Creative juices flow to China

Updated: 2012-07-03 09:51

By Li Wenfang in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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After three decades working in the US animation industry, Becky Bristow could choose to retire.

Instead, the 62-year-old animation director for Garfield, Tarzan and Winnie the Pooh, and animator of the Tom and Jerry feature film, is in China to "cultivate the future of Chinese animation".

Bristow joined the Jinan University in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, as academic leader of the animation program in 2011.

"I always tell my animation students that they need to work hard and listen and ask questions, because they are the future of Chinese animation," she says. "They are an important part of what will make Chinese animation great in the years to come."

Bristow has been restructuring the multimedia program at the university to be more animation-centric and tutoring third and fourth-year students. Each of her 120 students is required to make a film every year, for which she briefs and comments, via a translator, on how to better organize a story and tell it visually.

One of her students, who only wants to be identified as Chen, says: "Her lectures are open, with a dynamic atmosphere. She often asks students to come up to the platform and demonstrate various body movements. It helps us understand the details of the actions of each body part.

Creative juices flow to China

"Becky helps us open our minds. She stresses the importance of creative ideas, opinions and how the stories are told."

A jury member with the animation shorts branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for 16 years, she has taught in some US universities and at Peking University.

The Cramp Twins TV series, for which she was creative producer and director, was ranked top kids' show in the United Kingdom for two years, and The Wild Thornberrys TV series she directed won an Emmy Award nomination for best director of a prime time children's television program in 2000.

In 2004, she co-founded a studio in China and acted as content producer for Mattel Inc in 2011.

The Arts College of Jinan University where Bristow is based now, hopes that with her assistance, the college and animation program will become more dynamic and creative, says Zhang Tielin, a famous actor and dean of the college.

"What is lacking in the animation industry of China is creativity," Zhang says. "And I hope our college can cultivate creative spirits. It is not easy. Bristow is here not only as a teacher. We hope she can also train other teachers, some of whom were previously her students at Peking University."

Bristow finds most animation teachers in China do not have enough experience and knowledge about animation.

"They seem to think that it is enough to teach the students about the software. But software and technology are only tools."

From her classes, Bristow also discovers that one of the challenges in the industry is the emphasis on science, math, law and engineering in the Chinese education system. This results in many students, with a passion for animation or art, taking up the degree of their parents' choice before embarking on their interest later on in life.

"But what happens for them then is that they have no art training background," she says. "That is a huge loss because animation is art based."

With the advent of 3D, there are a lot more avenues for animated products, such as games, streaming sites and mobile phones, she says, adding that "digital has opened up a large opportunity for distribution even in feature films".

"I feel that with better storytelling, more interesting story creation and more skilled creation of the filmic storytelling, China's animation industry will grow well," she says.

Shu Meng contributed to the story.

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