Director Erick Oh spent six years working as an animator at Pixar, working on titles such as “Finding Dory and “Inside Out” before joining Tonko House.
His nine-minute long animated shortlist contender “Opera” is inspired by the great Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo and Botticelli. Oh was also inspired by society and humanity; Trump was president and in Korea, President Park Geun-hye had just been impeached.
The animation, which can be played on a continuous loop, looks at a society that exists within a pyramid-esque structure and how each interaction and action of individuals impact the society within which they live.
Oh looks at racism, terrorism and religion as well as war and education within this pyramid, following a day to night pattern.
The idea of the loop was to reflect the vicious cycle of history.
Over four years, Oh and his team of 34 animators worked on creating the sequence which comprises 24 different sections.
Oh explains, “Animating ‘Opera’ was like making a clock. Every single element is delicately connected. Actions and consequences interact with each other the entire time.”
No matter which character you were drawn to, the experience would be that you would end up visiting every section.
In one section, there is a prison with a guillotine reflecting diversity. Oh says, “If you look closely, prisoners are in jail or receiving death sentences just because they have different colored heads. This stands for diversity: ethnic, ideological, religious or anything. But just because they are different, they are sinners. This was heavily inspired by all the discrimination we have in our society and culture.”
Celine You was the art director who worked with Oh to tell the story. After he had completed the concept drawings, it was passed to You and the animators to give movement and performance to each character.
You says, “After several rounds of testing, we decided to paint the sets in solid 3D style with richly curated details to give the viewers the most immersive experience.”
Additionally, the team explored the animation visuals with Oh, looking at the detailed interior. You says, they looked at the color association. “Warm brown lighting is associated with the mining industry, and cool blue lighting depicts seafood factories.”