Asian Worldbuilding in Western Animation
by Nikhil Misra, Josephine Ota, Amanda Zhang, and Denada Permatasari
View the Graphics for this post @animasians on Instagram!
Asia & Worldbuilding
Asia is an enormous continent spanning from Turkey to Indonesia, with an assortment of proud countries in between. However, western media’s Asian representation and worldbuilding draw disproportionately from Eastern Asia - specifically, China, Japan, and Korea. This hardly makes a ripple in Asia’s vast reservoir of worldbuilding inspiration, nor does it do its regional diversity justice.
While picking and choosing references or generalizing from multiple cultures may be easier than precise research, it ultimately alienates audiences. Asian worldbuilding is most effective when specific, authentic, and relevant to the characters and story.
We’ll be exploring prominent examples of Asian worldbuilding in western animation to understand how we can create fictional worlds that tell the most compelling stories. We’ll discuss do’s and don’ts and examine worldbuilding influences from major regions of Asia: East, Southeast, South, and West.
What is Worldbuilding?
We define worldbuilding as the process of creating settings for the characters and story. Great worldbuilding implements both geography (flora, fauna, weather, terrain, food materials) and culture (customs, politics, religion, ideologies, etc). Developing worlds around characters and narratives helps create more rewarding stories. Let’s take a look at worldbuilding in animated media that draw from Asian cultures and aesthetics.
Over the Moon (2020)
The worldbuilding in Over the Moon speaks authentically to the shared experience of many Chinese-Americans. Details like household seasonings, architecture, respect toward family members, and myths being passed down from relatives to children, remind many Chinese diaspora of their own experience growing up in a similar household. The film incorporates several specific elements of Chinese culture, but two stood out in particular: the portrayal of food and its impact on family, and the cultural detail in the environments.
In many Eastern cultures, preparing and eating food is an expression of love that is sometimes more common than verbal affection. Over the Moon captures this with intricate sequences of Fei Fei making mooncakes with her parents, offering food at her mother’s altar, refusing Mrs. Zhong’s mooncakes, and ultimately dining with her new family. The audience never hears the words “I love you,” but when Fei Fei’s family cooks and eats together, that love is apparent and resonates with Asian audiences in a way that deepens the emotional impact of Fei Fei’s journey.
The environmental details - like those seen in Fei Fei’s kitchen - also add to the cultural worldbuilding. Things like an analog kitchen scale, Chinese rice wine, fish sauce, and soy sauce are often found in Chinese kitchens. The rabbit on the door curtain is a nod to the moon rabbit in Chinese mythology, and the shelf features a design seen in traditional Chinese wooden architecture. Specific details like these allow viewers to draw parallels to their own lives and bring a grounded authenticity to the film.
Kung Fu Panda (media franchise)
East Asia heavily influences the worldbuilding of the Kung Fu Panda films as well. The creators were enamored with Chinese culture and viewed Kung Fu Panda as a love letter to classic kung fu films. From research in Chengdu, they incorporated Chinese culture and philosophy within Po’s story arc. This included details East Asian audiences can appreciate, such as dan dan noodles, Shaolin kung fu, Mount Qingcheng, and more.
Subtle specifics indicate the precise research done on eastern customs, such as the taboo around wasting food. In a sequence from the first film when a dumpling was thrown away, the filmmakers ensured that it could be heard rattling into a bowl offscreen as opposed to falling on the floor.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) sought to branch out to new regions of China and looked to the country’s former banking capital of Pingyao for inspiration. In the same way Pingyao– the walled city– juts out of the surrounding landscape, Gongmen City serves as a fortress for the film’s antagonist, Lord Shen. The intimidating and symmetrical city mirrors the villain’s character and stands in contrast to Po’s disorderliness. Overall, these films are thoughtfully executed stories in appreciation of East Asia.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Big Hero 6 is another showcase of worldbuilding sparked by East Asia, showcasing a hybrid city based on Japan and San Francisco: San Fransokyo. Filmmakers began with data of every single building in San Francisco and added Japanese elements to them. They include noticeable details like Japanese signage, a Maneki-Neko cat figurine, signature cherry blossom trees, as well as more subtle elements like Japanese manhole covers, vending machines, and electrical wiring. The city refrains from generalizing East Asian culture by building from specificity in its overall design, effectively creating a futuristic world that equally reflects the lived-in experience of our Japanese-American protagonist, Hiro. However, its design also raises concerns around techno-orientalism: the use of East Asian (usually Japanese) technology in Western media to create an “otherworldly” setting. While Big Hero 6’s worldbuilding is not as egregious or demeaning as seen in other media, San Fransokyo’s surface level inspiration does not necessarily impact the character’s philosophies or hero’s journey.
Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
The best fantasy worlds make their cultural specificity essential to the hero’s journey. In Raya’s Kumandra, a fictional land composed of five tribes based on cultures from Southeast Asia (SEA), specific details shine through in the clothing, food, buildings, and even the weather. However, Kumandra lumps together influences from over eleven SEA countries' distinct cultures. By pulling aesthetics from multiple regions without making them essential to the narrative, the details intended to enrich Kumandra only serve its surface level.
Raya herself could be from any culture, and her character and story may not necessarily change. She sports a Philippine salakót and Cambodian sampot, fights in varied martial arts styles from Muay Thai to Pencak Silat, and eats foods ranging from Vietnamese Bánh tét to Thai Tom yum. Similar mixtures of SEA detail are found in the settings and ‘Five Kingdoms’ of Kumandra. While these details are meant to create a singular character and story, they are also a form of generalization. SEA cultures do affect one another, but using their separate cultural details interchangeably can imply they are the same and portray the diverse region reductively.
Yet, while the lack of specificity in the narrative may create a rift between Raya and SEA audiences; the detail, artistry, and level of research put into accurately portraying the rich histories of different SEA cultures is valued and commendable.
Mira, Royal Detective (2020)
Mira, Royal Detective’s fictional port city of Jalpur walks the fine line of unabashedly presenting Desi culture in a way that audiences can relate to while avoiding stereotypes. Rather than generalizing South Asia’s varied cultures, religions, and people, Jalpur adopts specific details in service of story beats.
According to Shagorika Ghosh Perkins, one of the show’s cultural consultants, inspiration for Jalpur’s palace came directly from the Lake Palace of Udaipur. The world around Mira draws from India’s textile expertise, regional clothing, wildlife, and even Indian folk illustration. Paisley patterns, mandalas, white marble, ogee arches, and vibrant color schemes influenced by India’s own colorful cities (i.e. the blue city of Jodphur) depict the rich tapestry of South Asian culture in an accessible way for young western viewers.
Beyond Mira, there is room for improvement in western animation’s South Asian worldbuilding due to the lack of South Asian stories being told. South Asia’s rich and diverse cultural history is a wellspring of inspiration for fresh narratives.
Aladdin is the most prominent reference to West Asia in western animation, and the clearest example of what not to do when it comes to Asian worldbuilding. The Disney classic unfortunately highlights the important distinction between cultural appreciation versus appropriation.
Appreciation is a desire to understand and explore another culture with the goal of broadening perspective and building connection. In contrast, appropriation is cherry-picking aspects of a different culture for personal interest. Aladdin unfortunately appropriates from a variety of West and South Asian cultures, mixing-and-matching cultural references and resorting to racist stereotypes.
Instead of pulling from one region, Aladdin defines its unique setting by picking and choosing cultural references, politics, and identities from a variety of West and South Asian cultures. Palace architecture draws from the Taj Mahal in India as well as Arabesque cupolas. Arabian culture is referred to as “barbaric,” referencing ear-chopping in the opening theme. Antagonist characters are depicted with darker skin tones and thicker accents while the protagonists have fair skin and American accents.
This disparagement and appropriation of multiple cultures, claiming they’re all the same, creates an inauthentic world that is distracting in today’s modern landscape.
Defining Success in Asian Worldbuilding
Animated stories with Asian influence are at their best when clearly and identifiably using traits from a specific culture.
