迎接動畫的晨曦

頒獎台下的努力
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2019 / 1月

文‧陳群芳 圖‧林旻萱


1998年《魔法阿嬤》入圍金馬獎最佳動畫片,此後台灣動畫幾乎在金馬獎裡銷聲匿跡,直到2017年導演邱立偉以《小貓巴克里》入圍最佳動畫長片,鼓舞了士氣。沉寂的時光,動畫創作者以各自的方式積累能量,如今他們將用動畫訴說一個個充滿想像的故事。


2018年第55屆金馬獎甫於台北落幕,最佳動畫長片由導演宋欣穎的《幸福路上》獲獎。這部台灣原創動畫已在國際獲獎無數,2018東京動畫大賞首獎、德國斯圖加特動畫影展最佳動畫長片等橫掃全球各大影展,究竟是什麼樣的故事有如此魅力?

引起國際共鳴的台灣動畫

「我是林淑琪,1975年4月5日在台灣出生,在幸福路上長大,後來到了美國讀書,找到了工作,結了婚,然後現在……」,這是電影《幸福路上》主角小琪的開場白,沒有華麗夢幻的名字,反倒像個親切的鄰家女孩,宋欣穎透過女主角的生命軌跡,爬梳台灣三十多年的歷史與時代變遷。

曾經,宋欣穎覺得自己的生活經歷平凡無奇,但在美國攻讀電影時,老師告訴大家:好的故事來自於自身。於是她回望自己的原鄉:家住新莊幸福路,有條臭臭髒髒的大水溝,曾是震驚全國綁架案棄屍的地點……,這些她口中的小事,在外國同學眼中竟成了有趣的好故事,並鼓勵她將劇本完成。

這讓宋欣穎以不同的觀點看待自己與伴她長大的這塊土地:校園的禁說台語制度、野百合運動、解嚴……,全被她放進劇本裡。宋欣穎與小琪都有位原住民外婆,但小琪的外婆是她的心靈導師,而宋欣穎對外婆卻很不熟悉,甚至從小就與主流社會價值觀一同歧視會吃檳榔的女性。長大後她逐漸理解那些關於族群、性別的議題,但外婆已不在人世,於是像是彌補自己的缺憾般,給了小琪一個疼她懂她的外婆。

作品裡蘊含了宋欣穎對身邊事物及台灣這塊土地的情感投射,讓電影生動而立體。小琪看似過著所謂人生勝利組的生活,但內心卻仍有著不上不下的失落;而追尋幸福這個人生大哉問,讓外國觀眾也能共鳴。

辛苦地走在幸福路上

本想拍劇情片,但考量動畫更能呈現現實與回憶穿梭的想像,完全沒做過動畫的宋欣穎一頭栽了進去。找不到資金,整個團隊沒有人做過動畫長片,在眾人不看好的情況下,宋欣穎關關難過關關過。

過程中,有人建議她參考美國皮克斯或日本新海誠的動畫製作流程,但資金與市場截然不同,不見得適合台灣。宋欣穎曾在廣播節目中分享,若有更多成功案例來支撐,就能找到對的模式,她想告訴投資方及觀眾,台灣的動畫電影是有機會的。

走出台灣動畫的生存之道

台灣動畫在金馬影展缺席12年後,終於有了邱立偉導演的《小貓巴克里》。動畫創作這條路,邱立偉已走了二十多年。

研究所畢業後,邱立偉曾參加經濟部的計畫被派赴好萊塢擔任高級3D動畫研究員;也在紐約當駐村藝術家;嘗試當了幾年老師,但心中仍對創作念念不忘。「熱愛在想的時候很美好,做的時候很辛苦,這種痛併快樂著的反差中。」邱立偉知道他一輩子離不開動畫創作了。

