At the age of 13, Perry Chen is already making a name for himself in the animation field with an award-winning animated short film, numerous honors, speaking engagements and role as a movie critic from a kid’s perspective. The Carmel Valley resident and Earl Warren Middle School seventh-grader will share his love for art by offering animation demonstrations and art signings on Saturday, Aug. 31, from noon-3 p.m. at Aaron Brothers Mira Mesa, 10765 Westview Parkway, San Diego.
In hopes of showing animation fans “young and old” how “anyone can draw,” Chen said he will conduct art and computer-animation demos using both basic and computer tools, such as COPIC markers, Toon Boom Animation software and a Wacom digital tablet, which are all corporate sponsors for Chen and the event. Even at a young age, this budding animator already has sponsors.
“Animation is a very versatile medium. You can do it wherever and whenever you want. All you need is a pencil and paper to start,” Chen said. “In live-action movies, you’re limited by location, the advances of CG technology or the actor’s skill. But with animation, you can create whatever you want.”
Chen’s mother, Zhu Shen, added: “The purpose of the demo at Aaron Brothers is to show how animation works at a basic level and how a character moves on the screen, frame by frame. You push ‘play’ after doing a series of drawings and the character starts to move. It’s really cool; both kids and adults love seeing how animation comes to life before them.”
At the Aaron Brothers appearance, Chen will also demonstrate how to make art from commonly-found materials, including tin foil and recycled objects. “When you make art, the only limitation is your imagination,” Chen said.
Chen will be signing autographs at the free event, which will include complimentary food and prize giveaways for gift certificates and art supplies.
He will also show a trailer of his latest and very personal work in progress, an animated short, “Changyou’s Journey,” about his late father, Dr. Changyou Chen, a biotech CEO and cancer drug researcher who died from metastatic skin cancer at age 49 in 2012.
When he learned his father had two weeks to live, Chen decided to make the animated film depicting his father as a young boy growing up in a hilly countryside in China to give his father hope to live and something to look forward to each day. Chen showed new scenes each day as he finished them to Changyou. Chen used ideas from a dozen of his pencil drawings of Changyou as a young peasant boy in China, based on stories his father told him.
Chen has completed writing and storyboarding “Changyou’s Journey” and continues to animate the film, which he hopes to finish in a year. “Changyou’s Journey” will be a happy film with vibrant color and a different style than ‘Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest,’” Chen said.
In contrast, Chen describes the style of “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest,” his first animation short, as “a dark, unhappy film about tragedy and war.” Chen illustrated “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest” in collaboration with animation legend Bill Plympton. It won multiple film festival awards, was an Oscar-qualifying animated short in 2012, and has been screened at more than 30 international film festivals. Chen’s illustrations retold the miraculous escape of a Jewish girl, Ingrid Pitt, from a concentration camp at age 8 during World War II.
After finishing “Changyou’s Journey,” Chen said his next animated film will likely be in 3D, especially since he has already obtained sponsorship from SANDEE, a stereo-3D animation tool.
Chen’s latest honor was being presented the iCON Junior Innovator of the Year Award Aug. 24 during 2nd Screen Global Con, a convention which creates awareness and appreciation for CGI animation and other forms of technology used in art and entertainment.
Always on the go — whether it’s attending film-and-animation festivals, watching advance movie screenings as a critic or interviewing luminaries at red carpet premieres — Chen recently returned from a trip to China where he was a guest speaker at a children’s film camp, the Beijing Film Festival for Youth Welfare.
“I told the kids about my experience in filmmaking and animation, writing movie reviews, and how I achieved everything so far,” Chen said.
“For the first time, I got to talk before a group of kids and not just adults about by films and animation. The kids were really interested and asked many questions. I think they appreciated hearing from one of their own; sometimes kids and adults can be like different species,” Chen joked.
Having already met dozens of top professionals in the animation industry, Chen said his most memorable meeting so far was interviewing Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, co-directors of DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon” during a press junket for the animated blockbuster.
“It was great because they answered my questions really well; they were fun to be around and fun to interview,” Chen said. “When I pointed out some flaws in the film, they accepted them graciously as most great directors would do.”
Chen has since become friends with Sanders and DeBlois, who invited him to visit DreamWorks Animation. DeBlois has also become a sponsor of “Changyou’s Journey.”
Chen said he would still like to meet Tim Burton. “He has a very unique animation style because it’s sort of strange and not very traditional. I also would like to know how he got his special relationship with Disney that nobody else in the world seems to have; I would like to get that relationship where I can still get sponsorships, money and support from a studio while still doing my own creative ideas.”
Seemingly wiser than most 13-year-olds, Chen said he enjoys “sharing the knowledge that I’ve gathered over five years about filmmaking and animation, especially with kids — never stop drawing and pursuing your passion.”
Both the young and young-at-heart can be inspired by Chen’s advice: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. To go on the path of finding and realizing your dreams, all you have to do is take the first step in that direction and don’t stop, even if you think you want to quit. If you think it’s too difficult, you still need to carry on and that’s how you learn.”
If You Go
• What: Animation demonstrations by up-and-coming animator and kids film critic Perry Chen
• When: Saturday, Aug. 31, noon-3 p.m.
• Where: Aaron Brothers Mira Mesa, 10765 Westview Parkway, San Diego
• Cost: Free with complimentary food, prize giveaways and store discounts
• Website: www.perryspreviews.com