Friday, 21 December 2007

The Striking Colors of Ellery Queen

Who is that mysterious man of mystery?Or more importantly, who drew and colored him?

This mysterious book has been on my desk for over a year now. I'm not sure where it came from. What really interests me is the bold use of color.

Check out the book cover above. Nobody in real life comes in those colors. Nobody's eyebrows match their skin color. Yet the character makes perfect sense and doesn't seem wacky. The background also has colors that seem to fight each other. I find this cover incredibly striking, which is a good thing for a book cover to be.

By the way, I learned that the hero of this book is named Ellery Queen, a popular detective.

Here is another image of Ellery from inside the book. Here he is colored almost the same as before. In this rendition, his gold colored skin has been replaced by a peach color. I like the light blue and dark blue background colors.

Here he seems quite pale and his hair turned an orange color. His yellow eyebrows now match his shirt rather than his face. His eyes have become colorless and lost their luster. This coloring of Ellery seems to make him less forceful and more like just an ordinary guy.

This peached out drawing of Ellery isn't as refined as the rest. He seems weak and messy.

Here is black and white Ellery. This is how he looks throughout most of the book. Only parts of this book have drawings or short comics. The images serve to add action to the text. It's a cool format for a mystery novel that I wish was more common.

I did some research on this book. It was published in 1993. It was written by Ellery Queen, who is actually a fictional author and the story's hero created by these two cousins from Brooklyn, New York. However, I cannot figure out who drew the images for this Korean publication of this story. Was it a Korean artist? Japanese artist? U.S. artist? It's a mystery!

In any case, the book has stunning colors that make me want to learn more about this character I never knew about before. Do you find the colors exciting like me or are they just too crazy?

You can learn more about Ellery Queen here like I did:

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Cartoon Character for President

UPDATE (20 December 2007): Lee Myung Bak, Number 2, has been voted in as the next president of South Korea.

Today is the BIG day! Presidential election day in Korea!Banners like these are all over Seoul. Each presidential candidate has a unique identifying number 1 through 12. The general consensus is that Number 2, Lee Myung Bak, is almost certain to become the next president of Korea. Sorry number 8! But, will he best for the Korean animation industry? I don't think so.

I think Number 1, Chung Dong Young, will be better for the animation industry in Korea. Number 1 made a publicity visit to our animation studio last Friday. I guess this means he supports animation and the arts. All it personally meant to me was that I had to tidy up my desk for the cameras. . .

But watch out! Putting Number 1 to shame is Number 4, Lee In Je. Look at him zipping high in the sky as Number 1 cowers below.

What better for the Korean animation industry than having a cartoon character for president! Imagine how many jobs that will generate! His inauguration alone would require tons of background designers, layout artists, color specialists, story boarders, and so on. So, I say all animation people should vote for the one and only cartoon candidate. Just look how healthy and diligent he is.

Okay, I don't want to fool you. He's not really a cartoon character. Here is a real life picture of him. However, I think it is really cool that he used a cartoon representation of himself for his campaign. May the best man win!

Monday, 17 December 2007

2nd Dream of Winter at Gallery Artside

The things I put myself through in the name of art!

This poor bear is stuffed in the front window of Gallery Artside in Insadong. It's part of the 2nd Dream of Winter exhibit running from December 12th through the 28th. If you happen to be near the Insadong area, it's worth a short visit.

The exhibit is small. It consists of pieces inspired by the dreams of childhood. My guess is if you like cartoons that you'll like this exhibit. It's sweet, simple, and free.

It features the following artists: Back Seung Woo, Hiroshi Kobayashi, Lim Taek, Noh Jun, and Yoon Byung Woon. Here is the gallery's introductory message to the exhibit:

With the coming of Christmas, this exhibition was planned to cherish
hopeful and happy dreams in childhood. To have a dream and to have an
ambition in childhood itself has significant meanings to it and we get
encouraged from parents or acquaintances. However, circumstances turn
around when we become an adult. We are not asked of our dreams
anymore when we become an adult. It is considered immature for an
adult to have a dream and we take cautions ourselves considering it as vain 'day
dream'. Especially, modern people are worn and tore in fierce
competition and are not allowed to have a dream anymore. With the coming
of Christmas, time when we spend time with the beloved families, we have
set opportunities for not only children but also adults to speak out their
dreams freely in the name of a '2nd day dream'. You,
standing here. What dreams do you have now?

