ONLINE PROFILE: ERVIN HAN

Published on 29 July 2017

Animation director Ervin Han harnesses the magic of animation to tell the Singapore story.

By Melanie Lee

Ervin Han, the Managing Director of Robot Playground Media, gets animated when talking about animation.

“There’s something magical about drawings coming alive. For many of us, the first thing that we saw on screen as a child was a cartoon. I think if you loved animation when you were young, it stays with you somewhere deep, deep down, even if you don’t realise it. That’s why there are adults who end up crying their eyeballs out at a Pixar or Studio Ghibli film,” he explains.

Han’s love for animation parallels his passion in telling good local or Asian stories. In 2013, after a decade of working in an animation company, he decided to set up his own studio with a former colleague, Bernard Toh. With Robot Playground Media, they wanted to produce more of such original content in a commercially viable manner.

Two groundbreaking projects soon set their studio apart from other animation studios in Singapore. Firstly, in 2015, they were commissioned by Mediacorp to produce the first-ever local animated primetime series – Heartland Hubby. Secondly, in that same year, they created The Violin, an evocative 16-minute animated short film chronicling Singapore’s history through the journey of a violin as it’s passed from one person to another.

“The Violin, which was funded by the Singapore Memory Project and corporate sponsors, really opened up doors for us. After it was released, StarHub became interested in collaborating with us to do more of such standalone short animated films,” recalls Han.

The result? TimeScapes – an anthology of five animated short films about life, love and the landscapes of Singapore past and present. Han and his team spent a year working on four new animated shorts, while The Violin will form the fifth story for this anthology. TimeScapes will be released this August to tie in with Singapore’s National Day through StarHub Go.

“I believe that heritage is something that should be living, and that memories are best preserved through stories. I hope these animated films, which are character-driven and portray everyday scenarios in Singapore, will help to spark off some sort of conversation about national conservation.”

Han tells us more about three of the TimeScapes films:

Little Red Bricks

“We took a long time to research this one because we wanted the old National Library setting to feel authentic. The premise is really simple: a boy and a girl share their first kiss between the library shelves. I hope that this story will evoke a strong response from Singaporeans who do remember this building. I hope this will encourage multigenerational conversations where a grandparent will share personal experiences with the grandchild so that this place will continue to be remembered.”

Copyright © 2017 Robot Playground Media Pte Ltd / StarHub Cable Vision Ltd

Playgrounds

“The opening scene is based on a playground below my old flat in Tanglin Halt. A playground is a place where you form a lot of memories with your friends. Again, this story is simple yet profound– it shows the bittersweet cycle of life as the playground settings evolve over time. While there are some strong emotional moments, there’s also this sense that life goes on.”

Copyright © 2017 Robot Playground Media Pte Ltd / StarHub Cable Vision Ltd

The Girl & The Cat

“This is our little version of Alice in Wonderland meets Wizard of Oz. A young girl is separated from her mother at a pasar malam (night market) at Geylang Serai and she goes on an adventure with three cats where reality is mixed with fantasy. These are stray cats, who form part of Singapore’s landscape. I feel that children should develop a relationship with animals early on in life because it teaches them to protect those who are weaker.”

Copyright © 2017 Robot Playground Media Pte Ltd / StarHub Cable Vision Ltd

TimeScapes will be released on Tuesday, 1 August 2017 through the StarHub Go App or webpage.  You can view these animations for free but you will have to register for a StarHub ID.

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