Idea Blog


Blake Harris 05.17.2016

In this week’s installment, we speak with Korean-born, California-based animator Hanna Cho…

Last week, as part of our PICK OF THE WEEK series, we shined a spotlight on Hanna Cho’s terrific animated short The Cook-Off. To learn more about how she crafted this video and gain a few insights into her journey from Korea to California, we spoke with the wonderful Hanna Cho.

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Blake Harris: Hi, Hanna. Thanks for speaking with us! You’re in California, studying at CalArts, right?

Hanna Cho: Yeah, I grew up in Korea and then I came out here for University.

Blake Harris: Growing up in Korea, when you were younger, did you know early on that you wanted a career in illustration and/or animation?

Hanna Cho: Yes. Yeah, actually. When I was really young, I liked drawing other people and my mom always supported me. And then one day, on TV, they were talking about Korean Animation High School and I told my Mom, “I’d like to go there!” That is how I ended up going to Korean Animation High School, a special art school in Korea. But I didn’t study animation there.

Blake Harris: So what did you study at Korean Animation High School?

Hanna Cho: I studied Comics & Cartoons.


Blake Harris: That’s great. At that time in your life, were there any specific comics or cartoons that particularly inspired you?

Hanna Cho: I don’t perfectly remember which comics inspired me the most. But usually it was Japanese comics. And I was always more into [laughing] it’s funny to tell, but I was always more into love story comics.

Blake Harris: [laughing] When you moved to California, what was the biggest change for you coming from Korea? And I don’t necessarily mean animation-related.

Hanna Cho: One thing—and I do not mean to say that it is a good or a bad thing—but here I think people are more open. For example: In Korea, if you don’t know someone, you generally do not talk to them. It takes time to grow close.


Hanna Cho: But here, in the United States, I’ll say hello to strangers and start talking right away. So it is more open in that way. And this was hard for me when I first arrived. Because language was the biggest problem for me. So I was really shy until my second year.

Blake Harris: That’s so interesting. And your English is great, by the way.

Hanna Cho: Oh, thank you.

Blake Harris: Let’s talk a little about The Cook-Off, the animated short you recently completed at CalArts. As you know from our PICK OF THE WEEK article, I really enjoyed the film. And I also really enjoyed the note you included that provided a glimpse into your inspiration. Talking about competition:

“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.”

Blake Harris: So I’m curious to hear more about how you came up with this idea. And how did you select pastries/cooking as the entry point to explore competition?

Hanna Cho: Well, with animation, you usually have to compromise some things. Because it is really hard to depict, exactly, our reality into animation. One way to minimize the problems was by choosing animal characters. They are easier to animate than humans.

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Hanna Cho: As for the pastries, I watch a lot of cooking competitions on TV. Like Master Chef. So I thought this could be a good subject! Because it was really competitive. And also I was interested in animating cooking sequences.

Blake Harris: Oh, I love that you were inspired by those shows! Well, one thing that is not in those shows, but made a great addition to The Cook-Off was the giant scoreboard that ranked each of the students.

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Blake Harris: That worked so well. Where did that idea come from?

Hanna Cho: I’m a huge fan of baseball! I actually like Korean baseball more than major league baseball here, but I was really fascinated by the designs of major league baseball scoreboards. They have a classic look, but also look modern in some ways.

Blake Harris: Just a couple more questions. One is: what was the most challenging part of making this animated film?

Hanna Cho: Well, The Cook-Off was actually my third year film, so it was supposed to be finished last year. But I did not have enough time to finish it and I pushed it back. So it was really hard for me to come back to the film and to finish. Work-wise, I would say the animation was the most challenging part. It’s just a lot of work. And there’s 9 characters, so group shots are the hardest things!

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Blake Harris: I can imagine. But I do appreciate you putting in all that additional work, to capture all those nuances. And it leads in nicely to my final question: there are several characters in your film, but none of them have names. Was that intentional?

Hanna Cho: [laughing] I tried to come up with names, but I couldn’t. I really did try, but it just didn’t sound right!


To see more of Cho’s work, please visit her blog, tumblr or vimeo pages.

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