Animator On The Move: Koh Chong Cheng

The flight back from Narita Airport to KLIA takes about 7 hours – more than enough time for us to get to know local rep for DigiCon6, Koh Chong Cheng. His team’s animated short Still Alive was selected as the top pick from Malaysia and is the closest we’ve seen to an animated Mr Bean episode…with Chinese Vampires! JUICE gets into the animator’s mind 30,000 feet in the air. Braincells go pop the weasel.

What was your favourite cartoon growing up?
Everything Disney. Back then it was still okay to watch Sleeping Beauty if you were a guy.

Yes, right now Disney’s changing the name of their upcoming movie from Rapunzel to Tangled. Apparently boys don’t want to watch cartoons with princesses anymore. So how did you get into animation?
Since I was young, I loved drawing cartoons and watching movies. I wasn’t into textbooks and math, but the technology part got me interested. I guess I just like to explore what I can do to my characters, how I can breathe new life into them and make them as real as possible.

What’s the first thing somebody should know before choosing animation as a career?
They should have a strong passion for animation. I think choosing any career is the same. A career is what you do on a daily basis and you should like what you do every day. A strong art sense would definitely be helpful too.

How long did it take your team to complete Still Alive?
8 months to complete it starting from preproduction to production. There were 5 of us in the team.

For 4 minutes of running time, that seems like a raw deal. How did you come up with the storyline?
Actually, my teammate first thought of it. He’s really into old Chinese vampire movies and pointed out how all of them-even the scariest ones-had elements of humour. We thought it’d be funny if we made a story about a human pretending to be a bloodsucker to avoid getting caught by them.

What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a game production with Passion Republic and some TV commercials as well.

What was the last animation you watched that excited you?
The movie Avatar. Animation now does not only attract kids and isn’t limited to cartoons. It has a huge influence on movie blockbusters. Many movies nowadays are using animation to add visual bang, to create massive attack scenes and so on. Avatar is one of the best animations I’ve seen. The movie is so impressive with all the photo-realistic 3D effects.

Where do you get your inspiration?
From everyday life, anyone I know and everywhere I’ve been.

If you were an animated character, who would you be?
Remy in Ratatouille because Remy does what he loves best, which is cooking. Everyone should do what they love best. Plus I like rats that cook. It’s kind of ironic.

We’ve got a thing for culinary vermin too. Do you feel attached to the characters you create?
I’m attached to every single character that I’ve created. It’s important for an animator to be attached with the characters in order to bring life to them. Before modelling a character, an animator should do some research about the character. After all the research is done, I guess the animator will naturally feel attached with the character.

Just don’t dream about them in the loo. What’s the best thing about being an animator?
The best thing is that we can bring our daily lives into animations, and express them in a creative and different way. And it’s very, very cool to see your work being appreciated by audiences of all kinds.

Check out Koh’s work at www.passionrepublic.com.