過去台灣動畫產業以代工為主,但邱立偉沒有選擇相對容易且熟悉的道路,而是以創作直接面對觀眾。邱立偉成立studio2兔子創意股份有限公司,邊做邊摸索,第一部作品與編劇郝廣才合作,將林良的散文作品《小太陽》改編成動畫影集。「要賣給誰?去哪賣?」這些邱立偉一無所知,他笑說這是創作人的浪漫,以為某一刻會有人青睞來敲門。如何參加版權交易展、研發階段怎麼計價、版權合約的撰擬等,這些都是邱立偉進到產業才慢慢了解版權市場的遊戲規則。

《小太陽》獲得金鐘獎肯定,在東南亞也有不錯的銷售成績;但講述亞洲家庭的故事題材卻打不進歐美市場。於是邱立偉調整方向,將文化往後放,角色往前推,創作全新的動畫影集《小貓巴克里》。

城市貓咪巴克里,意外來到鄉村,與純樸居民發展出一連串真摯動人的故事。不同於坊間卡通探討友情、親情等較為平實的題材,邱立偉將城鄉差距、環境保護等議題都設計進故事裡。例如〈迷路的熊〉單元,黑熊因為棲地被破壞,只好下山向人類要食物,最後村民合力幫牠蓋了新家。情節有趣,充滿正面力量,讓《小貓巴克里》成功擄獲國內外觀眾的心,至今版權已販售超過三十個國家。

在《小貓巴克里》後,2014年邱立偉推出動畫影集《少年觀測站》,以全球暖化議題為核心,故事的主人翁小男孩傑米,因為爸爸的氣象研究而展開一場跨國的冒險之旅。劇中人物除了來自台灣,還有美國、法國的科學家,「透過企劃的調整,思考如何與海外市場產生連結。」邱立偉表示。

創造當代華語動畫明星

有了動畫影集的積累,邱立偉帶領團隊推出動畫長片。電影製作成本高,一次失敗就可能讓團隊解散,所以目標市場必須非常明確。邱立偉認為,用合拍片來擴大市場,對其他國家而言是很平常的事,而台灣影視作品最適合的市場就是語言共通的中國大陸,於是《小貓巴克里》電影版便與其合製。

身為藝術創作者,邱立偉希望將台灣文化放進作品,但必須考量市場接受度。於是他將台灣文化變成動畫角色生活的場域,在電影裡,台灣的街景、花圈、小吃攤全成了背景,台灣觀眾很自然地就會感到親切,而國際的觀眾也不會覺得違和。

除了將電影當成是動畫裡的大聯盟來挑戰,推出《小貓巴克里》其實有更大的願望,「試著建立當代華語動畫的樣貌。」邱立偉說自己小時候是看著卡通長大,希望將來的觀眾也能在他的作品得到陪伴。

邱立偉觀察美國動畫電影大多以角色驅動,當電影結束,角色會被記住,繼續活在觀眾心中。且綜觀華語動畫,角色明星寥寥可數,「我們這代人應該要填補這個空缺。」電影版《小貓巴克里》延續影集的高人氣,獲得美國獨立電影獎動畫類卓越獎、荷蘭阿姆斯特丹影展最佳動畫獎等的肯定。巴克里不僅代言商品、推出手機貼圖,還擔任活動大使,成功讓角色活出自己的生命。

有了巴克里的成功,邱立偉與團隊目前正全力投入下一個作品《八戒》的研發。邱立偉表示,內容產業像是個團隊,每種類型都有任務:漫畫可以和讀者建立親密感,影集介紹角色的日常生活,遊戲產生互動,電影則是讓觀眾一同展開冒險旅程。因此《八戒》的設計在前期就已做了各種類型的全面規劃。邱立偉以經紀公司當比喻,希望設計出有個性的角色,讓八戒從小模特兒逐步變成大明星。

熱血拼湊夢想

有別於邱立偉的逐步規劃,動畫電影《重甲機神》則是「乾坤一擊創意股份有限公司」執行長黃瀛洲與一群年輕人的初試啼聲之作。這部台灣第一部巨大機器人科幻動畫的萌芽,要從十多年前說起。

