Raman Hui Shing-ngai has dedicated more than 20 years of his life to the art of animation. His talent in animation was recognised shortly after graduation, with an award at the Hong Kong Independent Film Festival. He set off for the United States in 1989 and has since played a major part in some of Hollywood’s most successful animated films.
How did you become an animator?
About 20 years ago, I was studying graphic design at the PolytechnicUniversity and, one semester, took a course in animation. I didn’t take it too seriously because the subject wasn’t popular in Hong Kong and didn’t point to a career. But when I graduated, a lecturer introduced me to an advertising company and I began to see the possibilities. Accepting their job offer was what got me started.
Did people generally encourage you?
I am very lucky because my family has always been supportive. Initially, though, my friends didn’t understand what I was doing and worried that I’d made the wrong choice. That was in the mid-80s, when most of the jobs seemed to be in banking and finance. Only a few people worked in animation and, to others, even the term seemed strange. Later on, of course, I had many good friends working in the same profession and became more confident about my career.
How did you join PDI/Dreamworks?
I submitted an animation I did in Hong Kong and from my school project in Canada. They flew me to California for an interview. I met with 12 people from PDI and they asked metechnicaland creative questions. Some askedsimple questions just to get a sense of what kind of person I was, to judge if I would be a good fit to the company.I started working there in late 1989.
What are your main duties?
I’m in the office every day and find it’s always fun to go to work. Right now, I’m working in India on a special Shrek TV programme. There are about 100 people on the project, so I have daily meetings and need to supervise the animation, oversee special effects and give advice and comments.
How did you move from character designer to director?
In the early days, when we were doing Shrek 1 and 2, I was responsible for making the characters’ movements and gestures look realistic. For Shrek 3, I took the post of co-director, creating the storyboard and giving each character a personality. I also had to look into the shots and angles for different scenes. Now for the latest instalment, I’m concentrating on the plot. You can’t do two things on one project, since doing either the animation or working out the story takes so much time and you have to be very focused.
Are you conscious of being a pioneer?
When I was still in advertising, computers weren’t used much in Hong Kong, but I realised we had to develop new techniques and learn about computer graphics. That’s why I took a short course in Canada in 1988 and was willing to pay the fees out of my own pocket. Later, I made friends there with people who had been part of the production team for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? They really inspired me and I decided to aim for a job in this industry.
What would you like to do next?
I have been working on Shrek movies since 1997, so was glad for the chance to direct Kungfu Panda – Secret of the Furious Five. It was a 30-minute short movie with Chinese elements, which I thoroughly enjoyed doing. The producer, Karen Forster, was very sensitive about the storyboard and I learnt a lot from her.
Beyond that, I would like to contribute something more to both Hong Kong and China, and help to bring positive change.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to work in the animation industry?
Animation is a time-consuming process. You need to be patient with the process andhave to wait a long time for the results
Won the Best Animation Award at the Hong Kong Independent Film Festival 1984
Was the lead character designer/supervising animator for Antz 1998
The supervising animator of Shrek, the Oscar-winning Best Animated Feature 2002
World’s Outstanding Chinese Designer Award 2008
Bronze Bauhinia Star from the Hong Kong government 2009