Education

 

Jung-min LEE

Currently he works as a professor and program director in the animation department of Korea National University of Arts (K-Arts). He has been working as : Director of policy, Korean Society of Cartoon and Animation Studies, Festival Director of Puchon International Student Animation Festival, Vice Provost of K-Arts planning division, Visiting Professor of Entertainment Technology Center, Carnegie Mellon University, and Co-Chairman of WE3 (Wuhan Eastasia 3 counturies) Festival.

 

1.

“Ultimately money is the problem.”
No matter which topic you discuss, if you conclude as above, the essence of the topic becomes either clouded or explicit. This is because the key for resolving most problems is money, and in some instances money itself can even cause bigger problems.
Money is powerful, direct, and dangerous, but also a convenient and attractive system. I thought the fact that ANIM’s preselection of the sensational issue of “Animation and Money” could be burdensome for some, but at the same time could provoke many interesting discussions.
Even if we do not consider the ontological, creational origin, and transformation of money philosophically, won’t we be able to examine the current contradictory structures and solutions through money itself as well as people’s mindset when it comes to money?

 

2.

Money is at the very center of capitalism, which controls everything. In this generation where money rules the world, it is a god to whom nothing is impossible.
Some suggest that money has accelerated the individualization of humanity. I think humankind would be more communal and less individualistic if we didn’t have money, which reverts the value of everything to its own particular standard. To see it in this light, money is the symbol of freedom which defines us as modern people.

At the same time money represents both power and authority. When the national budget is being determined, we can also witness money cause tragic declines and force people to struggle for survival. Money provides freedom and various possibilities to individuals and groups, and acts as a motive to sustain society. Money itself has value and the ability to create more powerful strength, but it does not always lead to value and instead often acts a main agent in diminishing value.

We are already familiar with how ugly money and authority can make people, and how damaging its cartel is on society.
The inhuman object known as money is value neutral, however through its power and attractiveness that neutrality is often damaged. As if we have been hypnotized, we fall under the spell of money.

At first we earn money to provide for our families, but before we know it we see ourselves becoming addicted to money and end up even losing our families because of it. Similar to how the alcohol we drink can end up drinking us, money is a more widespread and powerful temptation that can engulf a person and end up destroying them. I think that money and value might even be irreconcilably related in parallel. It is an extensive discussion on money, but in accordance with the topic I will be presenting some issues related to the education of animation by observing the phenomenon of animation through money.

3.

The boom in the founding of comic and animation departments in the mid-to-late 90’s to the beginning of the 2000’s is not unrelated to the industrial and commercial logic which can ultimately be traced back to money. Without it, it would not have been easy to completely transform from animation previously regarded as “The main culprit of erratic teenagers” to the “Ivory tower’s hot new trend.” It is as if the main troublemaker in a family woke up one day and suddenly became a devoted son.
At the first SICAF (Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival) opening in 1995, I recall in the cultural secretary’s congratulatory message hearing that they had received many protest calls from parents complaining that the government was spending their tax money on such an absurd comic book event. That was the atmosphere in 1995. For a long period before and even a while after that, on Children’s Day some news organizations broadcasted images of a ceremony burning comic books and animation videos. Comic book stores which brimmed with the smell of life were depicted as crime-ridden districts, and animation was treated contemptuously by society, regarded as a cultural blind spot far from any tax benefits even though it contributed over 90% of foreign earnings of the overall domestic film industry up until the 90’s. Despite all of that, SICAF still had record-breaking success from its first year and since then similar events have been founded by competing broadcasting and newspaper companies along with local governments.

4.

The first department of Comic Art was established at Kongju Community College in 1990 and by determining the three tracks of core education as Comics, Illustration, and Animation the education of animation began. Through 1995 many departments that used the name “animation” were established in community colleges, as well as in four-year colleges, and similar titles have been used in some graduate schools as well. The boom in the founding of animation-related departments continued and at one time was regarded as more common than departments of Theater or Film, and now there are even doctoral programs for majors of comics and animation.
It was around this period when an anonymous professor from the School of Film, TV, & Multimedia stated that, “The talented people who crowd around the film industry are now mostly crowding around the animation industry.” Before and through 2000, it was announced that there are over 150 animation related departments, and it was around this time that I received a phone call from a professor of Computer Engineering at a college (that will remain nameless) saying he was considering changing the name of their department to Game Animation. Many local governments hosted animation-related events and opened centers in an effort to make their cities become the economic center of comics and animation.

