Home-grown animators and artists get spotlight at National Day Parade this year

SINGAPORE – Home-grown animation takes centre stage for the first time – through music and lyric videos and a feature film – at this year’s National Day Parade, with its creators hoping the breakthrough will draw new interest to the art form.

Among the talent to be featured on Saturday (Aug 21) are 39-year-old film-making twin brothers Henry and Harry Zhuang, who used drawings by 623 students in their lyric video of National Day 2021 Original Song: Breathing City.

Said Mr Henry Zhuang, who co-founded Weaving Clouds animation studio with his brother: “The music lyrics written by Sezairi and Charlie Lim tell a story of the older and the younger generations building a future home… So we wanted to capture the children’s imagination and ideals but instead of using adults to draw their dreams, we wanted (the children) to express themselves.”

With the help of Mr Henry Zhuang’s wife who is a teacher, the film-makers collaborated with six schools, including Mee Toh School, PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Sembawang West Block 789 and Serangoon Secondary School, to find young artists to hand-colour the frames.

Each colouring, which bears the name of its creator on the top left corner, was photographed and digitally stitched together to form four different animated segments in the video. The song is performed by singer-songwriter Sezairi Sezali.

Said Mr Harry Zhuang: “We were actually not sure whether this would work… But we received some feedback about how having the names in the corner was (a) very touching (element) for some, just seeing the creation of the young coming together.”

But the work was often hampered by pandemic safe management measures.

For the Zhuang brothers, home-based learning for all schools in May put an unexpected end to their collaboration with primary and secondary schools.

“Some of the schools only completed half the frames, so we had to collect all of them because if we had left it with them, the teachers would next see the students in July,” said Mr Harry Zhuang, adding that the lyric video was due in June.

Thankfully, child care centres remained open and they could complete the remaining frames with preschoolers at PCF Sparkletots.

Robot Playground Media, the animators of a 14-minute feature film that complements the parade, spent 10 months designing and revising between 12,600 and 21,000 hand-drawn frames.

The team of more than 30 people included animators, background artists and character designers collaborating remotely to bring stories in Singapore from the past and present to life.

Ms Elaine Chan and Mr Ervin Han of Robot Playground Media. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Ms Elaine Chan, 34, production manager of the Robot Animation Media, said: “We had to get used to a different way of working. In the office, the animators can act out the scenes face to face and bounce (ideas) off each other, but we had to learn to work around these restrictions by taking videos of ourselves.”

With animation being a central feature of this year’s National Day celebrations, local artists hope this will help Singaporeans discover its beauty.

Said Mr Howie Kim, 31, the visual artist who created the lyric video for National Day Parade Original Song: Spirits Anew that is sung by singer-songwriter Aisyah Aziz: “With the Covid-19 pandemic and people losing their jobs, I hope this would give a little focus on the creatives in Singapore.”

Mr Howie Kim created the lyric video for National Day Parade Original Song Spirits Anew that is sung by singer-songwriter Aisyah Aziz. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Creative professionals and artists have been hard hit by the pandemic, with many facing an uncertain future.

Said Mr Ervin Han, co-founder of Robot Playground Media: “There is not a lot of local animation and even less about our local stories.”

“It’s been a very strange year, I would say animation is a bit of an under-represented sector,” he added. “I hope this can give the industry a bit of a boost and show the public what some of our artists and animators can do.”

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