Over the Moon exemplifies compelling worldbuilding through a diligent and grounded approach. By authentically representing China and Chinese culture at the beginning of the film, the fantastical Moon kingdom amplifies the emotional stakes of Fei Fei’s journey. Kung Fu Panda’s fictionalized version of China translates historic East Asian landmarks and customs into novel but familiar settings and relatable behaviors that drive the story beats. Big Hero 6’s San Fransokyo reflects the Japanese-American experience of the film’s lead character, meticulously drawing from two specific cultures. The fictional city raises concerns around techno-orientalism by creating a futuristic Japanified version of San Francisco, but it does create a high-tech playground for a technological genius, serving the story.
Raya and Aladdin’s worldbuilding drew criticism for fusing independent cultures and regions together, appropriating from those cultures rather than appreciating their nuances. While there are accurate details from SEA’s different regions in Raya’s Kumandra, their interchangeable application minimizes SEA’s regional diversity and creates an ornamental world, rather than driving Raya’s character or story arc. Aladdin’s similar pan-regional approach of picking and choosing architectural influences, politics, and cultural values from numerous West and South Asian countries also generalizes those distinct regions.
In contrast, Mira, Royal Detective utilizes specific South Asian themes, designs, and locations to create a vibrant, substantive world that augments her adventures. Without Jalpur’s specific cultural inspiration and story integration, Mira’s mystery-solving quests may not be as engaging.
As each example demonstrates, Asian worldbuilding is most effective when specific, authentic, and integral to the character’s story. The creative potential for Asian inspired worlds in animation is boundless. Expanding western media to tap into that potential can change how western audiences see those parts of the world and themselves. Overall, successful Asian worldbuilding develops more impactful stories that create empathy and appreciation in all viewers, Asian or otherwise.
Looking for visuals? Check out our Asian Worldbuilding graphics @animasians on Instagram for the fully illustrated breakdown.
A Guide to Worldbuilding Do’s
Over The Moon
My name is Susan Huang and I am a concept artist and background painter working as a freelancer. I was born in Taiwan— fondly known as the kid who always doodled on her textbook but was not interested in studying. As a child, I loved reading manga and even learned to draw human figures from it, but I still struggled with my studies and college applications during my high school years.
Luckily, I got accepted into a design major where I could still draw as part of my curriculum. I didn’t know animation was an actual career and thought I would become a designer: designing all the cool products like laptops or mobile phones, but my passion for 2D art led me to become an illustrator.
After years of drawing cute images, in the summer of 2014, I watched the movie The Tale of Princess Kaguya by Studio Ghibli and I knew that that was what I wanted to do. After applying for an animation major, I began my journey through the entertainment industry.
In animation school, I had the chance to go through the entire animation pipeline, from story to the final editing. Compared to the production work or creating the story, I found myself more and more interested in designing the characters and imagining the worlds they inhabit. I enjoy figuring out the relationship between the environment and the characters, using the smallest of details to show their personalities.
Animation is a unique medium where paintings come to life. There is a wide range of animation techniques and styles that can be used to create different looks and feels, including 2D hand-drawn animation, stop-motion, and 3D animation. People have a lot of freedom to create their imaginary worlds.
I can decide the look of the characters and build the sets right from my head through my art. Every time I see my drawings acting on the screen like real people, I remember why I became an animator.
I get inspiration for my animated worlds from when I travel to different countries. I learn about their cultures and sketch whenever I see something interesting.
Through traveling, I have learned to appreciate what I have. The more countries I visit, the more in awe I am of the beauty of Taiwan. I hadn’t noticed it before because I am surrounded by it every day, but it is truly beautiful.
It can be challenging explaining it to people on the other side of the world, but I want to share my culture with others. Specifically, I want people to know about Taiwan's Democracy Movement. Many people suffered during that time and they sacrificed so much for freedom. They had families; they were someone’s father, husband, and child. I hope people today will not forget that our democracy and freedom now required the courage, determination, and sacrifice of many people who came before us. We may be able to forgive, but we should never forget.
It is a heavy topic, but I hope to tell this story through animation or images to raise awareness in the world.
Currently, the biggest challenge for me is balancing my work and my life. When I graduated from school, I struggled to get my foot in the animation industry. I worked on my portfolio every day and applied for as many jobs as I could. I believed that if I couldn't succeed in my career, it meant I hadn't spent enough time on my work.
Even today, I feel guilty when I take a break. After I finish a job, I prepare for personal work and get ready for the next project. I feel the same even on weekends. But I've learned that I need breaks to improve the quality of my art. Working for 12 hours a day won't make my art look better or help me succeed in my career. Instead, the quality of my work suffers when I'm tired.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing animation?
1. Have some hobby that is not related to animation or film. Art comes from life. People who make amazing films are inspired by their daily life. Little mice in the kitchen, toys from childhood, pets, birds, video games, and so on. Those little moments from your life will make your art unique. Enjoy your life, and share those stories your way.
2. Do your best in every assignment. No matter how small the assignments are or how short the contract is, you will always learn something from the project you get. Every assignment is an opportunity to show yourself to others, which will bring you to the next one.
3. Try your best to have personal work. This is hard, I'm also still working on it. But I feel personal work is a good way to keep my passion for art and show people who I really am.
4. Figure out what you really want to do, and go for it! You can do storyboarding, design, animation, modeling…etc. People play different roles in the animation pipeline. Find your passion and don’t give up!
WRITTEN BY: Shay Santos
Meet Johanna Xue: A Storyboard Artist
Growing up Chinese-Hungarian and being part of two very different cultures has allowed me to be open to unfamiliar things. This has expanded my horizons and influenced the way I tell stories, so becoming a video editor as well as an animator and storyboard artist just made sense. Ultimately, what drew me to animation is the idea that I can create literally any story I want to create with whatever tools I have.
I originally wanted to be a film editor and I focused on that in school, but a script I wrote kept demanding my attention. I didn’t have the tools to bring it to life. Yet. Coincidentally, I took an animation class during the first COVID lockdown. This was when I realized I could sit down at my desk and draw any story I wanted to tell: I don't need a camera, I don't need to build a set, I don't need to find a location and get a permit to film there.
It’s this accessibility of animation that makes me love it.
As I learned more about the development and production process, my jaw dropped. All the sketches, storyboards, illustrations, color scripts... I'd never seen anything like those in my life.
It was a while before I decided that I fully wanted a career in animation. Making the transition to animation was intimidating because I had mainly focused on editing during my film studies and there was so much I didn’t know. But eventually, I learned to overcome that anxiety and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I'd ever made. I love the process of literally drawing stories to life and I truly feel like I’ve found my people.
Funnily enough, I still edit professionally and work in animation. There is space for more than one passion in your life.
I am very invested in children's stories: meaningful media for children and about them. I love stories about families, their relationships, or important events.
Recently, I wrapped a short film, Little Rabbit, which is a coming-of-age story set in a Chinese kindergarten. I wanted to create a film about that one moment in your life when everything changes and you “grow up.”
For me, this was a painful experience and telling it through the medium of animation made sense. It is a complex and scary story while visually looking like a coloring book made of childhood drawings.
My advice to someone pursuing animation: draw inspiration from as many sources as possible. If you find an artist whose style you like, find artists they admire and learn from them. Inspiration comes from everything in life so do a lot of things that don't have something directly to do with your work and art.
Remember: we are all human and we will make mistakes. When I first made mistakes starting out in this career, I would have anxiety attacks and beat myself up. It took me a while, but I learned that my mistakes are fixable and we have no choice but to keep moving forward. There will always be an opportunity to do better next time.
Own up to your mistakes of course, be honest and show that you're eager to learn, and do better. (But then actually go and do better!)
QUICK QUESTIONS WITH JOHANNA:
1. What is your favorite dessert or food to get after a long day at work?
Either a burrito, or pork buns! Or a steaming bowl of ramen.