物理學年會的會議現場,台上正介紹貴重的研究器材:同步輻射先進光源、高磁場超導磁鐵……,這些一般人聽了昏頭的複雜儀器,台下兩位物理學教授卻將其想像成一個由精密儀器組合而成的巨大機器人。同時也是黃瀛洲召集成立的動漫推廣團體「傻呼嚕同盟」成員的他們,將這個想法與同盟分享,「台灣建巨大機器人幹嘛?攻打外星人啊!假如外星人採取階段性的攻擊策略,那第一波會優先攻擊武力強大的國家,排名世界前二十的台灣不是主要目標,於是存活下來,成為世界的救世主………」成員們煞有其事地討論著巨大機器人的故事。

沒想到十多年後,黃瀛洲讓這個故事成真了。「同盟累積許多故事,重甲機神巨大有存在感,能讓觀眾印象深刻,於是挑中了它。」黃瀛洲表示,長期在校園教學演講,他觀察到台灣教育普遍缺乏美學與科學。抱著「耕植台灣的科學與美學教育的想法」,才是製作《重甲機神》最根本的原因。

有了劇本的初步想法後,黃瀛洲找上從事動畫工作的紀敦智來擔任導演,將他的文字想像化為真實的圖像。

重甲機神降臨

「每一次的計畫都是走一步算一步,都要做完才知道下一步能走到哪。」紀敦智說。原本規畫製作26集的電視企畫,製作一年半才完成第一集,至少要有13集才能在海外販售,換算需將近17年才能完成;加上電視已不是觀眾看卡通的主要平台,無法提供較好的版權費用。經過審慎考量,黃瀛洲認為《重甲機神》的畫面優於台灣的電視動畫,「所以很自不量力的跨了很大一步,決定改做電影。」黃瀛洲笑說。

從影集轉換成電影,黃瀛洲一直在思考《重甲機神》的敘事方式,動畫與電影的敘事方式不同,電影中適度留白,讓觀眾不講自明的敘事手法,搬到動畫裡卻顯得情節不夠緊湊;多條故事線並行的方式在電影裡常見,但在動畫作品裡就容易被觀眾認為角色情節跳來跳去讓人摸不著頭緒……,諸如此類在北中南3場試映會後觀眾提供的回饋,都刺激團隊思考要如何取得平衡。

考量海外市場的商業性,黃瀛洲一開始就以日式風格為《重甲機神》定調,但他沒有忘記自己身為台灣人,除了故事舞台設定在台灣外海,也把北海岸的女王頭、擁有世界級精密工業的台中市街廓製作成背景。關於劇中的手機,黃瀛洲堅持以國產品牌的造型來設計,就連上班族準備綠色乖乖就能讓工作順利的民間傳說也放進動畫裡。

電影裡的主要場景在海底城市,仔細研究它的地理座標,其實就位在釣魚台。虛構的海底都市由各國共治,電影裡設計了台灣、美國、日本、印度、韓國、新加坡等不同國家的角色,大家齊聚在海底城市為地球的存亡而努力,讓這部日式風格的台灣動畫,充滿國際色彩。

《重甲機神》製作已近五年,現正依據試映會的建議重新調整,預計今(2019)年上映。長期以來,台灣動畫電影的製作團隊都是一部完成後,很難有下一部,黃瀛洲認為那些製作過程的經驗累積,一定能讓下一部作品更好,希望有機會讓觀眾看到重甲機神的後續,看見他們拚盡全力呈現的精彩作品。                                               

英文

The Sun Rises on Taiwanese Animation

Chen Chun-fang/photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan/tr. by Scott Williams

Taiwan’s animation community was riding high in 1998, thrilled with the nomination of Grandma and Her Ghosts for that year’s Golden Horse Award for Best Animation Feature. Little did the local industry know that it would then be largely overlooked by the Golden Horses for the following 19 years, before again receiving a nomination in the same category for Chiu Li Wei’s Barkley in 2017. Local animators spent the interim quietly honing their skills and using them to tell their own imaginative stories.


