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Animation Alumna Hopes to Open More Doors for Minorities in Film

Winning Gold at the Student Academy Awards for your first film can be a tough act to follow. But Academy of Art University graduate Alyce Tzue, whose animated short Soar received this and other honors, is poised to fly high once again with her latest endeavor. Last year, Hiro Masuda, president of Ichigo Ichie Films, contacted her about directing Lobo, a full-length animated feature his Tokyo-based company is developing.

“He had spent almost three years working with dozens of artists to prepare a pitch for Lobo, which is based on the children’s book The Pup Who Cried Wolf,” said Tzue. “Hiro sent me the pitch after seeing Soar because he saw that I had animation direction experience and also that I was an Asian-American female director. Ichigo Ichie wants to give the story an Asian twist, which is super exciting to me.”

The film company is still in the process of securing funding for Lobo, and if all goes well, Tzue could begin directing it within the next year. In addition to giving her the chance to take her career to the next level, working on Lobo will fulfill her growing passion to open more doors for minority creators in the film industry.

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Academy of Art University School of Animation & Visual Effects alumna Alyce Tzue. Photo courtesy of Alyce Tzue.

“There’s a lack of visibility in Hollywood for minority and female characters and creators,” said Tzue, who lives in Los Angeles. “As an Asian-American woman, providing more opportunities for minorities and women is something I’ve really come to care about since making Soar.”  

If funding for Lobo is secured, Tzue will start working with writers to adapt The Pup Who Cried Wolf into a script. While she’s eager to direct the film for Ichigo Ichie, Tzue admitted the job would also present some challenges she didn’t face when making her own movie.  

“There will be more aspects that are out of my control,” she remarked. “With Soar, when I wanted to maintain integrity in a certain area or if something wasn’t going the way I thought it should, it was pretty easy for me to massage the process until it was what I wanted to see. Lobo will definitely become very personal to me, and I’ll have opinions about the process. But I’ll have to be comfortable loosening the reins—except for responsibilities that belong to the director—and trusting that other people know how to do their jobs.”

Tzue is extremely grateful to School of Animation & Visual Effects Associate Director Derek Flood and other faculty members for helping her make Soar a beautiful and polished end product. She also wants to build on what she learned during that process to come up with a more unique visual style for Lobo.

“Since Soar was my first film, it made sense to use techniques and mimic what was already out there,” explained Tzue. “A lot of people told me Soar looked like a Pixar movie, which was flattering. On other hand, the visual style didn’t stand out as something I could call my signature look. So for my next project—whether it’s Lobo or something else—I really want to establish a more unique style.”

Tzue is cautiously optimistic that Lobo will get the green light and move into production. Yet she’s also realistic about the competitive nature of the film industry and the many factors that come into play when trying to make a movie.

“There are so many projects being pitched and trying to get funding,” she noted. “I’m really, really happy that a legitimate production company feels so strongly about Lobo, and that I’m attached to it. But you need the right mindset when you’re trying to get a project off the ground in Hollywood—there are so many moving parts. If ‘Lobo’ doesn’t work out, I’ll move on and do my best to get another story championing minority and gender visibility out there.”