×

‘Princess Aya’ Director Says Korean Animation can go Further

Lee Seong-gang, one of Korea’s most experienced and successful animation directors, says he was forced into experimentation with his fourth feature “Princess Aya,” which plays this week at the Busan International Film Festival, in the Cinema Today-Panorama section.

“There were some investments we could secure only if we make it as a ScreenX movie. It was not a choice, but a must,” Lee told Variety. “I loved the idea.” ScreenX is the CGV-developed format in which film content is simultaneously projected on two side walls as well as the main screen. While several live action, and effects-heavy films have used the system, “Princess Aya” is the first animation to be originated that way.

“My first impression of ScreenX was nothing more than ‘expansion,’ but as I later realized, it can also make audiences feel as if they are in a narrower space, because the three screens make a 270-degree angle. It is more entertaining, rather than being cinematic,” Lee said.

Known as the godfather of Korean animation, Lee debuted with the critically-acclaimed feature “My Beautiful Girl, Mari” in 2002. It was the first Korean animation to win the Grand Prix at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. His second, “Yobi, the Five Tailed Fox” in 2007, was less auteuristic and commercially more successful than “Mari.” In 2016 he delivered “Kai.”

Produced by Yeon Sang-ho, director of megahit zombie actioner “Train to Busan,” “Aya” a fantasy love story – and also a musical. It involved K-pop talents, singer-songwriter Baek A-yeon, and popular K-pop boy band GOT7’s Park Jin-young, as the princess and the prince, respectively.

“I wanted to make a film that could deliver happy vibes to audiences, both through its narrative and its form. That’s why I chose to make it a musical animation, and casting singers as voice actors became necessary,” Lee said.

“Most investors are not confident about Korean animations. Projects with global elements may have better chances, but not many of them turn out to be profitable,” Lee said. “Yobi” was made with $2.6 million, while “Kai” cost less than $700,000. Lee says the production cost for “Aya” was somewhere in between.

“There should be more animation directors that make low budget features and expand the base,” said Lee, who believes too few feature animations are produced in Korea. “Animation directors these days tend to try to make one very successful animation in their lives.”

Currently developing a TV project, Lee sees hope in digital streaming platforms. “There are different ways of producing, distributing and making profit from animations now. Web animation is likely to work, just like how web series are working out. I hope to work with online platforms as much as I can,” he said.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Gerard Schurmann, Film and TV Composer,

    Gerard Schurmann, Film and TV Composer, Dies at 96

    Gerard Schurmann, whose 1960s film scores included “The Bedford Incident” and “Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow” but who also composed extensively for the concert hall, died March 24 at his home in the Hollywood Hills. The cause of death was not announced; he was 96. Schurmann’s death was announced by his music publisher, Novello & [...]

  • Rita And Tom Hanks Coronavirus

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Return to U.S. After Coronavirus Diagnosis in Australia

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are back home in the U.S. after they revealed they had contracted coronavirus and were quarantined in Australia. Hanks gave an update on Twitter Saturday morning, thanking everyone who had helped them in Australia and assuring people that they are still isolating themselves in the U.S. “Hey, folks…We’re home now [...]

  • Film Comment Magazine Goes on Hiatus

    Film Comment Magazine to Go on Hiatus as Film at Lincoln Center Lays Off Half of Staff

    Many companies are being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Film at Lincoln Center is the latest organization to have to lay off employees and pause some of their operations. On Friday, executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing that the center had to furlough or lay off about half of its [...]

  • "Birds of Prey" egg sandwich

    'Birds of Prey' Actor Bruno Oliver Recreates Harley Quinn's Famous Sandwich

    When actor Bruno Oliver booked the role of short order cook Sal in “Birds of Prey: (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” he had no idea how significant Sal and his breakfast sandwich were to the story. “You couldn’t tell from the audition necessarily and as actors, we always worry about our scenes [...]

  • Minyan

    'Minyan': Film Review

    Best known for the unexpectedly soul-shattering San Francisco suicide doc “The Bridge,” indie filmmaker Eric Steel came out and came of age in 1980s New York at a moment just before AIDS devastated the city’s gay community. Such timing must have been surreal, to assume something so liberating about one’s own identity, only to watch [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content