2. What would you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as someone people like to work with.
3. What does self-care look like to you?
A clean workspace and home, sleeping enough (at least 8 hours), going on a long walk and feeding myself with a healthy, hearty meal.
4. If your younger self could see you now, what would they say?
"I thought we'd never learn how to pronounce ‘three’ but we did! Cool!"
Asians in Animation’s 2022 Year in Review: CELEBRATING ANOTHER BIG YEAR AND BECOMING A NON-PROFIT!
As our second year as an organization is coming to a close, we are so excited to reveal.... WE’RE A NON-PROFIT!
In 2022, Asians in Animation became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We can now accept tax-deductible donations and we are so excited to continue championing Asian storytelling in animation.
For all who have supported us along the way, we cannot thank you enough!
We cannot wait to create more opportunities for our members – such as:
Our member base grew by 82% from last year – we currently have 3725+ members across 52 countries!
We also got the chance to collaborate with WONDERFUL partners such as the teams at Netflix Animation, Pixar Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Sony Pictures Animation, Nickelodeon Animation, GKIDS, Apple TV+, Skydance Animation, Tonko House, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Disney Television Animation, Atomic Cartoons, Paramount Animation, Warner Bros. Discovery (Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Animation) - and fellow advocacy organizations Asia Society of Southern California, BRIC Foundation, Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE), DiverseToons, Trojan Horse was a Unicorn, and Rise Up Animation.
The Asians in Animation Writers’ Group (AIA WG), led by Saira Umar, went full steam ahead!
We are so proud of our writers and their achievements this year – congratulations to all!
The AIA WG also hosted in-person gatherings and 12 special guest speakers: Angela Entzminger (Writer, Nickelodeon Animation), Kendall Michele Haney (Story Editor, Nickelodeon Animation; Host of Typin’ Toons Podcast), Annie Arjarasumpun (Script Coordinator, DreamWorks Animation), Sacsha Paladino (Showrunner, “Mira: Royal Detective”), Jeanette Lara (Writer, Moonbug), Cassie Soliday (Writer; Host of Ink and Paint Folk Podcast), Olivia Stark (Current Series, Skydance Animation), Mikki Crisostomo (Writer, “The Owl House”, Karla Shropshire (Writer, “The Loud House”), Joon Chung (Writer, 9Story), Sati Kaur (Writer, NBCUniversal), and Vivian Lee (Writer, “Invincible”). Thank you to all of these incredible guests for sharing their insights on the industry and how to navigate the wonderful world of writing for animation!
Our team has grown to over 140 volunteers across North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia – covering more than ten time zones! We have also had 16 internal promotions, ending the year with a 17-person Executive Board and a total of 42 volunteers serving in roles coordinator-level and up.
We are overjoyed to keep adding to our leadership team and we look forward to expanding our community leadership roster in the new year!
On the other hand, two of our founders “graduated” from our leadership team this year: Brandon Bui and Olivia Stark. Both originating the roles of Creative Chairs, they were instrumental members of the team from day one - building the foundations for the content that live on our social media platforms and paving the way for more important conversations about Asian animated media and the future of our industry. Brandon is now working with the creatives in development at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Olivia joins Joshua Kwan on our Advisory Board, continuing her journey in Current Series and Development at Skydance Animation. They both hand off the Creative Team reins to Saira Umar and Alice Jiang, who have stepped into the roles of Creative Chair and Creative Director respectively.
More exciting team news includes more community support and more volunteer support.
We have added three new teams in addition to our Community, External Relations, and Creative Teams – Communications under the guidance of Michelle Honeyman (Chair, Communications), Sara Marigomen (Director, Communications), and Sarah Liu (Director, Marketing), Artistic Advancement under Emily Schield (Director, Artistic Advancement), and Membership under Tiffany Yu (Director, Membership). All of these departments are excited to further support our community, whether by lending an ear for career development or serving as the point of contact for any member's need.
Leading the support of our volunteers, Andrea Kutcher (Head of Operations) and Dani Yuan (Assoc. Director, Volunteers) have been building out the volunteer experience from start to finish. The Operations team has grown to support not just volunteers, but recruiting and education as well, particularly focusing on specialized training that will give volunteers opportunities to practice industry and production management-related skills. Other 2023 plans from this team include a focus on internal talent development through mentorship and to keep promoting more of our volunteers into leadership roles and cultivating a creative-forward environment for growth. We had 9 volunteers break into the animation industry this year alone!
A BIG thank you to our whole team for their incredible work this year – 2022 would not have been possible without you!
Looking to 2023, our number one priority is taking care of all of our members. The future of animated storytelling is right here - at Asians in Animation! We hope to continue fostering a safe space for creativity, in addition to organic mentorship and more opportunities to create - together.
It’s been a huge year thanks to you – our community. We are honoured to support you and your career and we can’t thank you enough for your passion, love, and constant inspiration you provide to us every day.
Here’s to thriving and more inspir-Asian in 2023! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
The Asians in Animation “AnimAsians” Team
Brandon Bui • Lexie Chu • Joshua Kwan • Olivia Stark •
Mason Tran • Nanami Yokota • Whitney Hii • Alisha Syed •
Katie Dizon • Saira Umar • Alice Jiang • Michelle Honeyman •
Sara Marigomen • Sarah Liu • Tiffany Yu • Emily Schield •
Andrea Kutcher • Dani Yuan
KEEP UP WITH US
WEBSITE • INSTAGRAM • FACEBOOK • TWITTER • YOUTUBE
GET INVOLVED • VOLUNTEER
Holiday Card Illustration – Lauren Gregorio
Backgrounds – Ananya Sridhar, Gaby de la Cruz, Mikoto Watanabe
Illustration Supervisor – Deeya Chaturvedi
Character Art – Brenda Do
Character Supervisor – Aroona Khiani
Graphic Design – Juris Tungpalan, Saira Umar
Graphic Supervisor – Asmita Chitale
Creative Director – Alice Jiang
Creative Chair – Saira Umar
A Chat with the Crew of Boons & Curses
I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, but 9 years of my childhood were spent in another city called Surabaya. I was that shy and introverted girl who either read books or doodled in class. Our family moved back to Jakarta when I was 10 and I became even more shy and quiet then: New environment, new school, new people. However, one of the things that I loved about the new school was that they had a big library.
The library became the place where I found peace because I didn’t really have to talk to anyone there. I have always loved reading! Drawing was also one of my hobbies although I wasn’t the greatest at it. I loved watching anime and reading manga too. All these interests were the elements that drove me into pursuing animation.
It wasn’t until the 11th grade that I decided to pursue animation as a career. Initially, I thought that I wanted to major in Biotechnology after I graduated from high school. One time I went home, feeling really upset about a chemistry test. My mom saw me and said, “You know that you could pursue something that you actually really like after you graduate right? You’ve always loved drawing and watching animation. Why not do something related to that?” And that’s when it clicked.
Animation is a real career and people make money from it. After that, I started researching the animation pipeline, mostly the 3D pipeline. I never knew how complicated the process was and that there are so many different focuses under the one giant umbrella called “3D Animation”- modeling, rigging, animation, lighting and compositing, FX, and then Boom! Magic! It’s a film! And the craziest thing is, with good storytelling, you can make people get emotionally invested. It brings laughter and tears… Isn’t it amazing? I wanted to be part of that magic.
My favorite types of stories are the ones where I feel at peace when I read or watch them. Fantasy stories are especially my favorites, like Lord of The Rings. Whenever I think of The Shire, I always feel like I want to live in that world. Another aspect that I love about storytelling is the relatable characters - characters that I can empathize with. Like if I could go into these stories, I would want to be friends with them. And then the biggest thing would be what I feel after I finish these stories.
My favorite films and books are the ones where they were able to change my perspective about life in a better way. Again using LOTR, my takeaway would be: it’s okay if you aren't the smartest, the wisest, or the strongest in the room. And it’s okay to be afraid, to stray from the path, and make mistakes. Whatever our roles are, we can still achieve something and help someone, big or small. Thinking about these points, my goal is to tell stories that make people feel better about life in general.
