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Animations Heat Up Local Screens

2004/11/24 Source

By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

A battle among a string of blockbuster animations slated for release is expected to heat up in local theaters this winter. Local moviegoers will have a variety of interesting films to choose from this winter, including a local animation opening this weekend, which is set to go against some strong competition from Hollywood and Japan.

"Sinamhaengosa (Phantom Master _ Dark Hero From Ruined Empire - New Royal Secret Commissioner)," co-produced by local and Japanese animation companies, will greet audiences on Nov. 26. The box-office race among the animated works will get fierce later in the season when Walt Disney's "The Incredibles" is released on Dec. 15, Warner Bros.' "The Polar Express" and Miyazaki Hayao's "Howl's Moving Castle" on Dec. 24 and DreamWorks' "Shark Tale" on Jan. 17.

Although most of the films target family audiences for the Christmas season and children's winter vacation, "Phantom Master - New Royal Secret Commissioner," based on a local comic book series popular in South Korea and Japan, aims to attract more mature moviegoers with a rating of 15 and over.

Taking characters from several Korean folk tales and placing them in futuristic settings, the story of "Phantom Master - New Royal Secret Commissioner" diverts from the original tales. The main hero, Park Moon-su, fires guns at villains and doesn't seem to have any intention to save the world, and Song Chun-hyang, who is described as pure and innocent in the original folk tale, kills enemies in revealing outfits in the film.

Joji Shimura from Japan directed the animation, and about 70 percent of the entire work was done by Japanese studios. Despite this, the scenery and music behind the story still seem to remain Korean and capture the original comic's style.

The success of "Phantom Master - New Royal Secret Commissioner" is difficult to predict since domestic moviegoers often neglect local animations, even with savvy marketing strategies and techniques. Such animations as "Oseam," "My Beautiful Girl, Mari" and the 2003 blockbuster animation "Wonderful Days" failed to break even when released in local theaters, although they were well received later internationally.

"The local animation industry has just passed the transition period and is still struggling to find its direction and identity, which can differentiate its works from ones by other major international animation companies," said Yang Jee Hye, president of Character Plan, a local company who participated in the making of "Phantom Master - New Royal Secret Commissioner" with cooperation of a Japanese animation studio, after a preview screening of the animation. "So we are now trying hard to learn advanced techniques from other international animation companies and apply them to create our own works."

Yang added that since areas of the local animation industry such as human resources and techniques are comparatively weak, the most important way to boost the industry is through continuous affection and interest for local animations.

But this winter will obviously be the hardest time for "Phantom Master" since all the upcoming animated releases seem likely to attract moviegoers.

"The Incredibles," a story about superheroes who save the world even though they want to lead normal and anonymous lives is the sixth work by Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney, who produced such hits as "Toy Story," "A Bug's Life," and "Finding Nemo." Famous actors, including Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson, dubbed the computer-animated characters.

The fantasy and adventure animation "Polar Express," which depicts a journey of a boy to the North Pole with many other pajama-clad children who don't believe in Santa Claus used a performance-motion-capture technology to make the characters appear more humanlike. Tom Hanks' voice was also used for five different characters in the animation.

Renowned Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki's new animation, "Howl's Moving Castle," is a heartwarming love story between a young magician boy and a girl who is cursed by a witch and transformed into an old woman's body. The film attracted more than 1.1 million moviegoers in its first two days of release in Japan last week.

In "Shark Tale," Hollywood stars Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger and Angelina Jolie dubbed the voices of the main characters. Similar to "Polar Express," the animation uses advanced computer graphics to let the characters resemble the actors' appearance and facial expressions.

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