If you go to this exhibit and find my recommendation was a sour one, I do not apologize for this. Why? Because next door to this exhibit is a small permanent robot museum and across the street is a nostalgia shop full of cartoon characters. Just check those out. Insadong is also full of other galleries, although they aren't as animated as this one.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Cartoon Couture

Wow, Jerry! You look great!Cartoon characters and clothing often go hand in hand in Korea. Here are a couple sparkling examples:

Jerry Mouse

The Pink Panther

Our favorite cartoon characters can be found on all articles of clothing. They are made for women, like the two examples above, and they are made for men. I've even seen a sequined old-style Batman shirt once. They can appear on inexpensive items like socks. Or they can be quite expensive. I saw a luxury Snoopy sweater with an over 600,000 KRW price tag. If I see that again, I'll make sure to share it with you.

Does fashion in your part of the world feature cartoon heroes?

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Fifteen Little Piggies

Pork is a big part of the Korean diet. Many restaurants display pig characters to let you know what you can eat inside. There are all sorts of ways to represent pigs. This is a sample of around 15.

It's unlikely to see pigs represented as real-life pigs like these:

These boar designs are quite traditional.

This pig is a little cartoon like, but it's still more like a pig than a human.

You are much more likely to see pigs as cartoon characters. They stand on two legs, wear human clothes and even have their own personalities:

Many wear aprons or chef hats to underscore that they are delicious.

This one seems euphoric in its getup.

This one is lazy and cares nothing of formality. It skipped right passed getting dressed to impress and is wearing the pot it will be served in as a hat! And to top it off, it's sticking its tongue out at us!

Some dress in ways that suggest they will offer you excellent service. Especially if you are made of bamboo.

Pigs can be proudly patriotic.

This pigs seems humble and friendly in overalls. It's like the pig next door.

Sometimes pigs are paired with other food on the restaurant menu:

Pork and beef are an unbeatable team.

Even abstract pigs can team up with abstract cows.

They seem utterly bewildered by why the abstract humans are so happy.

This pig seems in total harmony with its fish friend. That is until . . . . . .
Oh no!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Pororo the Popular Little Penguin

Theory: Penguins are irresistible.
Korea is a small country. That means a very limited audience. Therefore, a marker of success for an animated property is its ability to sell internationally. Pororo the Little Penguin is one such success story.Korean made characters are in a minority group in the local character goods market place. You are much more likely to see characters from the United States or Japan featured on both television and on products. The Korean characters that do exist are rarely ever anybody's favorites. However, Pororo is everywhere. He's on wristwatches, is a stuffed animal, even multiple bootleg DVD's are easy to find. There are over 400 Pororo based character goods. He's successful locally and he is exported to over 82 countries.

What has made Pororo stand out? One important thing is that people genuinely like him in the first place. But what is it about Pororo that stands out? Perhaps it's just his cute design. Or perhaps it is his adventures. Choi Jong Il, the CEO of the company that makes Pororo explains, "The secret of Pororo's long-running popularity may well be its empathy with today's children." (taken from the KOCCA website) Nothing seems super exceptional about the story to me. I do find the character designs appealing and the animation to look quite good (by the way, I learned at the Animation Museum that Pororo was co-produced in North Korea).

There is nothing distinctly Korean about the look of Pororo. Even the name given to the little penguin seems to blend in with other international hits--think Keroro (Japan) or Pocoyo (Spain). His culturally odorless design must be intentional. And this has proven quite successful. Pororo was a big hit in France and also found success in Italy, Japan, China, and Latin America.

Have you seen Pororo in your part of the world? What do you think the secret to his success is? I'll stick to my theory that penguins are just irresistible.

Here are some links where I learned more about this and so can you:

  1. Pororo's English Website
  2. Iconix Entertainment - the company that makes Pororo
  3. The secret of Pororo's long-running popularity
  4. Korean-born Characters Make Global Hits
  5. Watch Pororo clips by clicking here (as of December 12th, 2007)

