Over the summer, while I was in Taiwan, I got to go to a small comic and animation convention held in Taipei and it was there that I got to see some of the animated films that was happening in Taiwan. At the convention, Bright Ideas Design Co. had a large presence there, not only showing a few shorts but had displays of their pipeline, maquettes, concept art, storyboard, and promotional products. I fell in love with one of their works, Katz Fun and as their was a booth selling a few items I picked up a collector's edition of the first season of the show (13 episodes on 2 dvds and a keychain of Katz) for 300NT. One is to support the company making 3D animation and two is because it had a cute tiger. Bright Ideas Design is a digital content developer well known for their work with the National Palace Museum in Taiwan. Bright Ideas brought together stunning multimedia content with the antiques to create further understanding and appreciation of history and culture. One of their most famous works in the exhibit is animation on a scroll depicting the Ching-ming festival along a river to create atmosphere and show viewers a new perspective. Additionally, the company has won various awards across the world, such as in Japan and Canada, for their digital content and innovation.
Aimed at children 4 to 9 years old, Katz Fun is about a group of children who live in a small village in a jungle with a magical tiger with the ability to inspire the children's potential. However, the Dark Messenger wants the power of Katz so he the children form up a group called Katz Fun to work together and protect Katz. The stories are educational and convey morals such as working together, eating your vegetables, being nice to others, and not littering.
Even though the show is aimed at younger children, for me it was still fun to watch. It did not feel like the show was insulting my intelligence with the type of shows that would ask a question directly to the audience and wait for an answer. The dialogue speed was slower than I would have liked though as people do generally talk at a faster speed than what they did in the show. One interesting point is that the show is bilingual. On the DVDs there is an option to change it to be either English or Chinese. The English is actually spoken quite well, decently fluent. However, I did watch the show in Chinese due to feeling that the voice acting was better in Chinese, the dialogue felt a bit fake in English.
The animation was unfortunately sub-par. The animation felt like something someone who is just starting to learn how to animate would do. The animation was extremely floaty and slow. You couldn't feel the force behind an action but merely looked like a pose from A to B and motions all felt very evenly spaced. There were a lot of slides and characters actually floating during walks and runs. Anticipation, settle, moving holds, and ease in and outs were extremely lacking. Two of the characters were designed with hair that sticks straight up which would be great for secondary action but there were a lot of times when I saw that it just wasn't animated at all. One had this nice big swirl sticking up that would be great for some up and down secondary action while he walked but the most that happened was a forward and backward motion. The animation got slightly better throughout the show but the same issues were still glaringly apparent.
Another flaw that I will unfortunately have to point out is the rigging and attention to detail. The characters were designed with a black line around them but then it could be seen often that when the arms moved down it would clip into their bodies. There were a few times when the rig will pop and it could clearly be seen that things look broken. When the characters aren't floating above the ground they would be standing in the ground. Things would suddenly disappear, such as footprints. There was a shot where a plant was suppose to be in a dirt mound but as the camera cut back to the shot from a previous one the plant is clearly seen to have moved a large distance from where it was. Once there was an arrow sign pointing to the left and then then next shot it was pointing right. Yes, there is a lot to do in production and sometimes things may need to be cheated and some things may be missed, an example of this would be the magical dress change that happened in Pixar's Brave, but there was just too many errors throughout all 13 episodes that I watched for this to be brushed off.
Stylistically, while the show is done in 3D, they attempted to make it look 2D with very flat textures and a black line around the characters. Acceptable from a stylistic standpoint but I find it very unfortunate with their lighting. While the lighting also supports the 2D style in that everything was very evenly lit and flattened everything out, it was very stale. Lighting is crucial in that while animation tells a story, lighting helps drive the story. Here, it was just there. There were no colors or sense of depth to indicate anything of certain situations.
What they did do right was the story and design. The story was simple and easy to understand with a clear moral in each episode. What I did like the most about the show was the design of the characters and the world. I thought the creatures such as the trumpet birds, big belly frogs, and the kiln-mouth fishes were entertaining and appealing. The world was also entertaining with the big round dome of leaves of the trees and the circular aspect of all the houses.
Final note. When animation is mentioned, the first few studios that come to mind may be Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, and Bluesky, but in fact, while smaller, animation is making it's way across the world. There's a number of facilities in Vancouver Canada, Lucasfilm has a branch in Singapore which is largely responsible for the Clone Wars animated series, and while not an animation house but rather VFX, Rhythm and Hues has opened up a branch in Taiwan. Hopefully more animation houses will start popping up and begin making a name for themselves.