interview | a chat w/ post-80s vj & animation star, wang meng
Neocha.com user Wang Meng (王萌, aka: Dora.S) is a wildly talented quintessential post-80s generation creative. He recently graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and works with a variety of mediums: animation, painting, photography, graphic design, etc. – however, most recently has been enjoying his time as the VJ for 8-bit musician Baifan.
In addition to touring and performing with the musician, Wang Meng also produced a beautiful and meaningful animated music video for a track of Baifan’s Natural High album – “Back to the Future.” It’s incredible. See the video shared at the very bottom of this post to check it out.
Wang Meng first caught our attention with his “Back to the Future” animation, but blew us away with his paintings and illustrations – watch this space, we’ll be posting on those soon.
In the meantime though, check out the interview below – we recently caught up with Wang Meng to talk about his work, his collaboration with Baifan, the making of “Free Falling Body,” and his thoughts on “all things retro” and growing up in the 80s in China.
When and why did you start to do animation? What attracted you to the medium?
Actually, “Back to the Future” is my first proper animation work – it’s my “virgin” piece. It popped my animation cherry.
There are a couple key reasons why I got into animation: 1) When I was in middle and high school I used to love watching cartoons and anime, and spent a a good part of my time drawing them. So, my dabbling with animation now is sort of premeditated. 2) Although I studied graphic design in university, I have always thought that still images lack a certain kind of impact or dynamism – they have limitations. Moving images set to music is really the kind of effect I’ve always wanted to achieve. The most cost effective and easiest way to achieve this effect is through animation. So, for my senior graduation project, I acted on my long premeditated compulsion for animation. And here I am.
How long have you known Baifan? How did you meet? What’s it like to collaborate with him?
In 2007, I attended a Shanshui Records‘ performance in Guanzghou. And that was it. After that I fell madly in love with some of the label’s musicians. Then I made a special trip to Sulumi‘s house to buy some records. It just so happened that when I got to Sulumi’s place, Baifan was there hanging out as well. So, that’s how we met.
In 2008, I started planning my graduation project, and since our professors required us to collaborate with a musician for our final projects, it just made sense to hook up with Baifan.
At first, I invited him to come down and perform in Guangzhou. After he accepted, I asked him if he’d be willing to collaborate on an animation with me. From then on, he and I have have been working together on all sorts of things. I’ve been his VJ on tour and for his record release parties, etc. It’s been a ton of fun.
Will you continue doing animation, VJ, and graphic design work in the future? What does the future hold for you?
I’m now renting an old factory space on the outskirts of Beijing and using it as my work studio. I’m currently working on a bunch of oil paintings that are of a similar theme to “Back to the Future.” Also, something that’s been fairly stable is my work designing promotion posters for local party organization. I’m also in charge of all their videos / VJ needs for their events. For animation and video stuff, I have already put together some new content and am brainstorming some more. As of now though, I’m working to sharpen my skills.
When I was studying, I didn’t really gain any experience doing commercial stuff, so now I don’t have too many commercial things lined up. At this point, to be honest, I’m pretty much broke – it’s not a great situation. In the short term, I just want focus on finishing the oil paintings I’ve been doing, then maybe do some sort of an exhibition. I also want to collaborate more artists and musicians for some animations and video work. But yeah, keeping myself fed is the most important thing for me these days. Hahaha.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
My favorite hobby is watching films. I love movies. I have a whole wall in my studio dedicated as a projection screen.
Creatively, who do you admire? Who inspires you?
There are a lot of artists and creatives I like, but for whatever reason, I can never remember their names. I am terrible with names. So, for many of the artists I like, I only know them by their artwork, not by their names.
But, I can remember a few, like Matsumoto Taiyō, Kon Satoshi, Miyazaki Hayao, Shuji Terayama, Shunji Iwai, Tadanori Yokoo, Murakami Takashi, etc. I like all of these guys.
I have also been influenced and helped along by quite a few people, link Benjamin, Gogoj, Chen Xiongwei, etc.
Your “Back to the Future” animation was a finalist in the student category of the Swatch MTV Playground competition. Have you participated in any other competitions or exhibitions?
Besides winning an award at the Swatch MTV Playground event, I also participate in W+K’s JellyGen Exhibition with this animation. This animation was also bundled in Baifan’s Natural High album. Besides this, I’ve also shown work in some small exhibitions in Guangzhou and Tianjin.
What software did you used for the “Back to the Future” animation?
Mostly just Photoshop, After Effects, and Premiere.
How long did it take you to finish the animation? Was anyone else involved?
I worked on “Back to the Future” together with Zhang Tianlun (张天伦), a classmate of mine at university. He was in the animation department. Basically, we did everything together. From planning and creative vision to completion, it took us about half a year.
Tells us a bit about the concept behind “Back to the Future”? Where did the inspiration come from?
Before I created this animation, I did a series of illustrations titled “Three Good Students” (三好学生). These illustrations expressed my experience growing up in the 80s in China – the story of China’s post-80s generation.
When I was doing this series, I put forth a concept I call “I’m gonna regret the rest of my life if I give up my transformers and be a mama’s boy.” (如果为了比别的小朋友小红花多 而放弃玩变形金刚，我会遗憾终生的。)
This concept of mine has influenced a lot of my work, including the “Back to the Future” animation.
Since I came up with this concept, I find myself constantly thinking about why playing with marbles, transformers, Super Mario, etc. made me so happy when I was a kid? I mean, now we have computers, the Internet, all sorts of video game consoles, and other entertainment options, but yet we still don’t have the kind of unadulterated happiness we had in our childhood.
We started losing that happiness in high school when we were pressured to study excessively, and now we are pressured to work excessively, etc. – but what’s it all for? What’s the relationship between the “ideal” and reality? Is the “ideal” that we spend so much time studying and working really all that great?
Over the last few years there has been a resurgence of all things “retro” in China – 8-bit music, of course, can be included in this trend. This trend has greatly influenced me and my work. I think the reason people are into these things is not because the retro games or fashions of the past are better than the modern games or fashions or whatever. It’s mostly because people nowadays want to rediscover the happiness we all had when we were kids. That’s what’s happening with 8-bit music, it’s being made all over again as a re-fabricated retro thing because it makes us happy.
Is there any symbolism or obscure references in “Back to the Future?”
Like with most of my work, the foundation of this animation is based on my experience of growing up as modern Chinese youth, a post-80s kid. So, in “Back to the Future” I made use of many of the things that brought us all so much happiness as children. You can see elements in the animation, you know, like a jump rope, a rubik cube, 8-bit video games, etc.
Are there any behind the scenes stories you’d like to share about the making of “Back to the Future?”
Before “Back to the Future” I had never done any animation work. None. In making this animation, it was actually my first time to use After Affects. When we started work on it, I screwed up the frame size. I set it at 1024 X 768. This created all sorts of problems for the rest of production. A frame dimension like this put a very serious burden on my computer. It was only after we had completely finished production that I learned that DVD is incompatible with this frame dimension.
The only thing worth mentioning is that during production, my girlfriend and my neighbor supported me hugely. They put up with me blaring 8-bit music while I worked at all sorts of odd hours. By the time I had finished, they were both forced into becoming Baifan fans. Hahaha.
Oh, and also, not a lot of people know, but this animation has two versions. The original was called “Free Falling Body.” The version I used with Baifan is slightly different. Some of the coloring is different, the music is different too, of course, and also the opening and closing segments and not the same. But, most people probably won’t notice these things as they are only minor details.
Wang Meng’s “Back to the Future” music video ///