MR. GO by KIM Yong-hwa
Korea is set to have its own CG character on a level to rival Gollum as a CG gorilla is born. Mr. Go
will not rely on top stars to bring in spectators. Instead, a whole new character will captivate audiences. It’s a gorilla, though not an ordinary one. This one can play baseball. To create this gorilla, director KIM Yong-hwa
as a 3D movie. Soon, Korea is to have its own CG character to rival Gollum of the Lord of the Ring, and the tiger named Richard Parker from Life of Pi
- Mr. Go is the film version of ‘The 7th Team’ by well-known Korean cartoonist HEO Young-man. How is the film different from the original?
HEO’s ‘The 7th Team’ is about a gorilla joining a pro baseball team and the chaos which ensues. But other than the basic frame of the plot, the story of the film has been altered completely.
- I’m curious about the story.
A girl who used to belong to a Chinese circus troupe and a gorilla called Ling Ling enter a Korean pro baseball team. They grow into superstars after playing in the Japanese pro baseball league. I love this comic on a personal level but when I was offered to direct the film, I hesitated at the beginning.
-Which aspect of the production did you think would be the toughest?
I thought long and hard about how to make Ling Ling the gorilla come alive for the audience. Even though the original is a comic, it seemed like a tough job to create a convincing Ling Ling. 3D technology was the solution. With the help of 3D technology, audiences will not focus on the pixels that make up Ling Ling, but see him as a living creature.
- The topic of friendship between a human and an animal is a familiar yet tough one. I wonder how you set about portraying this aspect in your film?
I was thinking long and hard about that when I came by footage on YouTube called “Christian the Lion.” It’s about a baby lion raised by two young men. The lion goes back into the wild but when he sees the two men a few years later, he runs into their arms like a human child. I was so moved by it that I welled up. I thought then that it would be possible to show a story about an animal that is more human than humans.
- Expectations are high about the 3D aspect of Mr. Go as it’s an unprecedented film for Korea in terms of scale and the technology used.
The gorilla in the film had to look like a living creature for the whole film to work. There are some 2000 shots in the film and I devoted 1000 of them to Ling Ling. That’s the level of importance I put on the gorilla character. The success of the film depends on the creation of a realistic gorilla. Shooting in full 3D, capturing Ling Ling’s performance and the CG work on the gorilla that would take up to an hour of running time, all of these were new experiences in the history of Korean cinema. We set up a company called “Dexter Film” and some 150 CG professionals took part.
- Tell me more about how you captured Ling Ling the gorilla’s performance.
An actor stood on the mound with rigging arms to portray Ling Ling. We also did 3D CG work based on motion capture. In the post-production phase, I acted the part of Ling Ling myself to help animators do their work more easily.
- The film required many aspects of new technology and that meant a huge budget. The production cost was 22.5 billion Korean won. How did you fund your film?
Yes, the budget was a big issue. We thought that the Chinese market would be key in this so we managed to secure 25% of the costs from Chinese backers. I think the fact that China, a country where baseball is hardly known, took part in co-producing this film is proof of its’ universal popularity.
- The imagination of the story, the technical aspect, as well as the huge scale of the production tells me that it will be a landmark 3D movie that will open up a new era in the history of Korean cinema.
I wanted to make a film that would be universal in terms of its story and technology. I hope that this will be reflected in the result.
photographed by CHOI Jun-suk