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'LADY and the frog' Creator Discusses Her Animation Journey

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A still from 'LADY and the frog.' Courtesy of Tina Hsu.

Our first profile features Tina Hsu. Hsu’s LADY and the frog was the First Place Winner for 2-D Animation Short Film (full-color) at the annual Spring Show in 2014. Since the completion of her film, LADY and the frog has screened in 27 domestic and international film festivals. While Hsu currently works at Laika, she is doing some freelance work and developing personal projects.

Why did you pursue a Master’s degree in 2-D/traditional animation and stop motion at the Academy?

2-D animation has always been what I am most interested in, but I was always torn actually pursuing it because of how brutal the industry is. I was in graphic design and did a little of both 2-D and 3-D animation in my undergrad at UCLA, but when it comes down to [doing] what I want, I didn’t want to compromise. Stop motion is something I discovered, and I wish I had the opportunity to do more of it at school.

Name three big influences during your time as a student.

Sherrie Sinclair was definitely one of the biggest influences since she was the one that supervised and helped me navigate the production. Nicolás Villarreal was the first teacher I had at the Academy and also a huge influence when it comes to navigating film festivals. Norm DeCarlo was the instructor that introduced me to stop motion.

What is your film, LADY and the frog, about?

A frog wakes up in a bag of mixed vegetables at a supermarket. A lady runs by and grabs the bag and things [happen].

While you were working on your thesis project, which personified emotion from Inside Out would you have been?

Most of the time, I was thinking to myself: “How am I ever going to finish this on time!?” The rest of the time was spent having too much fun or getting depressed about it. Weirdly, fear has been a huge motivator for me to push forward.

What tools and programs did you use to make your film?

Ninety-seven percent of the animation is done with pencil and paper. The drawings were then scanned into Photoshop, digitally cleaned up, colored in TVPaint and composited with After Effects. I had to reach out to some very talented composers/sound designers when it [came] to sound and music.

Why did you decide to submit your film to festivals?

I started making the film without knowing much about festivals and the biggest influence was seeing how Nicolás navigated the festival circuit. Getting into festivals is a resumé booster; but I was also curious to see how far the film [could] reach and how festivals work, so I figured I would give it a try.

What have you been up to since graduating from the Academy?

I currently work at Laika processing 3-D printed faces/objects. I [would] describe my job to people as: “We are kind of like makeup artists for puppets. We make their faces presentable on camera.”

Tina working in the lab crop

Tina Hsu working in the Traditional Animation Lab. Courtesy of Tina Hsu.

Would you encourage future graduate students to submit their work to festivals?

If you have a film, go ahead and submit it. Just make sure you don’t go broke doing it, because submission fees can pile up quickly, so be selective. My strategy was to submit to the big ones with fees, then submit to a lot of free ones. If you are lucky enough to get into a few big festivals, sometimes other festival coordinators will notice your film and invite you to their festivals as well, which is pretty awesome.

For the full interview, links to Hsu’s work and LADY and the frog, please visit www.animationschooldaily.com.