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InC-terview - French Animator and Storyboard Artist Han Liane-Cho.

By Flora  /  16 Jun 2016 (Thursday)

Han Liane-Cho is a French animator and storyboard artist on various films such as The Little Prince and Long Way North, where both films were screened at the French Film Animation Festival in May, as part of the Voilah! French Festival 2016. 

The Singapore premiere of The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) at the festival was an instant hit, having sold out two screenings, including an encore session. Directed by Mark Osborne and voiced by Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams and Paul Rudd, Han was the storyboard artist on the film.

InCinemas talked to Han, as he shared more about his journey as an animator with The Little Prince and Long Way North, the struggles his faced, and his hopes for the future of animation. 

Both of your films you’ve worked on were screened at the film festival. What was the experience like to see The Little Prince and Long Way North on the big screen in Singapore?

I am really honoured to be invited to the screenings. I feel I’m really lucky because it’s normally the producer that attends these screenings, but because the producer couldn’t make it so he asked me to take his place. I immediately agreed because Singapore is such a special place to me and that I have family members living here, which I invited them to the screening too. 

The animation in The Little Prince is fascinating, especially the two different ‘worlds’ in different styles created in this one film.

The Little Prince movie is not directly adapted from the book and so for the movie, Mark (director) wanted something different from the two universes. His first movie was shot in stop motion animation, an animation technique he is really good at, and it was also becuase it was kind of a logical move to separate the two worlds. It is also more poetic as well. I think the stop motion was my favourite part of the movie because the texture is looks very nice.

What were your feelings when you received the news to be onboard The Little Prince? 

It came almost an accident because at that point, I was only a 2D animator and there  weren’t many 2D animation feature film jobs in Paris. I got a little worried but luckily, a friend of mine told me about (The Little Prince) project where they were looking for storyboarders. He knew the director, Mark, and after a few conversations, we met. 

I showed Mark my works as an animator and he gave me a test where I was asked to create little sequences. To be honest, I was a little scared at first because I didn’t have much experience as a storyboard artist. They told me they loved my work and wanted to hire me for two weeks for a trail period but it didn’t happen. So I moved to another production, only to be called back three days after I started with the other film. Coincidentally, after a month with the production, we were told that the script wasn’t finalised and that the project was on hold. That allowed me to return to The Little Prince... and because I was so connected to the characters and the story, it’s almost like a natural progression for me to do it.

What’s the most rewarding and challenging aspect being a part of a project as an animator and/or storyboard artist? 

When you are a fresh storyboarder in the industry, the challenge really, is not to get fired! The job can be stressful at times, but the reward comes when you see that people are relating to your ideas and they start to appreciate what you are doing. That’s the whole purpose of the storyboard artist. 

When you have a little bit more experience, the challenge is to put your heart and passion into it, despite the countless changes that has to be made during the various stages of production. It gets harder when you have to storyboard something that you don’t believe in… to continue the story when you know it doesn’t work, that’s really hard to do. 

Before I worked on the Long Way North, I quit a job that was really good at the beginning but became catastrophic at the end. I was just too sad and it was too difficult to deal with. When the Long Way North came, I jumped onboard immediately. I have to say that I took a 40% pay cut of my salary, but when I started working with director Remi Chayé, I felt the joy of working again. There’s a lot of satisfaction in an artistic way. It’s not every time that a good project comes by, and not every job you do is a good project. I never regretted it. I love working the whole team from Long Way North!

What was it like working with director Remi Chayé. 

Remi is such a great director! Not only for his artistic talent but for his very humble and friendly personality! There are a lot of directors where you don’t see them very often, but Remi will have lunch with the entire team everyday. You can tell that everyone on the team worked very hard on the project - for the film and for Remi. 

What were some of the reaction and comments you received for Long Way North?

We brought the film to the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and the reception was amazing! We had a standing ovation for the entire credit roll, which was quite rare. I was discovering the complete movie for the first time despite working on this project from the start till the end. It was my first time enjoying it with the addition of sound and effects. At that moment, it’s a huge satisfaction when you see people clapping and cheering for your film. 

In your opinion, what do you think are some of the factors that make a good animation film. 

For me, it’s definitely the story. If you do a movie with great techniques, it’ll be nice to watch but when the movie ends, you just leave the theatre and you forget all about it. However, when a story is good, there’s something deep about it and after you watch the movie, it stays inside you. It can create an impact on you even as a kid, and that’s what I love about movies - it can change you.

When I was a student, I watched Princess Mononoke and Grave of the Fireflies and it totally changed me. I was 16 or 17 then and I was wowed by it. That’s the thing with movies, to evoke that kind of emotion. It’s nice to have a good balance of movies that focus on techniques and movies with great stories. But right now, for animation at least, there are more movies focused on great techniques and not stories that stay with you for long.

Were you one of the lucky few who got to catch The Little Prince and Long Way North? Tell us what you think about the films in the comments below!
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