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The Lush Life of Ning Cheng

Photo courtesy of Zepu Cheng

Any career in the television/film industry comes with its own demands. Long hours, toiling somewhat endlessly in the search of perfection, isolation from family and friends; these are common. One must have a driving passion for this kind of work. Animator Ning Cheng possesses this perhaps more than most. She doesn’t see this as a detriment as her talent has launched her career to a point in which she works within an international community of dedicated artist who create the stories which enrich and entertain multitudes. For an artist, having your work globally appreciated is a compensation that is not to be taken lightly. From feature films to VR games, Cheng has been a part of it all and she’s happy to see the opportunities for her constantly expanding. A quick Google search of the most popular (and financially beneficial) films will immediately confirm that artists like Ning Cheng are an essential and expanding part of the film, television, and gaming industries.

Being successful as an animator means working on a large variety of projects. While Cheng might be working on a Virtual Reality platform game one month, the following project could be a feature film…which it is. The Legend of Luo Xiaohei is the latest animated TV program to be turned into an animated feature film. Set for release later this summer (trailer viewable at ) a voracious fan base is eagerly awaiting this feature length production titled The Legend of Hei. Taking place in the same world as The Legend of Luo Xiaohei, this is the story of a stray cat named Luo Xiao Hei who is taken in by a little girl. This black cat is actually a supernatural entity who hosts several small creatures called Heixiu. Luo Xiao Hei most overcome different threats, including those from the mysterious Diting who commands three winged wolves. The Legend of Luo Xiaohei affords Cheng the chance to express herself at great length through the fantasy characters and situations of this fantasy film.

Photo courtesy of Zepu Chang

Chinese director DC approached Ning’s representative to enlist her for The Rise of the Devil after viewing her work on Bright Warrior [Hikari no Yuushi]. Supplying her with his own character idea samples, he offered Ning great latitude in defining the characters for this film. As the title suggests, this story focuses on the relationship between the devil and humans. The animation of the film’s final three minutes depicts the face-off between a quite comely devil and a human. The tale is epic and yet personal, perfectly presented as such via Ning’s animation.

One aspect of Ning’s work is that she feels music is highly connected to the communication of her visuals. As director, storyboardist, and animator for The Cloud, she took great care working with composer Luck Morin to find the perfect musical counterpoint to this film. She relates, “The music doesn't need to fits the character movement perfectly, since the film is not only about the character. I hoped my audience would notice the camera movements also. For the instrumentation, the first things that came to my mind were drums and xylophone. After discussing it with Luke, I did some research online, picked songs and music which fit my film, and then put some of them into my animatic for testing. I picked reference music and sent it to Luke. Luke then gave me drafts based on our discussions and the samples I provided. It’s all about reaching the proper emotional temperature. Any filmmaking process is a collaboration of varying artists. Music is such a strong force; I feel it’s very important for any film.” Far from a myopic artist who is solely focused on her own work, Ning Cheng continually proves the importance of her own work and that of her peers. Animators are the modern dream weavers, materializing before our very eyes what was impossible before. Cheng considers herself to be another link in the lineage of great storytellers who help to advance the art-form for the current and next generation.

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