One of the funniest and most beloved short films at TCFF 2016 was Doggy Love, by Hong Kong animator Wong Ping. The story – about a boy who finds love in the flapping back-boobs of a classmate – is not only as bonkers as it sounds, but also kind of… sweet. Wong Ping took home the award for Spirit of Hong Kong and Best Animation. We sat down with Ping shortly after the festival, to talk about how he developed his peculiar style.
“I think it’s funny people see it as my ‘style’, because it’s basically all I can do. I never studied animation, I studied design. After graduation I knew nothing about the industry. I picked up some books and I went to TVB [Local broadcaster | SB] to work in post-production; You know… removing wires, clean the skin, all that jazz. One day I just thought I could use those after-effects to do some very simple animation. That’s how I started. So it isn’t very proper animation, as you can see. It’s very simple stuff. But it works for me, so I keep exploring the possibilities within my limitations.”
I keep exploring the possibilities within my limitations
How long have you been working with animation?
About five years. My first job was a music video for a Hong Kong indie band of a friend of mine. My second job was also a music video. I think 2 or 3 years ago I started writing my own scripts and doing my own V.O. I think so far I’ve done about 6 films for my own. Aside from that I did some more music videos and some commissioned work. Actually, Doggy Love was also commissioned. The video channel Nowness asked me to do this. Luckily they gave me a lot of freedom, so it turned out to be a very personal project. They just gave me money to do my thing.
I worked on Doggy Love for about three months. I spent most of my time on the animation, but overall the project didn’t take that long. I was asked to do the film for Valentine’s day 2015. Nowness wanted me to do a short about dark love. All in all the whole project went very smooth. After getting them to approve a rough storyboard, I just went straight to making the final film and putting it online. I love these kind of commissions.
It’s created by Wong Ping Animation Lab, right? Is that… just you?
Yeah, haha, that’s just me.
Story, animation, sound,…?
And voice-over. I started up the company to get some funding. People kept asking me which company I worked at.
Does animation pay for your living?
Yes, I manage to survive on freelance work. My main source of income actually used to be from Cartoon Network. I did some promo work for them. I’m very glad to have had that to support my other work. Two years ago they moved out to Singapore, so my main source of income was gone. But right about that time, I stepped into the local art scene. That became another possibility for me to play with, doing shows and so. A few months ago a gallery signed me up. And then I sold Doggy Love to Art Basel. All that combined helps me to support myself. Now I’m working on my second solo exhibition. It should launch at the end of this year. Then I’m doing maybe one or two shows in between, but nothing I can confirm just yet. Actually, I’m also working on a project with MTV channel in Europe, we’re just coming up with some ideas, also to be commissioned. And then currently I have a show in… where is it again? Oh yeah it’s a show with another animator in the USA, it’s in Madison… That’s a city yes? (laughs)
Is it difficult to be an artist in Hong Kong?
To be honest, I think it’s hard, but I was very lucky. I’m a bit of an exception. I can tell it’s hard, looking at friends in the same profession. Most of them have their own studio and work with commercial stuff. They have a lot of work, and they do pretty well; But outside of commercial work, it’s very hard as an artist to produce independent work. I don’t think people appreciate short films that much around here, especially in animation. So I think that’s very difficult. For me, I didn’t plan anything. I didn’t want to be an animator, I just rolled in it. One day I wrote something and animated it, and suddenly that got picked up by galleries. I always put my work online. People sometime want to buy my films, and then they wonder why I just put it online. My first show was last year in March, my second show will be at the end of this year in Sham Shui Po. Two months ago I signed a gallery. I didn’t expect any of this.
I guess nowadays there’s more funding for animation shorts in Hong Kong. But when the government gives you funding, they always try to help you by putting you on the commercial circuit. They don’t see you as an artist. They’ll always ask what the purpose of your work is. They think about clients. They want to find a commercial opportunity for you. The approach is different. Who’s to say that is wrong. It’s just different. It’s commercial.
animation is like meditation
For me personally, I just see where it goes. I don’t have any real ambitions with my work. For me animation is like meditation. When I have something I want to say, I think of a way to express that in animation. But if one day I stop having these thoughts, I’ll stop making animation. I don’t dream about animation. I have regular dreams, which I express through animation.
Do you want to stay in HK?
Good question. I actually have to move out of my studio quite soon, so I’ve been thinking about where to go next. I’m quite happy here; My only concern is the price of rent. I might go to Taiwan. Not to move there for good, but maybe for a couple months. I know some people in Taiwan that work in animation and have galleries. I was quite surprised, cause that’s a rare find in Hong Kong. Taiwan treats animation more as an art form. Their artists even fly around the world for exhibitions.
How did you find out about Third Culture Film Festival?
I love the combination of traditional film and meaningless, weird… stuff
I know co-founder Faiyaz, and I know he’s been thinking of doing this for a while now. I was happy to see they actually did it. And then the selection was also a pleasant surprise. I love the combination of traditional film and meaningless weird… stuff. Usually in the selection of film festivals you’ll only find the typical stories about truth, love, kindness… I wanted to show a different kind of film to the audience, and I’m glad TCFF allowed me to do that.