Original Animation from Taiwan

Telling Our Own Stories

2019 / January

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Scott Williams

In 1998, Taiwan’s animation community released a fierce-looking but warmhearted magical grannie into the world in the form of Grandma and Her Ghosts, a feature film that would leave an indelible mark on the development of original animation in Taiwan. Now, 20 years later, original works such as Barkley and On Happiness Road are taking audiences on imaginary visits to Taiwan. Our industry’s journey from third-party animator to producer of original work, an industry-wide ambition, has not been easy, but highlights how the indus­try’s creative capabilities have begun to come together.

For this article, we invited director Wang Shaudi and comics artist Richard Metson to chat about the challenges of bringing Grandma and Her Ghosts to fruition, and spoke to Engine Studios CEO Vick Wang about how he learned the tricks of the animation export trade.

The idea for Grandma and Her Ghosts originated with Wang ­Shaudi’s partner ­Huang Li­ming, who went on to write the screenplay and produce the film. ­Huang had watched her once strict mother transform into a child-pampering grandmother while taking care of her nephew. Wang explains that the boy’s loneliness, innocence, and dependence on his grandmother gave rise to ­Huang’s emotionally rich story of a relationship between a grandmother and grandchild.

Grandma and Her Ghosts: A Taiwanese original

While Wang and ­Huang knew how to make a live-action movie, Grandma and Her Ghosts was their first experience with animation, prompting Wang to remark, “Our ‘life difficulty index’ entered a peak period.” Wang secured a NT$10 million subsidy from the Government Information Office, but the two were well into production before they realized that it would be virtually impossible to complete the film within the one year allotted by the law. Fortunately, a friend introduced them to Richard Metson (Mai Ren­jie), an animation veteran who had worked in a variety of roles with the well-known Wang Film Productions. Musician Gerald Shih also became a key part of the movie’s miraculous completion.

While Grandma and Her Ghosts didn’t win a Golden Horse, it did win a best picture award from the 1998 Tai­pei Film Festival, and a Certificate of Merit for Animated Feature Films and Videos at the 1999 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. It was also screened at festivals in Germany, Norway, Canada, Israel, the Czech Republic, the UK, France, Italy, and Japan. “They all thought it was great,” says Wang, speaking about the feedback they received at the festivals. “Grandma and Her Ghosts wasn’t a Hollywood-style cartoon. It was truly ori­ginal.” Unburdened by animation experience, they had simply followed their muse and told a Taiwanese story.

Lining up the next film

“Animation industry workers were the ones who shouldered the burden of our brashness and ignorance [about the production process],” recalls Wang.

Metson, who was already a well-known comics artist, brought a certain daring to the designs and the storyboarding, and even became involved with the voice acting. He says he hardly slept for eight months. “I wanted to show the world that Taiwan could create its own original animations.”

At one point, the Korean company that was animating Grandma and Her Ghosts asked Wang to deliver 250 “key frames” within a week. These key frames are images that show the animators where everything in a scene needs to be at “key” moments. The animators then animate all the movements in between. She was working around the clock to get the frames done when animation industry veterans ­Pongo Kuo, Fish Wang, and Chen Wei­song stepped forward to help, aiding her with the composition.

Wang ­Shaudi confirms that the foundation of Taiwan’s animation industry is deep and strong. That base, coupled with the desire of young animators to work on an original property, enabled the Grandma and Her Ghosts miracle. Metson agrees that Taiwan has plenty of capacity to create original work, but adds that many directors don’t have an opportunity to develop a second project after completing their first. He explains that Taiwan’s animation environment pushes many of its outstanding talents out of the industry.

What’s the next step for original animation in Taiwan? Metson argues: “You first need the opportunity to do this work continuously.” He points out that Hong Kong used to shoot countless films each year and was once the world’s number-two exporter of movies. He recalls one Hong Kong director telling him: “Of course we’re shooting! If we weren’t, how would our lighting and craft services people eat?” When the work is steady, talented people naturally begin to emerge.

