Meaningful Animations: touching stories for #PinkDot12 and MyQueerStorySG
A few weeks ago, we shared a beautiful animated video of 3 powerful stories in 3 different animation styles that shared the struggle and created awareness of LGBTQ+ real experiences. We promised you we’d have an interview with our Director of Communications and Animator, Jerrold Chong to follow shortly and here it is!
Jerrold was asked to join a team of filmmakers, producers and other animators to create a series of animated shorts for this year’s PinkDot based on stories from MyQueerStorySG (an Instagram page that shares anecdotal accounts of the struggles of many younger LGBTQ+ folks in Singapore). It’s such a meaningful collaboration and we wanted to know more about his experience and process. Jerrold graciously took the time to share some thoughts below.
What makes this animated project so important?
This PinkDot animation project is in support of a meaningful cause, and I also personally support a more inclusive and equal Singapore for the LGBTQ community. I have been to Pink Dot at Hong Lim Park before and for this year, due to the Covid-19 situation, the organizers had planned a whole series of online programmes and for me, it’s wonderful to have the chance to be involved and contribute in my own small way.
I was excited about the potential for animation to help raise awareness and shine a light on these untold stories, and present them in an evocative and poetic way.
As some of the accounts are by individuals who are quite young, animation helps provide the anonymity needed for the accounts.
Why did you, the Zhuang brothers and Su-An Ng want to make this project?
It was refreshing to have three different animators bringing their different diverse styles and storytelling approaches to the 3 stories. For me, this project also offered a lot of creative freedom (as compared to commercial projects) in terms of drawing and animation style, and the producers
Junfeng and Chris were very open and supportive in the direction of the animation. Such projects are quite rare and something I always treasure as it allows me to explore and play around with the artistic side of experimenting with new ways to represent and depict the story.
How did you choose the animation style for each section? What makes these techniques special?
For my own section (Zachary’s story), the hand-drawn technique is a style I was most comfortable with and something that is more manageable within the tight timeframe. As mentioned, the creative freedom allowed me to design and illustrate in my own style (without having to conform to a prescribed look as in the case with commercial projects), and that was very much enjoyable.
The challenge I faced was trying to present the story visually without being too literal with the voiceover, while also conveying the emotions and experiences from the story in a poetic and evocative way.
The voiceover track helped alot in terms of being able to have the animation be inspired by the pacing, the tones and emotions conveyed through the voice.
From there, it was about finding visual symbols and imagery that could depict the emotions in an imaginative and empathetic way.
Why is animation such an effective medium when it comes to storytelling about social issues?
Animation has had a long history of telling stories about social issues, especially in the independent world and I would love to see more of it in Singapore as well. There are many films that I admire and respect, that draw connections between the personal and social, like Signe Baumane’s My Love Affair with Marriage and Zero Impunity.
Even from early on, animation was a medium that could tell powerful impactful stories that go beyond the literal, and sometimes even circumvent existing censorship structures or systems that might not want certain social issues to be talked about.
For example, one of my favourites, The Hand by Jiri Trinka made in 1965 in then Czechoslovakia is about the oppressive environment of artists working in totalitarian regimes.
As compared to live-action films, I feel animation has the power to use visual symbolism, surrealism and other approaches that go beyond presenting stories and issues literally/logically, and that can help to connect with audiences in different ways – viscerally and/or emotionally.
Do you have some advice for animators who want to create more stories for social impact in this way?
I feel it is about building a community which is collaborative and open, and being open to work with different artists across disciplines (from film, to theatre to fine arts). My most eye-opening experience was learning from working with other creators, other than animators, and often you would find that they have different ways of approaching ideas and storytelling, which are very much different from the way stories are taught in film/animation.
That becomes very exciting because I learn new ways to present visuals and ideas, and I also get the chance to be involved in the various community issues and concerns that many of these artists are making art of. As an animation community, I understand that many of us are quite introverted in nature, but I think
There is a benefit to reaching out and working with other artists across disciplines and creating work that brings in our personal causes and reflecting upon issues around our world today.