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Ko - production in Busan
  • Meet the ‘New Hope’ of Korean Independent Animation ①
  • by MOON Dong-myung /  Oct 26, 2015
  • A Story of Discrimination and Wounds, ON THE WHITE PLANET by HUR Bum-wook
    It is a planet devoid of color. Born with yellow skin, Min-jae is hidden from the world and abused by his parents. He is now 15 years old and left alone. Min-jae wants to live in white skin like everybody else, but nobody would help him. HUR Bum-wook's first full-length animation On The White Planet was made as part of the 5th edition of Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA) feature animation production research course.
    Depicting the prejudice and discrimination of society in a unique style, it was awarded with the Grand Prize at the Holland Animation Film Festival which is one of the three major animation festivals in Europe. The budget was merely KRW 150 million (USD 130 thousand). Along with the tight budget, his status as a student was among the hardships, too. On The White Planet was screened to the public audience for one month in September at ‘KAFA FILMS 2015: Bad Movies’. Let us now hear the production story from HUR himself.
    A World Where Difference is Not Acknowledged
    "Mine was not a typical life. You know, you encounter many different moments in life, and I failed at every chance," replied HUR with a personal experience, when asked the reason why he was interested so much in the world where difference is not accepted. He wanted to do Taekwondo at middle school, and literature at high school, but he failed at both. At the age of 25, he aimed to major in animation at college but he kept failing entrance examinations. He then joined the Hankyoreh Culture Academy, made his first short animation Ordinary Meal, which he sent to the KAFA, to which institution finally got accepted.
    However, discrimination continued. Without a college certificate it was hard even to find a part time job, his family did not like what he was doing, and the people in the film industry thought lowly of animation. Nonetheless HUR kept up his passion for animation and believed that it was something he could do well. On The White Planet is full of his bitter sentiments that he has experienced for a long time.
    On The White Planet is also full of unique images. HUR's cold and bleak dystopia illustrates a colorless world and its vicious survivors. Before On The White Planet, HUR made two short animations: Ordinary Meal and City of Good People. Ordinary Meal is about a monster that eats up the whole world and is left alone. City of Good People shows a grandmother who lives on the illusion of her lost grandchild.
    His feature On The White Planet is on the momentum of what he has been doing since his shorts. "There's nothing that I newly attempted," says HUR. The traces of his old shorts are all there in this feature animation. The cut-out skills with which debutant HUR could make Ordinary Meal, bold use of real life footage attempted earlier in City of Good People, and the belief that there is nothing that individuals could do in an extremely damaged social system and you are forever left alone to bear all the wounds. All his struggles for the last 6 years are reflected in On The White Planet.
    Learning How to Work Together
    HUR made his own rules while making On The White Planet. First of all, it was to be directed by himself only, as opposed to be co-directed. Second, he was to maintain his own best style. Because it is his first feature-length animation, he wanted to keep up with his original strength rather than attempting at something new. Thirdly, he wanted to work with the staff that he liked. The last wish was not possible because the KAFA already had its own staff groups under contract. However, this failure turned out to be beneficial for HUR. While the staff that HUR assembled based on personal relationship mostly left him, those who he met as business stayed through the end.
    What bothered HUR more than the tight budget was the bleak relationship with the people. Without the reliable help from KIM Ki-hwan (background animator) and LEE Byung-kwan (storyboard artist) the completion of On The White Planet would have been very hard. Not just their mental support, but their work itself was so satisfying which makes HUR confess as follows: "The quality would not have been improved even if we had a more affluent work environment." The careful description of inside the rocket where the climax takes place would be a great example of such great quality work.
    “The main character thinks he did all he could do, and the world will never change." Pessimistic narrative of On The White Planet is led by endless deceptions. HUR could have inserted a warm scene to create a narrative rhythm but he kept on with the motif of deception through the end. The reason is simple: "I don't think that makes sense."
    Despite his blunt attitude and refusal to over the top artistic skills, On The White Planet does have some traces of compromise. The sky was black and white in the original scenario, but HUR finally used colors when the chief producer YEON Sang-ho (director of animation The Fake) advised him "The main character's desire to go beyond the boundary is not delivered to the audience."
    The running time got cut by 10 minutes from the original plan is a result of compromise as well. Animation editing is usually completed at the stage of storyboard but for On The White Planet, extra editing was done again at post-production. For example, the epilogue was longer than the prologue in the original version but it ended up being trimmed quite a bit. HUR concludes that these two decisions seem right after all. He only believed in himself while making shorts but working on a feature animation, he learned to have an open mind to others' opinions.
    HUR confesses that he has gotten a lot happier than before, once he let out the pain and difficulties on his work. “Because I threw out too much, I am worried about what to do in the next work,” jokingly exaggerates HUR. However, he is already headed for a new short animation. It deals with the blind faith in religion, in a light tone. For the next feature animation that he is not even sure when it is to be made possible, he wants to introduce pigs that escaped death when they were sentenced to execution for foot-and-mouth disease.

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