Engine Studios’ Vick Wang shares Metson’s view, agreeing that Taiwan has an abundance of creatives, but lacks people to organize and integrate the many parts of the production process. Wang breaks down the steps which go into producing an animated product: conception, the assembly of a management team, budgeting, story development, design, production, and ­postproduction. ­Studios should begin planning their next production the moment the market provides feedback on whatever they have just released. Hollywood’s animation pipeline has a rhythm that grows out of its experience produ­cing ­thousands of animated works. Taiwan’s industry, on the other hand, hasn’t produced enough original animation to really hone its skills, and it has therefore had a hard time developing the necessary management professionals.

The production process for animation is different than that for films. There are no star actors or directors, and it’s harder to find funding. Moreover, many people in the anima­tion industry are compelled to fill multiple roles: creating the property, raising the money to produce it, and then marketing the result. Metson hopes that the government can help create an environment that facilitates the develop­ment of animation in Taiwan by, for example, reducing or waiving taxes to attract corporate resources and relieve creators of their financial worries. Vick Wang aims to hone the survival skills of small and medium-­sized enterprises, teaching them how to negotiate with banks and arrange loans so they don’t have to rely entirely on government subsidies.

Metson dove back into animation production a number of years ago with a project titled Tie Nanhai (“Iron Boy”). He has put some NT$25 million into the project, but is still NT$250 million short of what he needs to finish it. Even so, he hasn’t given it up, explaining, “Not completing it would be tantamount to giving up our right to speak in the virtual world.”

Vick Wang came back to Taiwan after working in anima­tion in New York for nearly ten years, giving up steady work to found his own company. “I wanted to stand on this platform and claim my right to speak,” he says, “so I could talk about our culture, our lives, and our values.”

Exporting original animation

Speaking to a gathering of animation industry professionals, Wang wondered: “Taiwan is a maritime nation that relies on trade, and our animation industry exports skilled services, but have we considered exporting our own stories?”

Once you have original content, the question of how to play the export game arises. Wang still remembers trying to sell an award-winning short film at MIPCOM, a television industry trade show held in Cannes, France. The buyers there who dropped by his booth asked him simple, direct questions: “How much for it?” “How are we going to broadcast a short on TV?” “Are you going to develop it into a movie?” “What’s the film’s budget?” But Wang hadn’t given such issues much thought, and was caught flatfooted.

After spending some time licking his wounds, he re­entered the fray. He attended the next ­MIPCOM with a model from ­MuMuHug, which at that time was still just a pitch for a television series, and prepared answers to the questions buyers had asked him the previous time, yet struck out once again. Wondering how on earth he was supposed to play this game, Wang was on the verge of giving up. Instead, he chose to impersonate a buyer and made the rounds of other booths asking questions, while also noting what other exhibitors asked and how they set prices. His investigations led him to abandon his quest for external finan­cing, put his own capital into producing the show, and then deal with the IP economy to sell the finished product.

The completed MuMuHug has since been licensed for broadcast in more than 80 nations around the world, its production helping train several storytelling teams, and its export providing Engine Studios with stability as it continued its work with original animation. One of these, a show called Go Go Giwas that mixes Taiwanese Aboriginal culture with science education, was screened at the 2016 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and in competition at the Bu­cheon International Animation Festival.

For Vick Wang, animation is a vocation. That, in turn, has enabled him to manage his team with an eye to craft, to lead them on a variety of cooperative, multidisciplinary projects to hone their skills, and to take on a diverse range of animation projects based on his interest in the creator’s “vision.” Wang expects to complete LAQI, a 3D animated feature film that he hopes will propel Taiwanese original animation into the international spotlight, in two years.

On Happiness Road’s 2018 Golden Horse for Best Anim­ated Feature Film was the local animation industry’s first in a long time. As an emotional Metson put it: “It took a great deal to produce On Happiness Road, but can we ensure that it isn’t just a one-off? Can we make sure that all the dir­ectors who want to produce animation have an opportunity to make follow-ups?” Can government, industry, and society support animation directors so that they can continue to tell Taiwanese stories? If they do, Taiwanese animation can continue its journey down its own happiness road.                                                   

