thing, it was really disturbing to have someone who wasn't reacting to such anger. So I made her react.
I love the moment from 171 to around 213 where the mother is about to slowly turn her back to the child and then changes her mind to say one more thing. How did you discover that great bit of performance?
At the beginning, I was planning to do the cut during the silence before who do you think you're talking to, but that was quite bad to see the little girl for such long time. So I had to find something. I think I just acted it myself. That's what I would do if I was the mother during this kind of situation.
How have your friends and peers helped you with this scene?
My girlfriend, my sister, and some friends complained about the last cut which was too early. They wanted to see more of the woman. Instead of doing the cut during "who," I did it at "you."
My girlfriend also told me something about the first scene. The mother was looking down too early, so I delayed it. Now, after hearing the eCritique I think I shouldn't make her look down at all.
Did you find yourself struggling with any part of the animation?
I struggle a lot with the drawings. It's something that's not natural for me, as I started quite late. That's why I'm very rough at the beginning so I don't need to think about it.
Animation is also very difficult for me but as you can see on the rough animation, the drawings are so ugly but made very quickly so I can experiment a lot until I get something. But drawing is still the most difficult, I turn the drawing in every angle, I draw behind the paper because it's an easy way to see mistakes. I think I overcame it simply by working and pushing very hard.
Talk about how the eCritique enhanced or expanded on the ideas you had originally set out to animate.
First I would like to thank Dana for the amazing eCritique. It's very good for me to have critiques from a highly experienced animator in 3D who doesn't have to concentrate on all these little technical things which you have in 2D, and only focus on acting.
The first thing I totally agreed is about the little girl at the last scene, that we want to see something before it ends, like to look up at her mother. The other thing is about the composition. That's also true, that the whole scene is a bit too much on the left. I'll try to move the whole thing but I hope that the cut with the previous scene will still work. And finally the mother's left hand's silhouette on the table which is quite ugly.
The really good thing I like about Dana's critique is that she said 90% of the thing she said was about acting, personality, and composition. When I was a student 2 years ago, people were only talking about being on model, and respecting the volumes. Then on my first production, [it was all] about weight shifting, volumes, models, and spacing. All of these very technical things are, of course, very important. But we tend to forget that the most important thing in animation is what the characters and the whole picture are communicating to the audience. I hope I will have the opportunity to work on a production where I can learn all that.
What advice would you offer to animators who are interested in moving from CG to try their hand at 2D work?
I think both are the same. It's just that you need to draw a lot, especially for realistic animation. The advice I would give is to not be stuck by volumes or models, but to draw basic shapes and concentrate on lines of action, acting, feeling, what the character is thinking... Do a lot of life drawing, quick poses and quick sketches from life.
- Liane Cho Han
Discuss this interview in the forumscomments powered by Disqus