Back in college, I always tried to put some Indonesian culture into my work, as it is not very well-known in the States. Because my culture is not common knowledge, it was harder to explain the logic or reasoning behind some of my choices since they are cultural. So what I have resorted to is putting little nuggets here and there. But what I enjoy the most is putting a little bit of my memories into some of my choices in my work. For example, when I animated a certain young character, I thought of my younger brother. There was this moment back when we were small, he excitedly ran outside to call an ice cream seller (we call this “tukang es krim keliling” in Indonesian, where the guy sells ice cream on his bike) and then my brother fell because of the slippery floor. It was so funny to me that I still remember the specific way he fell and his blank expression as he just sat there for a second before getting up and continued running as if nothing happened. The way he was so focused on that ice cream translated to something else I was animating.
Currently, beside my full-time job as a Previs Artist, I’ve been doing more paintings and trying to learn photography. Because my job deals with camera, composition, and lensing, my interest in photography started to grow. I love discovering smart ways to frame subjects and different ways I could edit colors to portray certain moods! Painting is also something that I have always loved doing. I want to get better at it, even if it just stays as a hobby.
If the world was ending, I’d want my last story to be about gratitude: “Let’s look back together and smile. I am glad that I have met the people I have met and went through what I went through. Be it good or bad, in the end, all is good.”
Three things I’d tell other people on a similar path as me (which I think works for everything else in life)
1. Keep an open mind. Life is unpredictable. Sometimes we think we know what we want. What I found is, along with that, we also don’t know what we don’t know. We decide what we want based on what we knew at that time, but life is so full of surprises that it might lead you to something else you’d never have thought of. Sometimes, it’s not the idea of “success” that people around you or even you yourself had in mind. As long as you find joy doing it, I think that’s a win!
2. Focus on your own path and growth. It’s hard not to compare myself with others. I’m still struggling with this myself. But really, everyone has a different path and pace. What works for others might not be the best for me. And it works the other way around.
3. Give it your 100%. This is a life lesson I got from Sister Francesco at the end of my high school. She was the school’s foundation coordinator and kind of like the grandma figure in our strict Catholic school. She told us, whatever it is we decided to do, give it our 100%. Those words resonated with me so much and have been my driver whenever I feel lost. I think of myself as one of those horses with blinders. When feeling lost, just focus on one thing, give it your best, and trust the process.
Nadya Sugiarto is a previs artist at MPC LA.
This is the link to her website: https://nsugiart.wixsite.com/reel
A movie she worked on, Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers, just released!
WRITTEN BY : Jeremy Hsing
LinkedIn | Portfolio
Meet Kenny Park, Animation Director and Illustrator based in Vancouver, Canada. Read on to hear about Kenny's animation journey and discuss REPRESENT-ASIAN from his point of view!
Read the full, unedited conversation on the Asians in Animation website for an insight into the industry and how identity intersects with his career and informs his art.
Who are you?
I’m Kenny Park. I’m a queer, Asian animation director and editorial illustrator living in Vancouver, Canada.
Tell us about your background and how it led you into the industry?
I've been fascinated with drawing and animation ever since I was a kid. There was a Japanese video rental shop a few blocks from my home where I used to rent bootlegged copies of Sailormoon and Dragon Ball Z, and even though I couldn’t understand the story (this was before the days of English dubbing) I would obsessively watch these cartoons because I loved the aesthetics and the worlds they brought me into.
I also received a lot of encouragement from my parents and teachers for the artwork I produced. So, by the time I was ready for college and thinking about potential career paths, animation seemed like a viable option.
I applied to two animation programs at Canadian colleges (Capilano and Sheridan) but didn’t get into either. So, I spent a year building a whole new portfolio. I took whatever drawing classes I could find, just took the whole endeavor way more seriously, and then reapplied to the Capilano program. I got in, and that two-year program turned me into a professional.
Congrats on becoming Head of Story for The Witch Boy from Netflix! What hurdles did you have to navigate to get there?
When I first started in animation there were no Asian or openly queer people in leadership positions — it was an industry entirely dominated by straight, white men. Many of the studios I worked for had a frat boy energy (there were plenty of gay jokes). Some studios held job interviews at strip bars. So, for someone like me, the industry felt pretty hostile.
There have been massive changes over the past couple decades. It’s heartening to see so many women and people of colour in positions of leadership and I no longer feel worried about being open about my sexuality.
On a personal level, I’ve had to learn how to be open about my sexuality and I’ve had to learn to believe that someone who looks and acts like me could deserve to be in a leadership role. It’s not something that happened overnight — I continue to work on those things — but it’s getting easier over time.
How does your background and experience strengthen your work and art?
Being a double minority means I’ve been positioned as an outsider my entire life. As a consequence, all those well-worn cliches don’t really speak to my experience, and that can push me to look for something new.
Today I feel like my minority perspective is a strength. My queerness and my cultural background are assets in many circles. That never used to be the case in animation.
Also, working as an editorial illustrator for several years gave me the opportunity to engage with stories and ideas that I never would have had the chance to explore in animation. Those years doing work for the Washington Post, Wired and The Boston Globe Magazine trained me to take big concepts and distill them down to a single image — it really helped to level me up as a visual artist.
What steps should a story artist take to be a strong candidate to work with you?
Be open to collaboration and feedback. And be a nice person.
Where do you feel you fit in the representation conversation? What are you doing to fulfill the need to be represented in media?
In general, I’ve given myself permission to create stories and artwork that center characters that look and act like me — something that I never thought I could do ten years ago.
I’m actually in the process of pitching a series that centres a queer Asian man as the hero.
Also, being in a position where I can help to influence who gets hired, I try to advocate for more diverse teams.
What’s your current analysis of the animation industry in relation to POC/Asian cultures?
I’m encouraged by organizations like CAPE (and AnimAsians!) that help to lift up minorities who traditionally aren’t represented in leadership roles. And the fact that I’m working as Head of Story on The Witch Boy — a queer allegory about a mixed-race boy that is being directed by a queer Asian man and made by one of the most diverse teams I’ve ever had the privilege of working with — points to a lot of positive change in the industry.
There is clearly a lot more work to be done, however. To use my home town, Vancouver, as an example, the population is almost half Asian and, still, most of the directing roles are held by white men.
Any last word to our readers?
Being a minority can be difficult. It means that you aren’t able to move through life with the same sense of ease that those who belong to mainstream culture can. When I first began in the industry there was literally no support for people like me. But when I look around at the industry today, I’m so heartened by how much more support and community there is for so many folks who exist on the fringe.
I’m incredibly grateful to the people behind organizations like AnimAsians and CAPE who work so hard to help build those communities.
A big thank you to CAPE for partnering with us with this series and to Kenny for all his wisdom and inspiration! Kenny, we are so excited to see your work on The Witch Boy and look forward to see where you go next!
Be on the look out for a few more interviews to come with the other participants of the inaugural CAPE Animation Directors Accelerator (CADA), a first-of-its-kind program to identify and uplift the next generation of storytellers and leaders in animation.
Interview Conducted and Post Compiled by Kristian Bansil @kristian.bansil
We are so thrilled to be included in Straight Ahead Podcast's Heritage Month celebration!
We're kicking off our AAPI heritage month celebration with @animasians ! Alisha Syed (External Relations Chair) and Katie Dizon (External Relations Director) talk about the organization, its goals and accomplishments, and about its founding with a small quote from Lexie Chu. Meant as a safe-space, Animasians provides resources and events for its members, but the true strength of AIA is its community. Learn how you can be a part of it, and take advantage of the opportunities this wonderful organization is supplying. On top of that, we touch a little on Alisha's and Katie's day jobs as post-production coordinator and production assistant (respectively), and how their experiences inform their work ethic.
Listen to Katie and Alisha's episode here! (Spotify)
Thank you for having us!