At the 2018 Golden Horse Awards in Tai­pei, director Sung Hsin-ying’s On Happiness Road came away with the Best Animation Feature Award. This Taiwanese original also earned the Grand Prize at the 2018 Tokyo Anime Awards and the prize for Best Feature-length Animated Film at the 2018 Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film. What made the story so special?

International acclaim

“My name is Chi. I was born in Taiwan on 5 April 1975 and grew up on Happiness Road. I later went to America to study, found a job, got married, and now….” In the preamble to On Happiness Road, the prot­agon­ist, Chi, sounds like the girl next door. Dir­ector Sung Hsin-ying uses the character’s life trajectory to comb through three decades of Taiwanese history and social change.

When Sung was a film student in the US, one of her teachers used to tell the class: good stories are personal.

This prompted Sung to reevaluate herself and the land that she had grown up with. She ended up putting all of it into her script, from the prohibition against speaking Taiwanese in school to the Wild Lily student movement and the lifting of martial law. Both Sung and her prot­agon­ist have a Taiwanese Aboriginal maternal grandmother, but where the film’s grandmother acts as a spiritual guide, Sung didn’t know hers well, and as a child internal­ized mainstream society’s prejudice against women who chewed betel nut. By the time Sung had grown up and come to understand issues invol­ving gender and ethnicity, her grandmother had passed away. Sung’s decision to give Chi an Aboriginal grandmother who loves and understands her in the film was a means of addressing her own regrets.

Sung put heart and soul into her film, which helps bring it to life and give it emotional depth. While her protagonist looks like a success, she nonetheless feels stuck. By addressing one of life’s big questions—the search for happiness—the film resonated with inter­national audiences.

A difficult journey

Sung, an animation novice, chose to dive into the ­medium because she recognized that it makes it relat­ively easy to move between reality and memory. In the process of making her film, she was forced to overcome challenge after challenge, including being unable to secure adequate funding, and managing a team entirely lacking experience in feature-length animation.

While working on the film, someone recommended that she take a look at Pixar Animation Studios’ or Japanese animator Ma­koto Shin­kai’s production process. But she had doubts about whether their methods would be applicable to Taiwan given the differences in the markets and her relative lack of funding. In a radio interview, Sung stated that the creation of greater numbers of successf­­ul Taiwanese feature animations would help our industry develop its own production model, and that she wanted investors and audiences to know that Taiwanese animated features could succeed.

Finding a way to survive

After 12 years without a Golden Horse nomination, Taiwanese animation finally returned to the awards with Chiu Li Wei’s Barkley

Chiu has been working on original animated proper­ties for more than 20 years, but his working life has also included a stint in Hollywood as a 3D-animation researcher under a Ministry of Economic Affairs program, a term as an artist-in-residence in New York, and several years as a teacher. “[Original animation] is lovely to think about, but grueling to make. There’s a marked contrast between the joy of one and the pain of the other.” But Chiu knows he’ll never stop animating.

Chiu established studio2 Animation Lab to feel his way into the business while also doing work. The studio’s first project was an adaptation of Lin ­Liang’s Little Sun essay collection, which it made into an animated series in cooperation with screenwriter Hao ­Kuang-tsai. It was only after entering the business side of the industry that Chiu began to understand the rights market: how to participate in rights fairs, how to value products in the development stage, and how to draft rights-related contracts.

The Little Sun won a Golden Bell award and sold well in Southeast Asia, but this story of an Asian family was unable to break into the American and European markets. Chiu therefore changed direction on the Barkley the Cat TV series, pushing culture to the background and characters to the foreground.

Barkley is a city cat who unexpectedly finds himself in a rural area, where his interactions with the country folk give rise to a series of heartwarming stories. The show’s plots touch on issues such as the differences between city and countryside, and environmental protection. For example, an episode called “Lost Bear” introduces a bear whose home has been destroyed, and who must therefore venture out of the mountains to ask people for food. In the end, the villagers help the bear build a new home. Interesting plots and positive messages have enabled Barkley the Cat to win over audiences at home and abroad. In fact, the show has already been licensed in more than 30 countries.

