Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"The Chestnut Tree"

I just happened upon this film yesterday when I saw it posted on the blog of Alan Cook, a talented recent Sheridan Animation grad and a former student of mine. I've watched this short animated film over again several times now and must say that I just love it. It was created by a young animator from Korea named Hyun-min Lee, who has been accepted into the internship program at Disney and has apparently been working with master animator, Eric Goldberg. An interview with Hyun-min may be found here.

The film is a celebration of childhood imagination and the loving mother who encouraged that imagination to flourish. Now, some of you may be wondering why I am responding so enthusiastically to this film, when I recently gave quite a critical drubbing to "Adventure Time", which also centers around childhood imagination. Especially since the characters in "The Chestnut Tree" are also quite simplistic in design, with minimal facial features and a comparable amount of what we refer to as "pencil mileage" as that found in the designs of "Adventure Time". But that is really where the similarity ends, and for me the success is in the execution of the visuals and resulting animation in this charming film.

Though undeniably minimalist designs, the young girl and her mother are drawn with fully dimensional, simple forms and they are handled with fluidity and graceful movement in their animation. Unlike the awkward character animation and layouts I perceive to be at work in "Adventure Time", the skill of Hyun-min's animation is able to lead the viewer's eye pleasingly and playfully through each scene. Though the facial features are so simple in design, they register clear emotions that the viewer easily can respond to. Admittedly, as one who teaches Character Design, I myself prefer to see characters that have more specific features that can indicate more of their personality type, but when minimalist design is handled well at the animation stage, that's where the personality and emotional content can be put across through clarity of body language, expressions and timing of the motion. (I can also appreciate "Pocoyo" for that reason, by the way.) Still, I do expect to see more distinctness in the designs from my Sheridan students just to stretch their ability to depict personality through visual design alone, as they can all well attest to at this point! :)

I hope that Hyun-min Lee is successful in her goal to become a full-time animator at Disney and I look forward to great things from this young lady in the future!


Andy Latham said...

Watching lovely animation like this is like watching water flowing. It's a million miles from "Adventure Time" both technically and stylistically. A beautiful film that I will be sharing round work tomorrow! Thanks for putting this up Pete :)

deniseletter said...

This is a vid with good character design,excellent flowing animation and a very captivating metaphor.
BTW I didn't know you know "Pocoyo"

zoe said...

I am in complete awe of the visual composition and execution of the animation...but I'm getting really sick of this kind of thing. In some way I personally relate more to "Adventure Time," despite the crudeness. When I was a kid, my imaginary world was pretty weird. Most real children I have ever met are pretty weird. This interpretation of childhood has been done to death, and yet I have NEVER seen a child who is like this.

Hacky Crapper said...

Beautifully executed animation, and an endearing story. This animator is truly talented.

"The Chestnut Tree" does have one thing in common with "Adventure Time", though. Neither should be made into a television series.

Nancy said...

Hi Peter,
Hyun-Min Lee is currently working in Eric Goldberg's unit at the Disney Studio on PRINCESS AND THE FROG.
Her teachers were Bert and Jennifer Klein, who paid to have this student film put into 35 mm. Klein was a protege of Eric Goldberg, so we have a three 'generation animation' experience here. Don Hahn helped produce.
I'm curious to know how it turned up on a blog?

Ryan Cole said...

Adorable motions! The expressions have a lot of that Miyazaki look to them, I find.

BJ Crawford said...


Thanks for posting this. It's beautiful!

Keep showing us what great animation is! It's very inspiring.


King Marvin Mugabi said...

thanks for posting this

music is key to life


Amanda said...

Hey Pete,
Hernando saw Hyun-Min at Siggraph working on a scene for Princess and the Frog and said that she was super shy, hehe.

What a talented girl 8)

David said...

"I'm curious to know how it turned up on a blog?"


It was posted on YouTube on September 24, 2008 by the producers, Picnic Pictures (Jennifer and Bert Klein) .


It has since then had almost 400,000 views (399,931 to be precise, as of Oct. 31, 2008)

A lot of those views probably coming from people posting it on their blogs.

Chestnut Tree is going viral ! Go Hyun Min !
It's heartening to see that a beautiful film like this would attract so many viewers , pretty much by word of mouth. (or is that by "word of blog " ? )

roz said...

........i feel like a terrible person for not being able to sit through this whole thing.....

its just too cutesy for me :/