Everyone, please check out STRAIGHT AHEAD PODCAST and all the incredible work they're doing! We are such big fans of them and highly encourage you to listen to their interviews and spotlights on rising Black, Indigenous, and People of Color voices that are breaking into the animation industry.
Check them out!
an evening with sony pictures imageworks
Connect with Sony Pictures Imageworks for this special event to celebrate and talk about all things ANIMATION, TECH ART, LOOK DEV, and VFX!
You’re invited to join us for this special presentation, panel, AND networking event with Sony Pictures Imageworks happening this Wednesday, May 25th!
Meet Clara Chan (VFX Supervisor), Julius Kwan (Animation Supervisor), Alan Chen (Look/Dev Supervisor), Alyssa Zarate (Matte Painting & Environment Supervisor), and James Park (CG Supervisor) in conversation with Sonia Bhatia (Manager, Diversity, Inclusion, & Engagement) to hear about the incredible work being done on SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES, and more – and learn about how you can be a part of it too!
They'll be sharing their diverse perspectives across different projects, and afterwards you'll have an opportunity to chat and ask questions!
This event is especially geared towards the Asian community, but Canadians of Korean descent, women OR individuals of a South Korean residency are encouraged to attend. Sony will consider attendees as candidates for future productions, so we recommend everyone to attend and learn more - especially animators, lighters, and compositors!
RSVP here: https://bit.ly/aiasony
WEDNESDAY MAY 25th | 6:30PM PST
THURSDAY MAY 26th | 10:30 AM KST
5월 25일 수요일 |오후 6시 30분
5월 26일 목요일오전 10:30 KST
네트워킹 + 취업 기회: 애니메이션, 테크 아트, LOOK DEV 및 VFX에 대한 모든 것을 축하하고 이에 대해 이야기하는 이 특별 이벤트를 위해 Sony Pictures Imageworks와 연결하십시오!
이번 5월 25일 수요일에 Sony Pictures Imageworks와 함께하는 이 특별 프레젠테이션, 패널 및 네트워킹 이벤트에 초대합니다!
Clara Chan(VFX 감독자), Julius Kwan(애니메이션 감독자), Alan Chen(Look/Dev 감독자), Alyssa Zarate(매트 페인팅 및 환경 감독자) 및 James Park(CG 감독자)와 Sonia Bhatia(다양성 관리자, 관리자)와의 대화를 만나보세요. , Inclusion, & Engagement) SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES 등 – 귀하도 일부가 될 수 있는 방법에 대해 알아보십시오!
그들은 다른 프로젝트에 걸쳐 그들의 다양한 관점을 공유할 것이고, 그 후에 당신은 채팅하고 질문할 기회를 갖게 될 것입니다!
이 행사는 특히 아시아 지역 사회를 대상으로 하지만 특히 한국계 캐나다인, 한국 거주 여성 또는 개인이 많이참석하는 것을 기대합니다. Sony는 참석자를 향후 제작의 참여자로 고려할 것이므로 많은분들이 참석하여 자세히 알아보면 좋겠습니다.
My childhood in Singapore was pretty strict. There was a lot of focus on academics and getting good grades, so I found myself studying and going to extra after school classes on most days. There was a time when my parents would not allow my brother and I to watch tv. We still somehow sneaked in some hours of Pokemon, Digimon and Powerpuff Girls every week!
I always saw these fantastical plots taking place in the US, Japan, England or somewhere else overseas. I remember for one of my short films, The Kitchlets, I wanted to bring the fantasy back home, to a tiny apartment (HDB flat) in Singapore. I was a Brownie girl scout as a kid and I was actually inspired by the Brownie mythology and other household deities when creating the Kitchlet creatures. When my parents found out I wanted to pursue a career in the arts they were definitely skeptical. For the longest time, they thought it was just a phase I was going through and that I would grow out of it and pursue business, medicine or “at least” architecture or something that made money. People in entertainment in Singapore do not make much and being so far away from the American animation industry, I didn't even know it was a solid way of making money and just wanted to draw and make films for a living. I can understand my parents’ concerns with the lack of knowledge at the time and also living in Singapore.
I have always wanted to tell stories that inspire positivity through a fantastical lens. I grew up in multicultural Singapore with a lot of insecurity and struggled with self worth, feelings that many go through at some point in their life. I learned about other cultures and myths and legends and found myself wanting to create my own fantasy in my work. I’d love to present a film with similar characters who grow stronger and learn perspective on their journey.
I want to continue taking art classes as well as learning from my peers at work. Drawing and story aside, I want to learn more about the world. At the moment I am continuing my language studies in Japanese, French and Indonesian. Learning languages is so much fun, I love discovering new folk tales and cultural nuances as I learn about languages and their cultures.
I also want to read more books on philosophy and science as well as folk and fairytales from around the world! In art school we focus most of our time on technical drawing and animation ability, but I want to learn more about the physical and psychological world to help inspire the stories and thoughts I want to convey through my art.
There is so much to explore and we have to not only learn how to tell good stories but also learn what to tell stories about. The cinema was a sacred place for me growing up, a place where all my problems disappeared and I fully emerged into the stories of others. I’d love to build worlds that an audience can escape into and be entertained in. My ultimate goal is to become a director and create my own films with the most talented artists!
If the world was ending, I’d want my last story to be about the purpose of humanity’s existence. I want to show everyone that being human and living everyday, learning things, hating and loving each other impacted the universe in some way. (Something epic like that.)
For others on a similar path in animation, here are four things you should know:
Originally from Singapore, Clarisse studied at Tama Art University (Tokyo) and California Institute of the Arts (Los Angeles). Other than film-making she enjoys myths and legends, a nice cup of tea, and making miniatures. She currently works at Skydance Animation Studios as a story artist.
See more of Clarisse's work here: https://clarissechua.weebly.com
Post compiled by Jeremy Hsing
Graphics by Amy Ni
Art provided courtesy of Clarisse Chua
ANIMATION CAREER CLUB with Amy Kuo
We are super excited to launch a new series of talks at AnimAsians called ANIMATION CAREER CLUB - or what we like to call Anim-ASIAN Career Club!
You may know Amy from producing the multi-award-winning viral animated short LET'S EAT or her work at WIA Bay Area/ILM/Tonko House... but now, call Amy YOUR Animation Career Coach!
Episode One | Animation Industry Interviews
Let's talk about acing your animation interviews – ranging from how to prepare, what interviewers want to hear, how to follow up, and more.
Access the deck here.
Asians in Animation, CAPE, and Rise Up Animation present TURNING RED with Domee Shi and Rona Liu
We are so excited to welcome Director DOMEE SHI and Production Designer RONA LIU for this virtual presentation and Q&A on Pixar's most recent release, TURNING RED, now streaming on Disney+! Hear about the journey from BAO to TURNING RED, the diasporic influences that found their way into the film, what the filmmaking process was like, representation, and how TURNING RED is making its creative mark on animation history.
RSVP HERE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/aia-cape-and-rua-present-turning-red-with-domee-shi-and-rona-liu-tickets-298536750457?s=175736599
And a big thank you to our partners CAPE and Rise Up Animation!
Join this UNBELIEVABLE all-star line-up for a virtual panel featuring Netflix talent and employees discussing what it is like being Indian in the Animation industry and how we can cultivate diversity and community in the future.
MARCH 24, 7:30PM - 8:45PM PT • MARCH 25, 9AM - 10:15AM IST
Jay Hasrajani, CREATOR & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, BOONS AND CURSES
Jayee Borcar, ART DIRECTOR, TUNGA
Nabi H. Ali, CHARACTER DESIGNER, BOONS AND CURSES
Rhea Dadoo, EPISODIC DIRECTOR, BOONS AND CURSES
Tapan Gandhi, LEAD CHARACTER DESIGNER, CUPHEAD & BOONS AND CURSES
Moderated by the incredible Sneha Shukla, RECRUITING RESEARCHER, ART/STORY
You don’t want to miss this! Register now at netflixindiancreatives.splashthat.com.
