How Gyuri Cloe Lee creates stop-motion effects through digital animation
The Seoul-based animator talks us through her original approach and how she tackled a music video for Bob Marley’s iconic One Love for Universal Music Korea.
- 21 October 2021
- Jyni Ong
Gyuri Cloe Lee has tried a bit of everything. She studied a combination of film, animation and video at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and has dabbled in everything from commercial graphic design projects to traditional painting. Making her way in an interdisciplinary sector where creativity runs wild, the animator and video artist, now based in Seoul, shares a few recent projects with us, and tells us about her journey into this wonderful, colourful universe on view before our eyes.
Back in college, Gyuri tells us, “I took a class on the basics of animation and found out I’m actually pretty good at it.” Instantly, she felt connected to the field for its fluidity and ability to tell stories, and the budding animator went on to explore the medium further. Looking back, she says, “I’m still quite proud of my very first flip book.” It represents a time when she first realised how expansive animation can be, with copious space and maze-like corridors to go down.
Having lived half her life in the US and the other half in Seoul, Gyuri decided to move back to Korea after university to pursue a career as a freelancer. She realised her passion was in animation, setting up shop under the name Petting Zoo Studio where she takes on animation and video art commissions. Here, you’ll find charming music videos with a hint of nostalgic vintage energy, installation loop pieces uncovering fantastical mechanisms and their inner workings, and funny characters where pretty much any object or animal is given human characteristics in a surreal twist. She draws inspiration from the minutiae of everyday life, as well as the Japanese animation house Saigo no Shudan, who she says “never fail to blow my mind” with its eclectic styles that come together in one seamless animated work.
In a similar way, throughout all Gyuri’s work, there’s a hand-drawn tactility. It’s a signature trait the animator is dedicated to upholding. “Most of the things you see in my films are hand drawn with a pen on paper,” she says. “There are lots of subtle details that can only be seen when extremely small drawings are blown up, such as ink smears, roughness of paper texture, and crooked lines due to a slight hand shake.” Though all her artworks are created using After Effects, she adopts a hand-rendered approach which sees her move each frame ever so slightly through layers in order to achieve that jolty stop-motion animated feel. “There might be a smarter way to go about it, but it’s just something I’m used to,” Gyrui adds. Then, when she’s done animating, she uses a variety of transitions to make the animation feel like “a long fever dream” and a work of brilliance to the viewer.
In her recent music video Varsity for Jnkyrd featuring Ohhyuk, Gyuri expresses these qualities wholeheartedly. The theme for the music video is based on her own experience of going to high school in the US, centred round a high school varsity soccer team. In the short, she challenged herself to include as many different motions as possible, mimicking the way the ball bounces and extending this feeling through the scenes’ transitions too. “Just like the song,” Gyuri points out, “the video itself is a loop.” It starts with a disco ball cracking, followed by a varsity soccer game, then, at the end of the short, the soccer ball transforms into a disco ball coming back full circle to the beginning.
Elsewhere, Gyuri created the music video for Bob Marley’s One Love for Universal Music Korea’s official Youtube channel. For the iconic song’s visualisation, the animator looked for a way to communicate that “love transcends all differences” and eventually landed on the idea to show a range of characters to represent exactly that. Though she doesn’t think it’s her best work, for Gyuri, the emotional attachment to this project lies in the heartwarming characters that parade up and down throughout the animation. She animated each character separately, in turn naming them and prescribing various personality traits to the way they moved and their wardrobe choices. “I like to give them backstories and personalities,” she says, “even when they only appear for a few seconds.” Injecting a range of characterful details to add an extra dimension to her creations, in One Love, Gyuri’s characters come to life and are a joy to watch.
As for the future, Gyuri hopes to attempt an animated short or a feature film complete with fully fleshed-out storyline, characters, sound track and so on. Yearning for this step up in creative autonomy, she has hopes to take full artistic control of a project from beginning to end whether it’s live action, animated or a busy amalgamation of everything she knows combined into one creative spectacle. “It could turn out to be a masterpiece, or it could just be a jumble of turd,” she says. “I’m excited to find out!”
Petting Zoo: Varsity (Copyright © Petting Zoo, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.