Yibi Hu is a visual artist, animator and filmmaker. He works on his own concepts and has created an exceptional portfolio of short films including, A Friend I Know, KEG, A Day at Dunjanez, Josie's Lalaland and Palingensia. Among these films many have won prestigious awards. His film KEG won a 2005 Adobe Design Achievement Award and Palingensia has won this year's top prize at the iStock Future Now! Contest.In 2006 Yibi was invited to compete in Reelideastudio at the Cannes Film festival where he won Best in Show. His other works have been shown in numerous film festivals, such as Onedotzero, Bitfilm festival, Bristol International Short Film Festival, Sundance Festival and many others around the world.
Yibi is also an experienced and awarded broadcast designer and works full time at UK's leading broadcast design company Redbee Media in London. Prior to working at Redbee Media he worked for BSkyB in London and SHMDS in Shanghai. As a broadcast designer Yibi has created many title sequences, content and on air idents on BBC Sport, BSkyB Sport, Shell, BBC Prime, UKTV, RTE, BBC World Wide and BAFTA among many others. (via)
IT'S ART: Could you tell me a little more about the history of Josie's Lalaland?
Yibi Hu: I first heard about a 14-year-old girl who was a blood cancer patient from one of my friends over in Asia. After 4 years of life in a hospital she stopped treatment and I was deeply moved by the girl's courage.I began to research children who are in the same situation as her and one day I read the story of Josie Grove in the newspaper. Josie was 16-years old and had been a leukemia patient for many years. She had two bone marrow transplants and a course of anti-cancer drugs, all of which were unsuccessful in beating Josie's cancer. When Josie was told that her condition was terminal she decided not to undertake any further treatment and went home to reunite with her family and enjoy a normal teenage life for her last 3 months. Not only because of similarity of two stories, but also the courage of these two different young individuals, I was inspired to create something that would capture such a spirit.
IA: Why have you chosen to relate this story using to video and C.G.?
YH: First, being a visual designer I naturally chose a visually rich route as my priority and CGI was an off the shelf solution.
IA: I really think you've achieved a very emotional short film. When watching it for the first time I experienced a lot of feelings, not only because of the story but also because of your artistic choices. Can you speak of these choices?
YH: I did consider the possibilities of filming or character animation. After thorough research of many leukemia cases I learned that what I was exploring was universal. For instance, the two cases that inspired me are remarkably similar yet occurred worlds apart.
This is why I decided not to make any specific figures or characters but to keep it as abstract as possible. I eventually made up my mind to create a fantasy world mixed with both dark and brightness, a world intersecting between reality and afterlife. Also I chose this because most children in the same situation would expect more outdoor action. Another influence was some of the jewelry designs done by Josie Grove. She was quite an artist and one piece she did was a silver dragonfly necklace. When I showed her family some of my early art work Josie’s mum saw my work as dragonfly rebirths from water, which gave me some ideas using more dragonfly like insects.
IA: There's something magical, ethereal in this short. It's a very sad story but on the other hand I felt that you tried to give to your short a happy touch. Are you agreement with this?
YH: I have to say I never see this story as a sad one. I was moved by Josie’s courage much more than anything else. There are certainly many different emotions mixed here but what I wanted to express more than anything is eternal happiness and love. It is true that the extreme condition of both kids destined their fate but encouraged by the love from their family and friends they lit candles for themselves in the darkest moments. Their take on their own case was indeed selfless, brave and pure.
IA: What have you learned from the experience of creating this short?
YH: I am happy with the treatment and solution. Somehow I am surprised that an abstract piece could also trigger emotional reactions just like a slow build up in a film. Maybe this could be explored more thoroughly in a proper feature film.Technically, as I have spent a great amount of time generating a HD 3D world in Aftereffect, I believe even more firmly that there is no clear boundary between software and hardware.
IA: Can you tell us a little more about the creative process? How have you elaborated the different scenes, chosen the creatures and colors we can see in your short?
YH: I did the whole thing following an imaged documentary route. I pretended that I was a cameraman wandering around in Josie’s world, taking random shots. I did many different scenes, each one describing its’ own emotion. I didn’t process further into editing until I had enough shots.
The color theme was decided from the beginning. I wanted a heavy atmosphere yet I also wanted it to be filled with delightful twinkling lights. The red clouds are something related to the nature of the disease itself and when I progressed further the red colors actually worked well against black. Most importantly I needed something to deliver gold seeds to the scene and red then became a perfect choice as it matches both gold and black. The creatures are mostly originated from outdoor insects. I designed them also based on experience.
I remember when I was living at Kingston I used to get annoyed by groups of flies along the river. After I moved into town centre I started to miss country life as well as the flies. Therefore, for me I associated the insects to life outside the city and when I had to design a symbolic “outdoors” or “suburbia” the flies made good choice.
IA: What was the most important thing for you while working on this film?
YH: Errr… don’t know how to answer this yet…but I do want people feel happy for Josie.
IA: What has been the reaction of the public to your short?
YH: I haven’t yet shown to a mass audience as I just finished it this August. I did show it to some of my friends and many of them got a bit tearful after watching it, which is a wicked reaction in my point of view.
IA: What are the tools you used? How long did you work on this project?
YH: Photoshop and Aftereffect are two dominate tools I used on this project. There are also some elements and camera reference I worked out in 3D.
It spent roughly 3 months purely on animation and post but a year on the whole film including all the developing work and sound. Because I have a daily I had to use my free time to work on it.
IA: Are you working on a new project? Can you let us know more about it?
YH: I am planning something focused on the fur trade industry but nothing I can talk too much about at the moment. I also hope to get some music video projects in the future. (via)
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