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Esteu aquí: Inici Magazine Interview with Daniel Chong, creator of We Bare Bears

Interview with Daniel Chong, creator of We Bare Bears

We've had the chance to interview the creator of Cartoon Network's latest series, a Disney and Pixar story department veteran who took inspiration from his own comic to develop a tale of three bears who just want to fit in with society. Keep reading!

Daniel Chong is a Californian artist who's worked for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Blue Sky, Illumination Entertainment, Nickelodeon, and most recently, as a Pixar story department veteran (where, amongst many other projects, he worked on the upcoming critically-acclaimed feature film "Inside Out"). In 2010, while all of this was taking place, he started an internet webcomic featuring three bears (Grizzly Bear, Panda Bear and Ice Bear). Next month, the Cartoon Network show based on his original comic finally premieres, with him as creator and showrunner. After enjoying the show's original 7-minute pilot during the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, we sat down with Daniel to discuss a bit about what's ahead for his exciting new show.


Animac Magazine: Great to meet you! First off, we thought we'd start with the same question for the three of you. We felt it should be interesting, but it's kind of a cliché one, so bear with me. Pun unintended.

Daniel Chong:
[laughs] No problem.

Animac Magazine:
We just wanted to know a little bit about what originally led you towards loving animation and working in animation.

Daniel Chong: Yeah! Um, I didn't really - I've always liked watching animated movies and stuff, but I never really considered it a job until I started... I mean, I didn't really realize until I finished college that animation was what I wanted to do. Definitely going to CalArts helped, and then getting an internship at Cartoon Network helped a lot, just seeing the process and what people do for a living and kind of the job breakdown... So yeah, that was probably what helped the most.

Animac Magazine: If I'm not mistaken, your show was originally born as a webcomic. What leads you towards wanting to adapt it to the medium of animation - first as a short, then as a series - and which lessons did you learn from the comic that later influenced the show?

Daniel Chong: I was working on a pilot before this - that was a totally different idea. But when that thing didn't get picked up, I wanted to keep trying to pitch something, and this was just the closest thing near me! So I just went ahead and developed it. The process... yeah, definitely doing the comic helped a lot. You know, the characters have evolved a lot and changed a lot, but definitely being able to start it off and understanding, like, what would be a dynamic between these three and how would they talk between three different voices, a lot of that felt like it was very... it was set up a lot in the comic, and I was able to pull from that in order to jump into this well. So yeah, it was a nice little sort of map to use.


Animac Magazine: So what are your goals with the first season of We Bare Bears?

Daniel Chong: A lot of places. I mean, we're still trying to figure out what kind of episodes we wanna tell and what we're capable of doing. Some episodes will take place in the cave and be very like brother problems and sibling problems; but some will take place in the city, and we'll see them try to fit in with people and try to hang out, and just try to co-exist. We also have some episodes take place when they're babies, little kids, and you'll see them trying to struggle and find a home and stuff like that. So yeah, we've found a pretty vast kind of array of different kinds of stories we can tell, but we're still discovering new ones as we're going. It's still really early on.

Animac Magazine: Nice! Okay, stepping momentarily outside your CN work - you've worked on many places as a story artist, including Disney and Pixar. What experiences in those years of your life you think shaped the rest of your career, if any?

Daniel Chong: Yeah! Definitely the experience of just boarding a lot helps. But I also think just interacting with - like, in a story team you talk a lot with people and you pitch a lot, and so you get to learn how to interact with people, how to pitch to people, how to notice if they're interested in something... And you also learn how to take criticism very well, and you become very numb to it, which you have to do to become a story artist. You have to learn to take criticism, get shot down, and try again and keep working at it. That's definitely something that working in features - or any animation studio - will teach you as a storyboard artist.


Animac Magazine: We really enjoyed the look of your show, and you mentioned it changed a little from pilot to series. We wanted to know the influences you put into your work in general that ended up - or didn't end up! - on the pilot and if any of that triggered the change for the series.

Daniel Chong: Well, for the pilot a lot of it was done traditionally, a lot of it was done with traditional watercolors... It was obviously digitally altered once it went into Photoshop, but... I just always wanted a naturalistic feel to it. I didn't want anything with sharp lines, I didn't want anything cold or flat, I wanted texture. And so, when we went into the show... working traditionally is just not possible, because the schedule and how fast you have to work, it's like - it's just not feasible. So the art director and I had to find a way to do it, and he found a great way to do it, working digitally but at the same time getting that painterly feel to it. And we referenced a lot of stuff, like Peanuts cartoons, a lot of children's books like Tomi Ungerer, we looked at a lot of E.H. Shepard, who did Winnie the Pooh... We looked at a lot of things that just had a storybook feel to it, a little warmer, a little bit more natural.

Animac Magazine: Last question! Quickly tell our readers why they should check out your show if they enjoyed this interview.

Daniel Chong: Yeah! I mean, I just hope watching the show will be an interesting experience for them. Our intention is always to be a little ambitious in terms of making a show that would have a vast appeal, it would also sort of feel very relevant - you know, they have cell phones and stuff, they kind of mirror our lives right now... And, you know, it's a story about people just trying to fit in and I think it's something that we all can relate to, just trying to find a place in the world - and the bears are obviously really gonna stand out in this world, but they're just very earnest and they want to just find their place. And I think that a lot of people will identify with them and understand where they're coming from.

Animac Magazine: I hope so.

Daniel Chong: Me too!


Interview conducted by Adrian Carande

Photos by Carolina López

La Paeria - Ajuntament de Lleida

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