MEET ISHA MANGALMURTI: Indigenous Indian Storytelling and DIY Adventures in 2D Animation Directing
Meet Isha Mangalmurti, Head of Story, 2D Animation Director, and Story Artist based in Pune, India. Read on to hear about Isha's animation origin story and discuss REPRESENT-ASIAN from her point of view!
Read the full, unedited conversation on the Asians in Animation website for more advice on independent filmmaking, tips as you move forward in the industry, and her full animation journey.
Any advice for how to give a 60 second response when asked to talk about yourself?
A: It's got a three act structure, the spiel. So it starts with an introduction, which
usually goes all the way back from where you started. Sometimes you might want to
go into your childhood, or sometimes start somewhere around college time, wherever
your story sort of began, and that whole little spark happened. And then you sort of go
into the middle of the journey, and you go through different difficulties or different
obstacles and how you overcame those, and what were some of the most challenging
bits in your entire journey? Then you very quickly wrap it up with whatever you're
currently working on and where do you see yourself going from here. You can gauge
from your initial few minutes of conversation with a person and figure out what
they're more interested in. So sometimes you can just cut back on the journey part of
the story, but focus on the current and what you're doing at present.
What is your 60 second spiel?
I was born in a small town in India, and I started sketching at a very young age, and
we were traveling around a lot moving up. So that was my way of respite from all the
shifting and also comforting things, sketching and drawing. I'd usually draw people
and their way of speaking to every new place that we went. And it was my way of
getting to know that place and making myself familiar with it. That sort of grew over
the years and being tagged as a creative kid, everyone was like, clearly you have to go
do design. But product design is more mainstream. And that's what I did when I went
to college. But then once I went to college, I completely fell in love with animation. We
had a little film festival happening in college, and it was just so mind blowing. And I
was like, this is what I've been doing all my life telling stories. I can do it
professionally, so might as well and I jumped into it, did my five year course and
studied traditional animation and figured that India has no industry for animation.
But fortunately had some wonderful colleagues and friends and we all came together
and started our own studio, right out of college. That was the start of this entire
journey and it's just been amazing ever since. I've worn many caps where I've been a
background artist, concept artist, character designer, animator, and producer. Now
I'm shifting more towards becoming a director so in the recent past I have been
directing more and handling the front end part of things.
What about that film festival in college made you fall in love with animation?
So basically, this film festival is a celebration of independent filmmaking, which
was something very new to me. And that particular year, there were a lot of people
there from such different parts of the world: there was a team from Japan, Brazil,
Peru, Canada, France, and there were these amazing artists from Bhutan. It was just
such a wonderful mix of people and at the core of it was telling stories from your land.
Everyone's stories were true to who they were or where they were. And that was just so
fascinating. I just couldn't look back afterwards.
How did your family react when you decided you wanted to pursue a career in animation?
Firstly, so there's this very funny notion that animation is a part of the film
industry. And there are these taboos around film, like being a part of the film
industry, where everyone has this strange idea that everyone is constantly partying
and the other notion is that you don't get paid much. It's a difficult industry for
women to be in. So when I told my family they were like what are you talking about?
How are you going to do this? Mainly because they also didn't know much about the
whole thing. And soon after once, I think it was a journey for all of us exploring what
this meant. Because even I was really new to it. So they would panic, and then I would
panic, but then we figured out a way. Fortunately, early on, I met friends in college,
who I started collaborating with, and they were a couple of seniors and even my
batchmates. And we would work on their projects and that just teaches you so much.
And when that sort of began, I started understanding what this whole thing was
about and what I was really getting into, and then I could communicate that to my
family. They understood like 10% of it, but at least they were a little calmer. Then I got
my first internship working on a Cartoon Network show and that's when they're like,
okay, now you have a real job.
You mentioned that you are more interested in directing now. How did that happen?
I think it has grown organically over the years because I never thought that I
wanted to be a director. It was always that I wanted to make films or tell stories. And
it started with just doing animation. So even in my free time, you'd always find me in
front of my laptop, trying something new. And yeah, nibbling and just making up a
new character doing a little animation tests for the character, or storyboarding little
scenes for the character. And I feel like that's what I enjoy the most. Now, I've been
working for the last almost four and a half, five years and in these four and a half, five
years, I have done I think almost everything possible. But I enjoy having that vision
more to sort of get it all done. This was my question throughout the CAPE residency: how do you control that temptation to do everything yourself? So I think it happened
Any advice for people wanting to try animation directing?
It's good to start somewhere small instead of jumping directly into doing
everything, because I feel like directing is a huge responsibility. So I made a short
film two years back, and that was my first directorial debut where I was making my
own short film. But I had a small team of interns, like four interns working on the
production, and I was handling the compositing, I was doing the storyboards. But
even then, I wasn't completely equipped with directing. I was more comfortable
animating. And I think that's why that urge to do everything yourself comes from,
because it's hard to communicate what you're thinking. And I think that grows over
time. So I feel like it's better to start somewhere smaller, maybe work on other
people's films, and see how they direct you. Work on commercials, work on longer
format projects, and just sort of get a grasp of what works and what doesn't for you
as a director, and then slowly get into it . I'm still very new to this so I'm also learning
constantly. I feel like gaining experience in all the other parts of the whole process is
helpful because then you have a much clearer idea of how to give direction as well.
Why do you want to do 2D Animation specifically?
It goes back to my childhood because that was the kind of animation I was
watching growing up. There was Heidi and SWAT cats, and Land Before Time, and
these amazing traditional animation shows, which had so much heart. Those are the
shows that I remember the most, that's what stayed with me. And I want to take that
forward. There was an Indian animator called Rammohan, he worked on the
collaboration between Japan and India, where they made an anime film. I mean, it
was animated by Japanese people and directed by Japanese people about Ramayana,
which is this Indian mythology, mythological story. It was a collaboration between
Ram Mohan, who was a leading Indian animator at the time, and Japanese animators.
And there was such a brilliant film, and it just like so there were these small things
that sort of really stayed with me. And I felt that that's what draws my true calling.
And I really wanted to continue doing that. I don't have anything against the Disney
Pixar aesthetic. But yeah, somewhere, I feel like that doesn't connect with Indian
audiences so much. Or maybe somewhere, I don't want it to connect. I want to see
more representation. I want to see more characters who look like us. And yeah, try to
make that instead of going the Disney Pixar way.
Why is it important for people like you to have representation in the industry?
Because I think at the end of the day, we're creating media that is going to get
mass consumed. It's a very subconscious way of changing how someone thinks, and
especially say, kids, when they want something, it leaves a huge impact on them. And
if you see the current trends in animation, or even more specifically, Indian
animation, the content that's created is there'll be an Indian character, which is
Indian in the way that it's taken from Indian mythology, or with like, draped clothing.
But then the storylines are all very western where aliens come in, or some monster
comes in. There's an apocalypse. And somewhere, I feel like that's a huge disconnect
again, and it leaves very shallow storytelling at the end of the day. I don't mean to
hate on anything. But I feel like there are so many stories from our surroundings
which are so much more engaging. Even if it was to be monsters, there are so many
fictional characters in Indian storytelling. At least for the Indian subcontinent, a lot of
storytelling for many years has happened verbally. For centuries, storytelling in
general was all verbal and it wasn't recorded anywhere. But there are so many stories
in there that just don't get noticed and I feel like there aren't enough people telling
those stories. But I'm very happy because now there's a lot of Indian animators who
are telling Indian stories. And in general, I feel like the Asian community is growing
and wants to tell Asian stories, instead of wanting to work on Western projects, which
What are the different ways that you tell indigenous stories?