In 2014, Chiu followed up on Barkley the Cat with Weather Boy, a show centered around the issue of global warming. The show’s protagonist is Jimmy, a boy whose father’s weather research takes the pair of them on inter­national adventures. The series features other characters from Taiwan, as well as scientists from the US and France. “We made adjustments during the show’s develop­ment, thinking about how to forge connections to foreign markets,” says Chiu.

Creating animation stars

With a couple of animated series under his belt, Chiu then led his team on the production of an animated film, a Barkley movie, called simply Barkley.

Chiu used Taiwan as the cultural setting in which his characters live, incorporating Taiwanese street scenes, flower markets and food stalls into backgrounds that feel familiar to Taiwanese audiences without seeming odd to international viewers.

But he had a larger goal in releasing Barkley: “I wanted to create a look for contemporary Chinese-­language anima­tion.” Chiu says that he grew up watching cartoons, and hopes that future audiences will grow up watching his works.

He notes that most of America’s animated films are character driven, but that Chinese-language animation has very few star characters. “Our generation needs to address this lack.” The Barkley movie has built on the series’ popularity and earned a best animation award at the Amsterdam Film Festival. More than just an ambassador for Taiwanese animation, Barkley has taken on a life of his own.

Following Barkley’s success, Chiu and his team have thrown themselves into the development of their next project, Pigsy, the protagonist of which they hope to turn into a major star.

The pursuit of a dream

The animated film Baryon is the first effort from One Punch Creativity CEO Jo-jo ­Hwang and his young team, but the film’s origins go back more than a decade.

When someone speaks from the stage at an annual physics conference about a valuable piece of research equipment, most ordinary people find themselves overwhelmed by the complexity of the talk. But two physics professors in the audience of one particular talk instead began imagining a giant robot assembled from precision components. “Why on Earth would Taiwan build a giant robot? To attack aliens! Suppose aliens invaded the Earth in stages. Their first wave would target the nations with the strongest militaries. Taiwan wouldn’t be a major target, and would therefore survive and become the world’s savior….” The two batted their story idea back and forth with mock seriousness.

But in a surprising turn of events, ­Hwang brought their story to life a dozen-odd years later.

Once ­Hwang had a rough script, he brought in Mo Monster (Chi Tun-chih) to direct the film and bring his words to life.

Baryon lands

They originally planned 26 episodes, but after a year and a half of production, had only one episode complete. Given the slow pace at which they were progressing, they were concerned about having enough financing to complete the minimum of 13 episodes they would need to sell the show overseas. With TV also ceasing to be the primary platform through which audiences consume ­animation, Hwang came to the conclusion that the medium wouldn’t provide them with high enough licensing fees to cover their costs. Since he also felt that Baryon looked better than the typical Taiwanese television cartoon, he made the decision to turn it into a movie instead.

In consideration of the commercialization of the overseas market, Hwang decided to go with a Japanese style for Baryon, while also honoring his own Taiwanese heritage. The story takes place off Taiwan’s coast, and its backgrounds include Tai­chung City, with its world-class precision manufacturing, and the Queen’s Head rock forma­tion at Ye­liu. ­Hwang even insisted on designing the cellphones used in the film to look like those produced by a Taiwanese brand, and on having office workers in the film enjoy a particular Taiwanese snack.

The film’s key scenes take place in an undersea city located by the Diao­yu­tai Islands. Characters from Taiwan, the US, Japan and other nations gather there to work together to save the world, giving this Japanese-styled Taiwanese animation an international flavor. Baryon is slated for release in 2019.

For many years, animation production teams in Taiwan have struggled to get backing for new projects once they’ve completed their current ones. ­Hwang believes that the production experience that teams accumulate working on a project enables them to do an even better job on the next. He is hoping that positive audience re­actions to Baryon will lead to his team having an opportunity to show them something even more thrilling.   

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