Relevant articles

Recent Articles

繁體 日本語



文‧鄧慧純 圖‧莊坤儒






《魔法阿媽》採好萊塢動畫的製作流程,先配好聲音,再進行畫面繪製。原本王小棣還期待可以找到專業的動畫導演來指導,卻覓不著人選,只好挽起袖子自己來,根據畫面中動作的秒數、節奏畫好「律表」(exposure sheet),王小棣為了計算畫面的時間,用壞了兩個碼錶才完成,足見過程之辛苦。後期製作在台灣也覓不著合作的廠商,透過朋友介紹韓國的動畫公司Plus One,以購買地方版權的方式合作,才得以拍攝完成。





《魔法阿媽》的後製是由韓國公司代工,當時韓方要求王小棣一個禮拜要交出250個關鍵畫格(key frame),在一夥人忙得天昏地暗的時候,是動畫界的郭景洲、王登鈺、陳偉松主動向她伸出援手,協助構圖工作。









之後,王世偉再重振旗鼓赴戰場,他帶著製作的《姆姆抱抱(MuMuHug)》雛型出發,準備好先前買家提問的解答,卻還是在會場坐冷板凳,「這個地方這個遊戲規則到底怎麼玩?」王世偉幾乎喪志的想。因此他假扮成買家,逐個攤位去探問,聽取其他的參展廠商如何介紹他們的產品、如何提問、如何定價;他也決定不等外來的投資,自己投入資金創作,先有作品產出,才有後續的IP(Intellectual Property)經濟。


以「動畫」為「志業」的王世偉,用「職人」的精神經營團隊,公司能接的專案可以很多元,面對工作的To be or not to be,判定的準則是心中的原創動畫願景,他帶領團隊歷練各式的跨界合作案,磨練團隊的技術,心中有個更大的夢想正在孵化中,預計兩年後完成的3D動畫長片《妖怪森林》,希望讓台灣原創動畫站上國際舞台,驚豔發光。




文・鄧慧純 写真・莊坤儒  翻訳・山口 雪菜


まずは、王小棣や麦人杰に『魔法阿媽 (魔法のおばあちゃん)』制作時のさまざまな苦労や喜びをうかがい、また、果敢に世界市場に挑み続ける原金国際(Engine Studios)CEOの王世偉には、どのように世界市場のルールを学び、台湾アニメの輸出に成功したのかをうかがった。1秒 24コマというアニメの創作が、いかに困難な道であるかを知っていただきたい。












麦人杰と同様、原金国際(Engine Studios)の王世偉は、台湾にはクリエイターは大勢いるが、組織を統合できる人材が不足していると考える。アニメ作品の制作工程で言うと、コンセプト形成、フォーマット確定、チーム結成、予算編成、ストーリーの発展、美術、テスト、修正、ポストプロダクションからアウトプットまであり、市場の反響を見て、さらに次の企画にとりかかかる。ハリウッドが見ごたえのあるアニメを制作できるのは、これらのべ何千万回にも上る工程に経験を蓄積しているからだ。台湾のアニメ産業にはこうした経験蓄積の機会が不足しており、当然のことながら統合型の人材が育っていないのである。







その後、彼は『ぎゅっ!してMuMu』の番組放送権を80ヶ国以上に販売し、台湾オリジナルのアニメの輸出に成功した。この過程で、物語を語れる人材を多数育成し、原金国際は安定してオリジナルアニメ制作の道を歩めるようになった。彼らが清華大学と協同で制作、先住民文化と科学教育を融合したシリーズ作品『吉娃斯愛科学(Go Go Giwas)』は、2016年にシカゴ国際児童映画祭で上映され、韓国の富川国際アニメーション映画祭でもノミネートされた。


第55回金馬賞では、台湾から出品された『幸福路上(オン ハピネス ロード)』が久しぶりに最優秀長編アニメ賞に輝いた。「『幸福路上』という作品が出てきたのは非常に得難いことですが、この一作で終わってしまうのか、作りたい作品のあるすべての監督に次の作品を制作する機会が与えられるかどうかが問題です」と麦人杰は深い意味を込めて語る。政府や企業、社会全体がアニメ創作者の力強いサポーターとなり、彼らが台湾の物語を語り続けられるようにすること。そうしてこそ、台湾オリジナルのアニメはこれからハピネス・ロードを歩んでいけるのである。

X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!