Idea Blog

PICK OF THE WEEK: The Cook-Off (Character Animation)

Blake Harris 05.10.2016

Competition brings out the best in us, right? Perhaps, but sometimes that competitive spirit needs to be tempered with some humility to progress. This is a lesson that’s learned by the passionate, pastry-making protagonist of Hanna Cho’s The Cook-Off, a great example of 2D character animation that we’ve selected as our PICK OF THE WEEK.

The Cook-Off‘s creator Hanna Cho–born in a small town in South Korea–graduated from Korea Animation High School in 2012, where she majored in Cartoons and Comics, and is currently enrolled in the Character Animation program at CalArts. Among her passions, she lists “storyboarding and drawing personal comics,” which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s seen her animated short. Below, in greater detail, we discuss what we really liked about The Cook-Off, but it’s that second passion–drawing personal comics–that we wanted to touch on ahead of time. Because there’s something beautifully personal about this film.

Most of the time, for us as the audience, we’re not privy to those aspects that make a film personal for its creator. In this instance, however, Cho gives us a glimpse into that space of vulnerability and inspiration. Posted below her video is a short note from the filmmaker:

“I have always been a competitive kid that grew up in a competitive society. Throughout my life, I wanted to be the best one among my classmates. This film is especially based on my experience when I had to prepare for years to get into a really good art school in South Korea. Sometimes I did really well, and I tended to become arrogant. But I have met really sincere friends who made me humble and think about the value of friendships and empathy. There’s always harsh competitions everywhere in the world and I wanted to talk about it, and think about what is really important.”

Not only is Cho’s preface fascinating and insightful, but it’s a good reminder that–for an artist–personalizing the material can often be a great place to begin. Another strong example of a young artist using personal experience (albeit tweaked for fictional presentation) to a similar advantage is Natalie Labarre’s Papa, which she discussed with us in a recent interview.

Anyway, today is all about Hanna Cho so, without further ado, here’s The Cook-Off

[vimeo video_id=”165698548″ width=”400″ height=”300″ title=”Yes” byline=”Yes” portrait=”Yes” autoplay=”No” loop=”No” color=”00adef”]


  • Film by Hanna Cho
  • Music by Jesse Richardson
  • Sound Design by Nick Ainsworth
  • Sound Mix by Ben Huff and Nacho Cano
  • Voice Acting by Jackie Lee and Sandeepan Chanda

3 Things We Loved About This 2D Character Animation

1. Great Coverage: Although the majority of Cho’s animated short takes place in a singular location, she manages–over the course of nearly 7 minutes!–to avoid letting this space ever feeling stale or claustrophobic. In fact, the more time we spend in this environment, the more interesting and endearing it becomes. So…how does she pull it off?

Well, one reason, certainly, is that it’s a pretty big space.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.03.35 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.03.38 PM

But that decision is only a small part of how Cho manages to keep our location feeling fresh (while also increasingly familiar). A lot of it comes down to her generosity in providing the viewer with several different angles into the scene.

In addition to the various character-driven tight shots, we get to see the story unfold from a variety of vantage points. Like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.03.59 PM 1Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.04.00 PM

and this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.03.44 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.03.44 PM 1

…And this…

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…and this…

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…And (!!!!) this…

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.13 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.14 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.14 PM 1Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.16 PM Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.15 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.17 PM Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.19 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.18 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.21 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.19 PM 1  Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.20 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.22 PM 

2. Point of View: Not only does Cho feature interesting angles to cover the scene, but she also uses some creative perspectives to add a nice flourish to her animated film.

In particular, the oven sequence comes to mind:

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.06.05 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.06.04 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.06.05 PM 1Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.06.06 PM Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.06.07 PM 1Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.06.07 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.06.09 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.06.10 PM  Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.06.12 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.06.13 PM   

3. The Character Design: Despite each of these creatures appearing to be a different species, there’s an impressive, heartfelt commonality in the character design that organically binds them together into the same story universe:

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.03.43 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.04.08 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.04.37 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.04.39 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.25 PM 1Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.07.58 PM 1


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