5.

Around 1995 the Ministry of Culture established a cultural industry bureau.
The economic trends were also anticipating a change from a manufacturing industry to a cultural industry, and by bringing up the mythical success of Jurassic Park, the rosy possibility that the top 5 cultural industries could create more wealth that the top 5 manufacturing industries became the logical basis. Was it because there were not enough discussions on cultural industry during that feverish period?

“What is a cultural industry?” “Is it an industrialization of culture, or the culturization of an industry?” “Is it an entertainment industry or a cultural industry?” These kinds of unripe, unresolved questions slid by and went unanswered. The controversy and confusion towards the proposition of the 

“Creative Economy” advocated recently by the government may be one of the side effects of not clarifying the relationship between money and value as far as it related to cultural industry in its early stages, and which became amplified as it progressed.

The fact that animation can earn money and therefore needs to be promoted is not necessarily an incorrect thought or approach.
However, we should avoid the cases of people who at first earn money for their family but become addicted to money and end up actually throwing away their families over it. Even now, much like the issues the Creative Economy must resolve, we must pose questions about the problems and have in-depth discussions on the other values animation has apart from just the appropriation of money.

Therefore, the first issue presented in this report is not the fact that animation can earn money, but rather where the value of animation lies.
For example, I received an interesting offer from an animation theme park. The offer was that “Some of the parents want to educate their children about art, and they want us to do so by integrating animation.” In reality, because animation encompasses all the artistic elements such as words, images, sounds, and actions and because the process of creation, output, and the method of appreciation also contain the integration of artistic characteristics, it can help teenagers discover and develop their artistic knowledge. I had already established an internal research team and created arts education programs for children that integrated animation before, but it was fresh to receive such a detailed offer from the outside.

This can be taken as another value of animation, which is often inappropriately described as mere “educational value.”
This is a message that I would like to get across to those so-called “experts” who still regard comics and animation as a low-grade, second-rate artform due to its connection with industry or for other reasons.

6.

On the other hand, some people say that the generation of animation has already passed.
In reality, animation departments have attempted to change the names of their departments to more trendy names, some have merged with more successful cultural industries, and to accommodate the current social climate have even transferred their physical location or reorganized their entire curriculums.

Therefore, the second issue I would like to present is the fact that animation is now past its prime. This is related to the first issue that I presented. People have flocked to this industry for money, so when it no longer produced money naturally they have moved away. In considering this problem, I believe that the animation industry must take responsibility and reflect on itself. Without discussing the value and potential of animation in depth, we were only interested in whether or not the industry made money, was a good industry, was a motive for growth for the next generation, and created killer content that we did not properly criticize it and ended up stunting its development.

7.

Despite this, the competition rate to be accepted into the animation degree program at Korea National University of Arts in 2017 was over
30:1. On the one hand this makes me very glad, but on the other I wonder how the passion towards comics and animation has been reproduced. If we turn our eyes towards China, it is quite embarrassing to say that animation is past its prime there.
The animation industry in China already produced distinctly Chinese but also unique, international style animation in the late 1950’s such as The Cowboy’s Flute and Little Tadpoles Look for Mama, with TE wei and QIAN Jia-jun serving as the heads of animation in China. Since then, China was not able to recover from the tornado of the Cultural Revolution, however going past 2000 it has shown explosive growth in the industry of animation education. Centered around the two strong players in Beijing, the Beijing Film Academy and the Communication University of China, approximately 400-500 institutions of animation education have been established over the past ten years. As an example, one of the top four educational bases, Jilin Animation Institute in Changchun, recruits up to a thousand students and has four thousand in its four-year animation program.
Although China is a di cult place to collect statistics, it was announced that there were approximately 1000 animation-related departments with over 500,000 students around 2010. Production of creative animation has also exceeded 200,000 titles, the highest in the world. With productions on that kind of scale, the global animation industry can now be divided into the Chinese and non-Chinese regions.

8.