It's usually illustrations and comics, and then sometimes short animations. I think
social media has reduced even my attention span xo I try to make short format
things. If I see something when I'm walking around, or just cross something, I always
have this urge to document it, and then that can turn into some story. So it's usually
like smaller comics. And then sometimes I turn it into an animation or turn it into a
longer narrative. And that's how it has grown, from smaller tidbits that I gather,
documenting in my sketchbooks, or documenting in small animations to actually
collating it all and putting it into a long format. I feel like, at least the first film that I
made, that was an animated documentary, it was more of an exercise in trying to
make an animated documentary. But somewhere, I learned a lot in that process. And I
kind of want to apply all of that into this, this current project that I'm developing, but
at the same time, keeping the story more personal and closer to me. Local,
indigenous stories play a huge part, the stories become more personal to me.
Was there a common thread you saw in the four short films you made with Ghost Animation?
If I had to find a thematic commonality, it would be that all of them were really
bleak. Someone in the audience actually said this, when they got up, they were like,
why are all your films so sad and bleak. One film talks about climate change and the
dystopian future we are headed towards. My film is about a humanitarian doctor
working in war zones. Mother is about a fictional story of a mother who has to take a
very difficult decision when she wants to protect her son. And then the fourth film is
again about a dystopian future where asteroids have destroyed Earth. That was really
funny because they never thought about it that way. And now they're a reflection of
the times that we're living in. But otherwise, I think, a running theme was also very
current topics and dealing with what is happening around us at the moment, none of
them took inspiration from my theology, or about old stories or anything. They were
about what's happening right now.
You are currently developing a series exploring Indian women's soccer. How did this idea come to fruition?
Football was the first sport that I was ever introduced to and I was super invested in it, and I really love playing and watching football. And then, at some point when I turned I think 14 or 15 in our school there wasn't a girls football team at the time and the coach had pulled me aside, one day, saying hey girls here don't play football. You're at that age where there's that whole tension between girls and and then all the girls start bullying you saying hey, why are you playing with the boys. It's just a strange time in life and somehow I just lost connection with football for years. Then I graduated from college and I found this amazing community of girls in Calcutta who I started playing football with, and became a girls football club. And that was just so amazing and in the last 10 years this has happened, everywhere. Cities have seen a rapid growth in women's football and it's a wonderful community. Almost parallel to animation like when I think about it, because everyone is just so supportive of each other and growing so fast. Everyone comes with their own stories and once you're on that ground you forget everything and you're one team. Everyone comes from such drastically different backgrounds and football is what unifies you once you're on the field. It's definitely a very, very personal story, and what I did with the protagonist was give her characteristics from my own personality.
What are your goals with the project in terms of social impact?
Through the whole series one, of course, is demystifying the sport. Second, is also
addressing a lot of adolescent issues. Because it's about girls who are around 15
years of age, it talks about the changes that are happening in the society, and there
are certain occupations that are caste based in India. That's changing now slowly, but what happens is in such situations, the boys are encouraged to pursue jobs outside
their communities. And the solution for girls is to marry outside the community. It
also talks about climate change and global warming, so the entire show addresses a
lot of different subjects through this one girl's journey.
Is there anything you would’ve changed about your path if you could?
I would have applied for jobs outside the country more. But I don't know how that
would have panned out and then maybe I would have regretted not working in the
Indian scene. There's always win some and lose some but when I look at all these
internships, I'm like man, I could have done them. But again I don't have any regrets.
This is just like a parallel universe, where I try something different.
Do you ever take the time to rest in your laurels or are you always grinding?
I'm guilty! I'm always constantly working. I will give you a small example: my laptop
battery has been screwed for a year and I've been getting that little service
recommendation. I need to take a break for three days and just give this laptop for
repair but haven’t found the time. And so next month, I’m planning to take a break for
real. And this time I mean it because you need that time to sort of recalibrate and just
reflect a little bit on what you've been doing and sometimes it's good to slow down a
bit, because then you can speed up after that. Those brakes are really important, and I
know we have this very competitive community in a way, where people put out
amazing work all the time and it puts a lot of pressure on you, but it's important to
remember that no one's running away anywhere and whenever you put your work out
there, it will do its magic and there's no urgency. You can take that one day off or you
can even take that one month. I'm really telling this to myself, it's hypocritical if I give
other people this advice and then I don't.
What do you do to decompress?
I watch a lot of movies and shows. I’m currently watching Cowboy Bebop at the
moment. I'm a big outdoor person, so I like hiking and playing football and also
reading, so all of these other things from just sitting in front of a laptop. Then again
it's a cycle. I'll do these things, and then some little insect in my brain will start
wiggling and be like you need to draw this. But you need those breaks to even get that
inspiration to draw something.
Any parting words of advice?
Not to succumb to that pressure of having to constantly create and please people.
It’s good to just take a breather and recalibrate for yourself and not get too
pressurized by social media or the competition in general. Go at your own pace.
A big thank you to CAPE for partnering with us with this series and to Isha for all her wisdom and inspiration! Isha, we are so excited to see what you do next in 2D animation and hope we get to see your series on a screen soon!
Be on the look out for a few more interviews to come with the other participants of the inaugural CAPE Animation Directors Accelerator (CADA), a first-of-its-kind program to identify and uplift the next generation of storytellers and leaders in animation.
Interview Conducted by Jeremy Hsing @jeremyhsing
Post Compiled by Kristian Bansil @kristian.bansil and Lexie Chu
THU Career Camp - Applications Now OPEN!
THU Career Camp is a free online networking event where creators from the digital entertainment & interactive industry can find jobs, access new opportunities, get mentorships and portfolio reviews.
Participating companies include: Netflix ILM, Illumination, DNEG, Lucasfilm, Skydance, Sony Animation, Mikros, Nickelodeon, and MANY more.
All levels and locations are welcome to this free online event, so be sure to check out this exciting opportunity to meet other creatives like you, talk with studios, and find mentors!
Please keep reading for the instructions to sign up:
1. Create a THU Account and fill out your profile here: https://www.trojan-unicorn.com/users/sign_in
2. After logging in, get your pass by submitting your application here: https://www.trojan-unicorn.com/career-camps/career-camp-2022
3. Tell us why you want to join the event: Let us know more about you and share with us why this opportunity is important to you. Do not forget to mention Asians in Animation as your referral!
4. You will officially join the Waiting List.
For any questions, please direct them to the THU team at the bottom of their website.
Enjoy the Career Camp, everyone!
Break, Reinvent, Impact and Change: BRIC Summit 2022 - announcing our community partnership
We are ELATED to announce our partnership with BRIC Foundation. BRIC Foundation has one main goal: to increase representation in Entertainment, Gaming, Media and Tech. By strategically engaging with leaders across these industries, along with Government and Education Partners, BRIC strives to Break, Reinvent, Impact and Change the foundations of these businesses and create inclusive opportunities for women and underrepresented people to be successful.
The 2022 BRIC (Break, Reinvent, Impact and Change) Virtual Summit will be happening February 11th and 12th. The Summit’s goal is to bring a community of thought provokers together from different facets of the entertainment, media, gaming and tech industries to collectively solve how we support and nurture up-and-coming talent – as it pertains to women and underrepresented groups who have an interest in being creative leaders.
The BRIC Summit will be packed with engaging speakers and solutions-driven workshops for industry professionals and up-and-coming talent, providing access and education from experts in the field representing the world’s most iconic entertainment brands.
FEBRUARY 11, 2022: Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, musician and co-founder of KidNation, an interactive platform for children to enjoy kid-centric, educational entertainment, will deliver the opening keynote address. Attendees will hear research from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative on the state of our industry. Additional speakers include ESPN’s Marsha Cooke, Aldis Hodge (Black Adam), and New York Times Best Selling Author, Lindsey Pollack. There will also be a special invite-only C-suite session for senior leaders from studios to gain additional insights while attending a workshop with their peers. Sign up here.
FEBRUARY 12, 2022: Educators, Parents, and Professionals in early stages of their career will find a variety of helpful workshops including a BRIC Creative Academy session, an Art Jam, a Careers in Animation panel, and Portfolio Reviews from some of the leading Animation, Visual Effects and Gaming Studios. Additional programming includes Grant Writing 101 for Teachers, Careers in VFX, Careers in Games, and a Film Festival Submission Panel led by Larry Laboe from New Filmmakers LA. Free to the public. Sign up here.
