Animator wants success story to inspire others

Chinese-American animator Daniel Chong, creator of We Bare Bears says that he made We Bare Bears to appeal to all ages. Photo: Turner/Cartoon Network
Daniel Chong's We Bare Bears, which premiered in 2015, has been a surprise hit - even to the animator himself. Photo: Cartoon Network
Daniel Chong's We Bare Bears, which premiered in 2015, has been a surprise hit - even to the animator himself. Photo: Cartoon Network
Daniel Chong, creator of We Bare bears, is in Singapore to speak at a workshop on how to conceptualise and pitch animated tales
Published: 4:00 AM, April 21, 2017

SINGAPORE — When animator Daniel Chong first pitched the idea for his hit animated show, We Bare Bears, to Cartoon Network, he went in with the clear message that his show was not just for kids.

“I wanted it to appeal to all ages,” Los Angeles-based Chong, whose Singaporean parents moved to the United States in the 1970s, told TODAY.

The 38-year-old animator, who had enjoyed stints at Disney and Pixar, was surprised when We Bare Bears, now into its third season, was picked up by Cartoon Network in 2015. The show features the awkward attempts of three bear siblings at integrating into the human world.

“I’ve been working in the animation industry in America for over 10 years,” said Chong. “(But) I did not expect to have my own TV show, and hopefully my story can be of some encouragement to would-be animators.”

He is one of eight speakers at an Imagination Studios workshop today, organised by Cartoon Network and the Infocomm Media Development Authority. This marks Chong’s first visit to Singapore in 16 years.

Chong attributes his success to never dumbing down his ideas.

“In all the movies that I’ve worked on ... (producers) never went, ‘We only want to make this for kids’. (Projects) were always meant to appeal to as wide a range of people as possible,” said Chong, who won an Annie award for Toy Story of Terror in 2014.

“I have carried that mindset with me into We Bare Bears,” he said, adding that “Cartoon Network has been very open to different types of humour and stories, and has really let us tell stories that don’t ... talk down to (people).”

At the fully booked workshop today, participants will be given tips on creating animated stories, and be taught how to pitch ideas. There is a chance that Cartoon Network could produce a work resulting from the workshop.

Silas Hickey, senior creative director for animation development at Turner Asia Pacific, is among the speakers at the workshop. He said that a winning combination is a unique visual style, with sophisticated, dialogue-driven storytelling. After that, the next step is to pitch. Attendees will be given three months to prepare a pitch for a panel of judges.

Chong is also here to lead a kids’ Animation Workshop tomorrow. Asked what else he plans to do here, and he said: “I have a lot of extended family whom I haven’t seen in years. I really want to reconnect with them.” Sonia Yeo

We Bare Bears airs on Cartoon Network (StarHub Ch 316, Singtel Ch 226) on Mondays to Fridays at 9pm.