ONE SMALL STEP nominated for Short Film (Animated) for Oscars 2019, and the team unveiled the story
On Feb.25 (Beijing time), the 91st Academy Awards Oscar, one of the most important events in the film industry, will open its curtain in Los Angles, USA. The nominated ONE SMALL STEP, a Chinese animated short film, is worthy of attention, which was nominated for 21st SIFF Golden Goblet Award for Best Animated Short Film. Inspired by Chinese female astronauts LIU Yang and WANG Yaping, the film tells a touching and bittersweet story of Luna who dreams of becoming an astronaut and her father.
Producer ZHANG Shaofu who was born in Wuhan City, worked behind the screens of several hit animated films, such as BIG HERO 6 and ZOOTOPIA. In his school time, he won the Gold Student Academy Awards as the Director of DRAGONBOY. (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences established the Student Academy Awards in 1972, offering gold, silver, and bronze prizes to domestic and international student works in categories of animation, documentary, and narrative.) After graduation, he worked in Hollywood for a couple of years, and then founded TAIKO Studios in China, which debuted with ONE SMALL STEP.
ZHANG Shaofu, Producer of ONE SMALL STEP
Recently, SIFF had an interview with producer ZHANG Shaofu and animation supervisor Eric LEE of ONE SMALL STEP.
Eric LEE, Animation Supervisor of ONE SMALL STEP
SIFF: How did you think of making a short animated film based on the story of a female astronaut?
ZHANG Shaofu: It seems to be very difficult for a female to go to the moon, while all of us have a “space dream” that is unlikely to come true. It came to us that to be an animation professional was also an impossible dream for us as children during the time when we wrote the film. We have worked hard to get where we are now, having our own animated films.
SIFF: TAIKO Studios have been in the production teams of several big films, while ONE SMALL STEP is produced on your own for the first time. What is the difference between being a creator and a participant?
Eric: It is quite different. You only need to do your own job well most of the time if you are part of a big program or company, but we have to deal with many unpredictable challenges because we need to finish this short film all by ourselves as a start-up.
SIFF reporter: What challenges have you encountered??
Eric: In the beginning, we strongly wanted to make our art style different from other big players, so we expected to include all the illustration details in the 3D film. However, none of us had any clue about how to show such a style with 3D methods even after over 50% of production had been finished, but our insistence drove us to exhaust every possible means. On the edge of quitting, we managed to find a way, making the film how it looks now. I think it not easy to handle a challenge like this in a big company because it is a test of the team’s mutual-trust, unity and commitment, and this process is what touches me most and makes me proud of our team.
SIFF reporter: The domestic animated film market has attracted more and more attention in recent years with the successes of MONKEY KING: HERO IS BACK and WHITE SNAKE. What does TAIKO expect for the growing market in China?
ZHANG Shaofu: Many animated films have good box office in China, indicating the steady growth of the domestic market. Personally, I find the technologies, artistic ideas and stories are becoming better for every movie, and now we can say that China’s whole animation industrial chain, technologies and creativities can compare with foreign countries in a real sense. I have showed some Chinese films to industry professionals who were so surprised to know that Chinese animated film had developed so well. Therefore, I am totally positive towards the future, and I will be very delighted at the fact that the Chinese market is growing so fast regardless of who succeed.
Eric: For me, the domestic animation industry develops as a whole for the present. As long as there is a good program, everyone and the whole industry will benefit from it. Therefore, we hope that we can support other companies’ works such as WHITE SNAKE. The success of one person, one company or one program will definitely influence the whole industry in the positive way.
SIFF reporter: TAIKO members used to participate many famous Hollywood films, who are recognized by the industry. Why do you come back to China to start your own animation business?
Eric: The market in USA is relatively mature with less flexibility, and if we want something different, China is a better choice. We hope that the animation industry in China will boom in the future, showing more diversities and gaining more support from the audience.
SIFF reporter: Talking about the film itself, after being nominated for the 21st SIFF Golden Goblet Award for Best Animated Short Film, ONE SMALL STEP has won many international awards. Is it a surprise to you that it is an Oscar-nomination now?
Eric: I did not expect that. We did dream about the Oscar Awards one or two times in the early creation period, but at that time we decided to focus on the film. Until now, I still find it hard to believe that we have made it from the entry list to nominees. I am happy and surprised. No matter award or nomination, it is a great achievement for a creativity company like us, and it will also encourage us to deliver more good works for our audience.
SIFF reporter: What does TAIKO plan to do for the next step, to continue your development in the short film sector, or explore in to animated long films or even other categories?
ZHANG Shaofu: We are known by many people thanks to Oscar’s nomination. Our goal is still the same, which is to work harder to make better animated films. While short films remain on our list, we ultimately hope to offer excellent animated movies.
Eric: Actually we are now developing in multiple directions. The line between movies and TV series is blurring because various kinds of media emerge in addition to traditional cinemas or TV channels. A good story comes in the first place which decides how it will be told, so we shall put the story itself at the center and create attractive ones, and then think about how to present it, by film, TV series, online drama or other means.
SIFF reporter: 2019 SIFF is coming soon in June. Could you share your expectation and wishes for the festival with us?
ZHANG Shaofu: Last year I had a happy time here. An important platform like this allowed many creative domestic and international films of various kinds to be seen. I hope to see more good films and discover more creative ideas this time. It means that the Chinese film market is getting better and better.