01 Oct Q&A WITH HYUN-MIN LEE, DIRECTOR OF UNDER THE HONEY CHESTNUT TREE
Hyun-min Lee is an animator from Seoul, South Korea. She came to the United States in 2000, and has earned a degree in painting from Wesleyan University and a Masters degree in animation from the California Institute of the Arts. She enjoys working in all areas of animation, but her work mainly focuses on traditional hand drawn techniques. She cites the early Disney lms as an influence on her work, and has spent time training with animators Eric Goldberg and Bert Klein. Hyun-min currently resides in the Greater Los Angeles area and continues to work on various animation projects.
SAM CHEN: WHAT INSPIRED THE STORY OF UNDER THE HONEY CHESTNUT TREE?
HYUN-MIN LEE: The person who has been the biggest inspiration in my life is my mother, and since she passed away a few years ago I was left with countless memories of the times I spent with her. I thought animation was the best medium to pay tribute to those memories, for me and for my family, so as soon as I properly learned how to animate I had to make a lm about all the things that I missed about her.
CHEN: YOUR STYLE IS SO REMINISCENT OF CLASSIC DISNEY ANIMATION. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DISNEY ANIMATED LM, AND WHICH ONE(S) HAVE YOU LEARNED THE MOST FROM?
LEE: One of my favorites is “Robin Hood” because I used to watch it as a kid. I also really like “Cinderella”, “The Three Caballeros,” and “Aladdin” and a lot of the old Disney shorts that would run Sunday mornings. We’d record them and I’d watch them over and over. I’ve learned a lot from those bits of classic animation that make you completely forget the fact that they were hand-drawn by someone. I’d like to be able to create such memorable characters for people someday.
CHEN: WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM JOB IN ANIMATION?
LEE: My dream would be to ultimately be a lead animator that a director could depend on to do a character right. The classic Disney animators would be given a character and the director knew they could just do it—they had total confidence in their work and ability. I would be very happy if I could reach a point where people would have that sort of confidence in me, and I hope the work I produce can be a big part of making the lm an enjoyable experience for the audience.
CHEN: WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?
I like to watch a lot of films, but I also enjoy watching people around me like my family and friends and seeing their daily emotions and reactions. No person, life, or day is exactly the
same as the other and the fact that animation can capture everything from the most subtle responses to the most outrageous pieces of imagination is what inspires me to continue working.
CHEN: WORD HAS IT THAT YOU ARE THE RST ASIAN WOMAN TO WORK IN DISNEY’S HAND-DRAWN DEPARTMENT AS A 2D APPRENTICE ANIMATOR. TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS POSITION AND WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU.
LEE: I am starting as an animation apprentice in October, which is an animator-in-training. I am very excited and honored to be chosen for this position. I have been told that I might be the first female Asian hand drawn traditional animator in the department at Disney.