Today we're excited to introduce you to one of our amazing crew members—our lead animator and creative department manager, Yee Sum Hoi. We recently caught up with Yee Sum from her hometown of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (where she also currently resides), and chatted with her about her background, her approach to animation, and her experience working on Sonder.
Q: Firstly, can you tell us what made you want to pursue a career in animation?
Yee Sum: I have always wanted to be part of the art industry. [In Malaysia], animation is a very new area of study. With all the movies created by Disney and Pixar, I wanted to be a part of something like this.
Q: What are some animation projects you worked on prior to joining Sonder?
YS: I've worked on a couple of projects with Neth before Sonder. We joined a VR game jam making a VR game called "Lily Pad." That was a challenging project, as we had to create a VR game in 3 months. I've also joined two other short film projects as an animation supervisor. We had to complete two animated shorts within 14 weeks, and the outcome was amazing. The two short films are called Loop and Hunter's Game.
Q. How did you end up getting involved with Sonder?
YS: After working on several projects together with Neth, he asked me to be the lead animator for the show. It was a good opportunity as I really like working with Neth and I trust his vision, which is when my journey with Sonder started. I was one of the members who joined Sonder in the very beginning. It was around May 2015. I can still remember when we started out as a team of 16, and all of us were involved in brainstorming the story.
Q. Are there any scenes or sequences in Sonder that you are particularly proud of?
YS: My favorite sequence of the film is sequence 8, when Finn and Natalie's relationship starts to fall apart. That sequence is a very emotional part of the film. We can see how the relationship has changed, and both of them start to fight for multiple reasons. The animators really knock it out of the park and [the sequence] is very well done. You can feel the pain in them, and it is relatable to everyone.
Q: Have there been any specific challenges or obstacles with animating Sonder that you've had to overcome?
YS: There were multiple challenges that we faced throughout the film. As a lead animator, the biggest challenge in animating Sonder would be to keep our character in model throughout the show. Finn has to go through different emotional stages in the film, and keeping him in model with different states is pretty challenging. Considering we have a total of 30-plus animators handling all the shots, everyone animates it differently, and we have to make sure our character appeals and animation styles are consistent throughout the film. Our animation supervisor, Stefan, has always been a great help in that. Other than that, there are a lot of technical challenges in the show too. For instance, animating the vines. This was a huge challenge for the animators, as we don't have a lot of technical resources to provide us the prefect rig. Most of the time, animators will have to animate frame by frame to achieve the result we need.
Q. Overall, how would you describe your experience working on Sonder, and being part of the Soba crew?
YS: What I love the most about Sonder is the energy within the team. All of us work together for one reason—because we like the film—and we are willing to spend our own time to work on this. It is the greatest experience I have had working together with a huge team like this. In every review, you can see the effort everyone puts into their work, and it is really inspiring and amazing.
Q. One last question: what's your favorite animated movie or TV show of all time?
YS: Monsters, Inc. has always been my all-time favorite animated movie. I just love the world, characters, and of course the story so so much! In fact, Monsters, Inc. perfectly shows how powerful animation can be in bringing a world of imagination to life.
An interview with Yee Sum Hoi