AN INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION COOPERATION: SOYEON YOO & "VALT THE WONDER DEER"


If the inspiration of the Arts and the optimism of the youth are what leads to harmony in the world’s interaction, then multimedia artist Soyeon Yoo is one of the individuals leading the charge. That may sound like an over exaggeration at first glance but when you stop to consider it, most of our early imprinting concerning other cultures stays with us into our early adult years. You might see the title “multimedia artist” or “character design” and think to yourself “I’m not exactly sure how to picture that in my head.” That’s a fairly appropriate response as the role of a multimedia artist can be malleable to the project they are working on. The term describes a skill set rather than the exact definition of this vocation. Soyeon Yoo is an accomplished artist in this profession and has used her talent on a number of different animated productions. Her work on “Valt the Wonder Deer” saw them utilized most notably in character design and as a colorist. As a character designer, Soyeon was helping to fully conceptualize and present the characters for animation so that the staff of animators from China could have a very actualized idea of how to animate these characters. As a color stylist she was responsible for the colors of characters and props in the animated show. One might think of her role as dealing with the realization of the look on screen via the final design that was given to the animation team.

“Valt the Wonder Deer” is an international production that originated from Beijing, China. As the creative director at Dream East Studio for this program, it is Ron Myrick’s job to bring Valt to life starting from the character development and script phase through pre and post production. Myrick states, “From our first meeting, I immediately recognized Soyeon’s immense talent. Shortly after our initial meeting I was able to make her a part of our character design staff at Dream East. She was very instrumental in assisting us to shape the look and feel of our main characters. She also gave us assistance on storyboards. We went on to produce 52 episodes which are now airing in China as well as other parts of the world. We are now in full production of the next 52 episodes for 2018. I consider it an honor to work with young artist like Soyeon. Talent like hers is inspiring for me and she was a true assent working with the rest of the crew.” Yoo was given some rough early concept art from the production, from which she created character designs and also drew full turns and expressions for the characters. After two months working there as a freelance character designer, supervising director, Ron Myrick, offered her a job as a full-time character designer for TV animated series.

“Valt The Wonder Deer” is the story of Valt, a mythical deer from the Land of Wood who must master five elemental powers in order to gain the strength he needs to rescue his parents from the Land of Metal. He is joined on his quest by a quick-thinking monkey named Cobalt, a friendly taotie named Kem, a magical three-eyed cat named Trika, an ice-blowing yak named Yark, and a teleporting fire bird named Alia. The show’s them is far from a typical American one and the look is quite different than the average Chinese animated program. The producers desired and sought out a blending the approach of these two different cultures, something for which Soyeon is ideally suited. The show feels like an Americanized style that originated in China, partially because this show’s pre-production was done in US but produced by China. The story elements come from China (the main character Valt is a Chinese mythical deer while the basis for Taotie is also found in Chinese mythos) but the pronounced American style influence in character and background designs results in a fresh presentation to China’s youth.

Yoo literally created hundreds of character designs for the show. Each episode saw the main characters meeting new characters, which required Soyeon to be highly creative. Starting with the original illustrations as a reference for designing characters, she would simplify and define the shapes of characters so the team could figure out how to animate the characters. If there were no original illustrations for the characters (not all of characters had original illustrations) she would read descriptions from the script or director’s note about how the characters should look/feel and create these character designs from the words. These were then submitted to the director for approval. One of the most vital parts of her role in the production team was her creation of the 5 point-view of character-turnarounds. This is a perspective view of each character from five different angles: front, profile, 3/4 view, 3/4 rear back view, and back. Not all characters required a 5 point-view of character-turnaround but the more prevalent a character in an episode the more it was needed. If the character is moving a lot from different angle and appears a lot from several episodes, Yoo would draw them as a 5 point of view because this provides all of the information of the character’s appearance from every angle, greatly increasing the rate of productivity during animating.”

Yoo was also instrumental in lending her artistic eye to the colorization of “Valt the Wonder Deer.” She explains, “I chose the color for the props by referencing the background color and character color. It really depends on a prop’s in the show because certain props were more interactive or attached to characters than others. I think color is all about balance. It requires to look for how colors affect each other. Color evokes certain emotions and feelings, especially in regards to the actual color of the character. When I paint the color for the characters, I’m not only considering the character’s appearance but also their personality and relationship with the other characters. For example, when I pick the color for Valt’s parents, they need to have a similar color scheme because they are his parents but I also di-saturated color to express their tiredness and sickness due to the fact that they have been suffering from the jail.”

“Valt the Wonder Deer” is an acclaimed success in China. Industry magazines like Variety, TVKIDS, Animation Magazine, Kidscreen, and numerous others have sung the praises of this animated series that is a result of culture blending. Soyeon is grateful for the accolades and expresses delight in one particular source. She confirms, “One of the most rewarding parts of working on this project was when I heard the news that this animated show received great feedback from child audiences at the kid’s screenings from film festivals. When I saw photos from the show being screened on TV in China I felt the pride and satisfaction that what I had done was making people happy.”

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