Anime Limited's Cloud Matsuri Online Convention
Being the CEO of Science Saru – Eunyoung Choi
by Andrew Osmond,
Anime Limited presented an interview with Eunyoung Choi, the CEO of the Science SARU studio and frequent collaborator with Masaaki Yuasa, on Saturday. Choi discussed the studio's history, her role following Yuasa stepping down, and upcoming projects.
Science SARU was originally born to handle Yuasa's “Food Chain” episode of Adventure Time, which Choi remembers being “so much fun.” They did not know how long the studio would last; the situation was uncertain but exciting. Choi described Science SARU as very diverse compared to other anime studios. This is not only because of the number of non-Japanese staff who work there (Choi herself is South Korean), but also because even the Japanese staff come from very different backgrounds. It might take longer for staff to communicate with each other, Choi said, but those people could create new ideas and solutions.
Choi stressed that Saru is a very young studio, with a youthful staff who are proactive and motivated to try new ideas. The studio has garnered a reputation for using Flash animation, but it's also open to other methods. Choi described the studio's creative process, always looking for new approaches and talents, as a “nice chaos.” She stressed that it is important to try out crazy things in anime, even if that means the possibility of failure.
There's more “space to fail” in an anime TV series than a feature film – TV anime is intense, but there is some room to experiment, making it ideal for younger animators pushing the envelope. She added that Science SARU's crazy ideas were balanced by a respect for anime tradition.
When it comes to anime's heritage, Choi does not remember most of the anime she saw as a child, but she did recall watching Hayao Miyazaki's adventure series Future Boy Conan, homaged extensively in the first episode of Eizokuen! (FB Conan, in fact, cropped up constantly through the Cloud Matsuri event, being mentioned by BEASTARS' Hyun-Tae Kim and Science SARU animator Abel Góngora.) Rather than being a fan of animation, Choi grew up as a fan of live-action cinema, from Kubrick to Lynch.
“I learned kung fu because I loved Jackie Chan,” she said. Choi wanted to set up her own business, rather than work under someone else's management. Early on, she and some friends borrowed money to set up their own retail shop. “My business interest came before my anime interest.”
But Choi also had a long term passion for drawing, She started art school at the age of five. Many years later, a friend encouraged her to try animation. Choi had never really thought about it until then, but she ended up going to London to study the subject. Choi specified that she studied the Western animation style.
“The principles are the same as anime, but the style is very different.”
Most of her classmates went on to work at Western studios. In Japan, she found it hard to adapt to the country's style, but she says that her understanding of the Western style has been really helpful to her. She can comprehend both styles, and can bridge the gap for between artists.
Choi trained in animation software including Flash in London, but was surprised to find the anime industry was still paper-based when she entered the industry in 2005. She remembered people saying Japan would never change on that point. In fact, the industry took a decade to adjust, followed by accelerating changes from 2015 onward as a younger generation of animators adopted new software very quickly. Choi said the anime industry has also grown more diverse in the same period.
Today, while fans await Science SARU's Japan Sinks: 2020 in July, the studio is already working on Yuasa's next feature film, INU-OH, and “another TV show with another director.” Choi said the studio adjusted well to the COVID-19 situation, with employees adapting to the situation very quickly. There may have been a loss in productivity, but it also taught the studio useful lessons – most obviously, how to work from home.