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Toys R Us in Korea

Giraffe: Come in! Come on in, children! Come on into the first Toys R Us in Korea! The biggest toy store ever in ALL of Korea!
Jae Woo: Hey, what's wrong Mi Ra?
Mi Ra: I don't know about this new Toys R Us.
Jae Woo: What do you mean?
Mi Ra: Well, I wonder if it really is the world's greatest toy store.
Jae Woo: Of course it is! It's huge!
Mi Ra: I know. I know. But I think it's kind of weird that it's almost completely full of stuff from Japan and the United States.
Jae Woo: What's weird about that?
Mi Ra: We live in Korea, remember?
Jae Woo: Oh come on! They they have tons of Pororo stuff. Everybody loves Pororo!
Mi Ra: I know. They have a ton of Pororo stuff. But other than that little penguin, everything else is from other countries it seems like. Don't you worry about our culture, Jae Woo?
Jae Woo: Worry about our culture? Ha! No way!
Mi Ra: Well, don't you wish we had more of our own toys? And our own cartoons?
Jae Woo: I don't know. If you want your own cartoons so much, why don't you just tell your uncle to make them. He's an animator, isn't he?
Mi Ra: Tell my uncle! Are you crazy? He spends six days a week animating for other countries. Actually, he makes the animation that they base all these toys off of and then sell back to us at high prices. He doesn't have the time or money to worry about creating his own thing!
Jae Woo: Oh, lighten up! If it's so bad in animation, he should just go work in real estate then.

Mi Ra: Okay, okay. I won't complain about our lack of original content. Still, doesn't something seem awfully suspicious about that giraffe mascot?

Mi Ra & Jae Woo: Definitely!

Giraffe: Hey everybody! We've been open since December 8th and like to stay open for a loooooong time! So don't go to those small little toy stores everywhere else, come to Toys R Us located in Lotte Mart! It's conveniently located next to the Guil subway station in Seoul.

Useful Link: Toys "R" Us opening first store in South Korea

Saturday, 8 December 2007

The Magic Crayons

Hey, Jeong Eun! What's in that box you are holding?

Wow!!! Those look magic! What are they?
Cool! They look like mechanical crayons that you can twist to draw with. I bet they never run out! And I bet they are great when you need a unique drawing tool.

Can you draw me something using them, please? Please?
Hey, that's too cool! Is that the dog from some anime or something? That girl reminds me of you! Great drawing!

Now that I think about it, I think it's not the crayons that are magic. I think it's you!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Bee Different!

Bzzzzzzzzzz. . . Bzzzzzzzzzzz. . . I'm not a human! I'm a bee! Bzzzzzzzzzz. . . .
Why do we make animal cartoon characters human? We always tend to anthropomorphize them; give them human qualities. However, why don't we borrow from other animals instead?
All I know about this bee is that it is the mascot for 1001 Angyeong Contact, an eyeglasses shop.
Isn't its design intriguing? It has a mouth and nose which appear to be from an otter. Most bee cartoon characters I've seen borrow human faces--human noses, mouths, maybe even teeth or a head of hair. Maybe I'm mistaken and this is just an otter in a bee costume.
Take a look at this extreme close-up of a real female beetle. See how her mouth is more like the muzzle of an otter than the mouth of a human? The button eyes more closely resemble an otter's than a human's, as well. So I think this bee design is quite brilliant!
I know nothing about the background of this bee's design, however, it encourages me to think outside the stereotypes of cartooning. There are all sorts of possible ways to represent a bee. We just have to see different and bee different!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Guide to Korean Names

This is a quick guide to getting Korean names right.

Do you ever read Korean comics or the credits of Korean films and wonder, "Why do so many parents name their kids 'Kim' in Korea?" Actually, Kim is just a very common last name. After reading this quick guide you can write your favorite Korean artists fan letters and know that you addressed them correctly.
Name Order:
In Korea, family names are placed before given names. So Park Min Sun was born into a family of Parks. And the name his parents gave him is Min Sun. You could call him Mr. Park if you want to be professional. Or you could call him Min Sun if you are his friend. Park is a very common family name, along with Kim and Lee.

Name Length:
Nearly all Korean names consist of a one syllable family name followed by a two syllable given name. Examples: Park Min Sun, Hwang Young Sang, Kim Jeong Eun, Wea Hyung Soo.

Very rarely will somebody have less syllables in their given name, such as Park Min (not to be confused with Park Min Sun).

Just as rare is having more syllables, such as Hong Jemina.

Name Formats:
Sometimes names are written without a space: Park MinSun

Sometimes names are written with a hyphen in the first name: Park Min-Sun

Sometimes people just use their initials to be cool: PMS or MSP

This blog uses this format: Park Min Sun

Names Abroad:
Sometimes overseas, names are presented in reverse order. For example, Park Min Sun may be noted as Min Sun Park in another country. However, this isn't always the case. Yes, this can be confusing!

English Names:
A common practice is to choose a nonKorean name for using when interacting with English speakers. Example: Christine Yu.

Artist Names:
Of course, there are people who create an artist name for themselves. Example: Skitsch.

Red Names:

Lastly, never write names in red. It is considered bad luck.

You may already know this, but I thought those who didn't might find it useful. Please let me know if you have any questions.