For more information, visit BRIC Summit 2022's website here.
Happy Holidays - and thank you!
This past year, alongside our 1800+ members across 48 countries, we were able to host 38 events in the past nine months, started conversations with studios about more Asian representation on screen and behind the scenes, started an extremely dedicated writers group, published a resource guide, celebrated INCREDIBLE Asian-led animated stories, and remembered why we’re pursuing careers in animation.
It has been a wonderful year at AIA and we are grateful to you, our community, for your camaraderie and energy as we welcome another year of the celebr-Asian of more Asian stories, Asian talent, and people like you.
So, from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU for being here. We couldn’t do what we do without you. You inspire us every day!
We hope your holidays are filled with joy and love and we look forward to seeing you in 2022!
With our most sincere gratitude and appreciation,
The Asians in Animation “AnimAsians” Team
Brandon Bui • Lexie Chu • Joshua Kwan • Olivia Stark • Mason Tran • Alisha Syed • Kalos Chu • Kingsley Song • Nanami Yokota • Whitney Hii • Saira Umar • Katie Dizon • Alex Yeh • Kristian Bansil • Glory Jo
holiday card art by Jamie Chua (https://www.instagram.com/jamiesketch)
We’re super excited to announce a Writing Group within Asians in Animation! I’m Saira, Creative Director of the AIA team. Ryan, another volunteer, and I wanted to create this group as emerging writers, to foster a space for other writers to collaborate and grow together!
- What is it? A small group for writers. While details will be finalized based on demand, it will most likely consist of weekly or regular meetings, deadlines and critiques, and is intended for those able to dedicate time and effort into it.
- What else is there? For those interested in writing, but not able to participate in the Writing group at this time, can ask others for feedback through our writing server.
- We will also continue to have writing events and resources available to all!
Questions can be directed to us (Saira Umar (she/her) and Ryan Chu) by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
To express interest, fill out this form: https://bit.ly/aiawriters
Applications are open from now until Friday, November 12! ⭐️
I’m originally from a beautiful beach state called Goa in India. Like most of my peers, I was initially set on working towards becoming an engineer or a doctor after high school. I remember for my biology classes, we had art assignments such as sketching out science diagrams. For my final exam, I spent a lot of time making a model of the digestive system. I carved out and painted every single organ meticulously, and soon realized that I enjoyed creating the model far more than learning what function each organ did. My mom encouraged me to pursue art classes outside of school and took me to a lot of local art competitions.
A movie called Finding Nemo changed my life. I remember seeing the beautiful underwater world designed in that movie, such as the anemone where Marlin lived and the shipwreck where the sharks resided. Although I watched a lot of other animated movies, Finding Nemo was special since I’ve always loved the sea world. The movie impacted me so strongly as a child that I had nightmares about a shark attacking me for a couple of weeks! When I visited the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences, I saw characters from that movie like Marlin, Nemo, Dory, and Gill in real life and later found out that a lot of Pixar artists visited aquariums like this one for research. I realized animation is actually something that people can do as a career, and that’s when I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue it myself.
My earliest memory of storytelling is listening to my grandmother, who was an amazing storyteller. I would point out the prettiest colorful image in the book she would be reading, and I would be captivated by the stories of magic, princesses, and the triumph of good over evil. She would sing catchy songs and rhymes from the stories that would help me remember them far better. I was particularly fascinated by the story of a king and an evil spirit who hangs upside down from a tree. The king is instructed by a sorcerer to bring the evil spirit back from the forest and each time the king tries to capture the spirit, it tells a story that ends with a riddle. Thanks to my grandmother, I started reading books from the magical, fantasy, and adventure genres at a young age.
What I love about fantasy is that most stories use magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting by using real world folklore and mythology as inspiration. Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Harry Potter left a strong impact on me. The wizarding world of Harry Potter exists parallel to the real world and contains magical versions of the ordinary elements of everyday life, while the fantasy land of Narnia was an alternate universe and the Lord of the Rings was a mythic past. Harry Potter in particular came across as an intelligently patchworked derivative motif from all sorts of children’s literature. I’m hoping my next project will have some element of magic and mystery that could bring a piece of my childhood back and also cater to the minds of young children. It could be inspired from the stories that I grew up with and continue to be passionate about.
At the moment, I’m directing a short film inspired by my journey as an immigrant moving to the United States and trying to fit in as an outsider. I knew that moving to the US and trying to break into a competitive industry would require me to work hard to build a strong portfolio but there were several other challenges that I was unaware of. Early on, I felt like I had to repeat myself constantly because people didn’t seem to understand my accent. Due to this reason, I initially hesitated to participate in group discussions and decided to stick to groups of people from a similar community. Eventually I did realize that since I’ve made a choice to be an expat and live in a different country, I need to make a conscious effort to fit in and embrace a new culture. After spending the last 4.5 years in the US and interacting with people from different countries, I’ve realized that people are similar in a lot of ways despite coming from different cultural backgrounds. And there is something new you can learn from every person you meet if you’re open to it. Being an international, my work visa determines how long I get to stay in this country and I’m determined to learn and grow with every opportunity that comes my way. Because despite all the challenges, the satisfaction of getting through a hurdle is highly rewarding. My short film is a story about a young female elephant who is trying to find her place in a circus and the trials and tribulations she faces are a reflection of my journey in the US as an immigrant.
I hope I’m able to tell a story where we can find a way to bring awareness for conservation and environmental science. I want to instill a sense of hope and awareness amongst the youth that can empower people to take steps to save the world from drastic circumstances like climate change or an apocalypse or the pandemic like the one we are currently going through. David Attenborough’s films and work are a huge inspiration for me. I love the enthusiasm and love for wildlife that he has even in his 90s. My stories at the moment are directed towards a niche audience but I hope in a few years, I work and have enough experiences to create a film that would have a broader appeal. I've recently found a fascination for documentaries. My Octopus Teacher in particular was a passion project that made me feel deep empathy towards the main protagonist. I’ve watched several interviews of the filmmaker Craig Foster and was impressed to know that he had been diving every day for 8.5 years and documenting his observations of underwater life. The film which Foster began filming in 2010 was 10 years in the making and deservedly received much love as well as critical acclaim from viewers. I hope my last project is a project of this magnitude made with a lot of love and which will be remembered for years after it has been released.
For others on a similar path in animation, here are three things you should know:
1. Never stop learning and be prepared to be a lifelong student.
2. Seek mentorship and guidance from your supervisors and colleagues in the industry.
3. Be willing to give back and help others along the way. It's very important to be remembered as a good person who was talented but also easy to work with.
Catch Us at Lightbox Expo 2021!
We'll be there alongside Rise Up Animation, Black N Animated, Latinx in Animation, and Animation Club talking about Advocating for Diversity in Animation!
To learn about the latest in the animation industry, join our own Lexie Chu (Founder and President, Asians in Animation) and our friends Way Singleton (Co-Founder, Black N’ Animated), Monica Lago-Kaytis (Co-Founder, Rise Up Animation), Magdiela Hermida Duhamel (Founder and Director, LXiA), and Onyi Udeh (Founder, Animation Club).
We are so grateful for the opportunity to have joined our gracious hosts Elizabeth Garcia of Wacom and LatinX in Animation. Watch the panel live on Saturday, September 11 at 11 AM - or catch the panel anytime until the end of the expo on September 12!
Meanwhile, be sure to look out for some of our amazing and immensely talented community members. Meet Kha Anh Le, Laura Yan, Sonya Han, Jessie Chang, Tammy Wang, and Karla Circe below - and find them at the Artist Alley!
A big thank you to our own Laura Yan for creating and pioneering the most intense version of Asians in Animation's mascot for our Lightbox Expo graphic beyond our wildest dreams.
For tickets to Lightbox, head to https://lightboxexpo.com/. We'll see you there!