Carmel Valley animator eager to share his gift at special event

Rosemarie watches Perry Chen draw with Copic markers at Aaron Brothers. Photo/Zhu Shen
Rosemarie watches Perry Chen draw with Copic markers at Aaron Brothers. Photo/Zhu Shen

By Daniel K. Lew

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.”

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Perry Chen meets Rich Moore, director of Disney’s ‘Wreck-It Ralph,’ at Spike & Mike’s 2013 Festival of Animation in La Jolla. Photo/Daniel K. Lew

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.

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