It is amazing to see that there are still offers from the Chinese School of Foundation to enlarge or establish new departments of animation. China holds the largest scale animation festivals, established the largest scale animation museum, created the largest scale educational institutions, and holds the largest number of human resources for animation. Even now, China consistently produces animation-related news. In China there are over 300 million children, who are the main consumers of animation, and it is likely the Chinese animation business and education boom will continue for a considerable time to come as a result of the recent phasing out of the one-child policy.
It is not only the scale that we are envious of. When animation policy decisions are being made in China, the prime minister meets with almost ten government departments to discuss the matter. This may be due to the socialistic nature of the land. The Chinese expression “動漫遊戱 Dòng màn yóu xì1) is also interesting. The structure of “comic-game-new media” content is interconnected and it seems that education, industry, and policy are also integrated. It might be that within this trend of integration, the latecomers will actually benefit from such a trend. There are some weak points, but the quality and quantity of Chinese animation is still growing.

9.

According to a report presented in October 2016 by the o ce of the
Creative Content Agency in China, between 2009 and 2015 the value of the animation industry increased from 368 billion yuan to 1.2 trillion yuan.
In 2016 most of the theatrical animated films have been successful, such as BigFish&Begonia(83.1billionwon). Animportantpointtotakenoticeofis the fact that both animation for adults such as HUAJIANGHU and Rakshasa Street, as well as animation for children such as GG Bond and Boonie Bears have been a success, transforming animation into an “all ages” medium. The problems we are faced with and are aiming to resolve have gradually already been resolved by China, which is a developed country at least in regards to its cultural industry and education.
In addition, China has been sucking Korea’s assets like a vaccum cleaner, both human resources and companies for its cultural industry, as well as other areas. Most recently, our domestic companies within the cultural industry have been increasing their exchanges with China, resulting in more negative consequences and creating more worries. The third issue I would like to present is what we we can accomplish with China, and how we should approach them.

10.

The last problem presented is what are we going to do with this situation in regards to the education of animation.
Let’s pretend that we are establishing an animation department from scratch. First we would have to decide on an educational goal and create entrance examinations, curriculum, and graduate examinations or assignments all in accordance with that goal.

There are a lot of possible goals to select from when determining the educational goal for the program.

–  Art, engineering, liberal arts, media… what would be the starting point for animation?

–  Will we focus on developing creators and writers or on training specialized workers?

–  Are we aiming for old media animation such as theatrical features or television programs, or are we aiming for new media animation such as the internet or mobile, or are we going to aim more towards the future?

– How are we going to integrate analog and digital processing with one another?

– Is it going to be centered around traditional hand-drawing or 3D computer animation, or if we are going to mix the two, how are we going to mix them?

– Will it be production based or theory based?

Unlike movies, the manufacturing process of animation is multifaceted and requires various distinct processes. This diversity makes the discussion more complex, so let’s just point out one issue for now.

Should the program produce creators or specialized workers? In the field, those who come out of school are regarded as being unspecialized, and I agree to this to a certain degree, however in reality schools are very concerned with whether they should promote creativity or specialization.

The expression “promotion of creators” also contains the idea of “creative leader” so in other words it is either a “specialized type” or “creative leader type.” Personally, I believe that schools should be based on producing “creators” or “creative leaders” as the studio trends change frequently and content platforms are constantly changing due to ongoing developments in new media. Especially universities offering four-year courses generally aim to “train cultured people” yet it is not easy to educate them to even a basic level of cultural awareness in that time. Entering university, completing all of their courses, and going out into the field can take someone anywhere from 5 to 10 years. In this generation of rapid change, one can expect the climate in the job market to have changed twice by the time he or she has graduated. In fact, it is not a matter of throwing away one side and taking the other. To say it more accurately, it is closer to taking one side and supplementing the other. After setting the educational goal, the next process is not that of creating the curriculum, but rather deciding upon the entrance examination, curriculum, and graduation procedure. Who you pick and how you pick them is as important as what you are going to teach them. It is also important to determine with what and how you are going to graduate them. This flow must lead the path towards the issues concerning entrance to university, employment, or self-employment.

11.

Although I cannot answer all the issues raised, I would like to organize my thoughts on some of the points to open my discussion. To summarize, some of the issues I have raised are as follows:

–  Firstly, where the true value of animation lies (and not the fact that it can earn money).

–  Secondly, the fact that animation is now past its prime (and no longer earns money).

–  Thirdly, what we can accomplish with China (and how we are going to approach them).

–  Fourthly, in these circumstances how we are going to reeducate people on animation.

12.

It is special that a majority of children are fascinated by animation for a certain period of time. That is also the reason why some people easily say that animation is childish and a lower art form, but China has for the same reason regarded animation in a different light from other areas such as movies. I actively agree with the logic that “It is important because children will be watching.”

In fact, animation is not the exclusive property of children but more essentially animation is mainly nestled in the realm of the imagination. Nowadays, imagination is utilized only for short periods of time so reality has become rather faster than imagination. However animation does not dwell in the realm of imagination, it diffuses reality and makes us look at things from different perspectives. Its role is to allow us to see things we once couldn’t. The term “The Invisible Art” used as the subtitle for Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud is an outstanding way of wording it and is also valid for animation.

The commercial approach towards the value of animation is required, but at the same time it is necessary to look at it educationally, culturally, artistically in a more comprehensive sense, and from various other angles. The expression that animation is past its prime is probably a biased point of view that comes from a commercial sense, particularly from old media points of view, such as theatrical films and television. Animation is a content spectrum which crosses between reality and fantasy, allows a structural freedom which connects actual images with fictitious ones, contains various materials mixing words-images-sounds-actions, contains an abundance of techniques which embrace drawing and construction, goes beyond the existing form of art appreciation through exhibition-publication-display, and is a special area which provides combined experiences.

13.

The first time I went to China (Taiwan) was in 1990, so since then it has been nearly 30 years. I have visited China more than 50 times and I currently live there, however China is still new every day. China is referred to as a country where both a dragon and a sitting duck exist. It is broad-minded like a dragon and at the same time it is closed off like a sitting duck.

China is a country with a huge spectrum. Compared to Korea, expensive things are much more expensive, and cheap things are much cheaper. Good things are better, but bad things are far worse. If you can’t strike a wise balance within this huge spectrum, you can easily find yourself in a gap and get lost in the mix. With speed added to this huge spectrum, China presently lies at an extreme dissonance. Spatially and temporally, people can’t help but feel motion sickness. The fact that Korea is relatively small and resides on a peninsula has been good for keeping balance. Korea, although small, retains an image in China as a cultural powerhouse. The key to exchanges with China lies in whether we can pursue detail, based on the spectrum.
Except for a couple recent works, Chinese animation still has not had international success, so they regard Korea, along with the United States and Japan, as the top 3 powerful countries2) in the field and have been offering a lot of exchanges. Similarly in the field of education, with only slight exaggeration, there is not one single Chinese animation education institution that does not seek ties with Korea in some form. This can be seen as an opportunity or a crisis. In terms of education, China is already no match, but in some ways it lacks experience and diversity.

14.

People say that this is an era of culture, and an era where heroes appear in the field of culture rather than in politics, war, religion, or the economy. Recently there has been a boom in donations and the establishment of foundations for a better future based around the wealthiest people in the United States, who are the largest holders of capital. This is also not free
from the logic of money, but I’m counting on the fact that it can provide an opportunity to create value. In particular, groups of professors and researchers in the field of animation must put more effort into discovering and expanding the values that we hold. 

On top of the industrial value that animation holds, we must put our efforts toward discovering value based on the nature of animation, and reflect this on society. To push ahead with the education of animation without such efforts will eventually lead to losing our natural strength. Then China will no longer be our partner, and we will have to meet them as
a rival or a ruler.

The transformation of the education of animation must also be discussed again based on the above-mentioned periodic and spatial conditions. We must acknowledge but criticize the viewpoint that the discussion has begun through the logic of money and must be expanded and complemented with other new values. There are limits on giving priority to money and fitting the logic of value on top of it.

1) 動 means animation, 漫 means comics, and 遊戱 means games.

2) In the Hang Zhou Animation Festival Seminar in 2007, the Chinese representative of The Century Co., Ltd. announced that the top 3 most powerful nations within the field of animation in the world were the United States, Japan, and Korea. They analyzed that the United States had become a powerful nation in animation by the use of a 大 (big) strategy, Japan through a 小 (small) strategy, and Korea through a 新 (new) strategy.