Raman Hui - Animator and Film Director
Innovation Is the Pursuit of Change
“It is exactly the urge to overcome these challenges, that stimulates my creative ideas.”
If Raman’s story were to be drawn and turned into an animated film, it would certainly be the most inspiring masterpiece of all time, for he has emerged from an unknown boy in Hong Kong to a world famous animator. This film would aptly reflect the flexibility and innovative spirit that Hong Kong people embody.
Born into a grass-roots family in the 1960s, Raman helped his family to make a living by assembling plastic flowers. He did not get admitted to Sixth Form despite two attempts at the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination, but was fortunate enough to be enrolled in the Hong Kong Technical College (the predecessor of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University) which allowed him to get into the field of animation design. Raman did not “win on the starting line” during the first half of his life, but he managed to press ahead towards his dream one step at a time.
Growth in Dribs and Drabs Towards Becoming the “Father of Shrek”
In 1989, Raman took a computer animation course in Canada despite his limited English proficiency. He intended to stay in the US for just a year or two afterwards to study animation, but eventually remained in the States for longer than 20 years. With his enthusiasm for animation and unremitting efforts, Raman rose from a junior animator to an animation production supervisor at Dreamworks in Hollywood, participating in the production of a series of celebrated motion pictures such as Antz and Madagascar.
In 2001, the movie Shrek, of which Raman took charge as supervising animator, was a big hit around the world and snatched at least 37 international awards including The Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The sequel Shrek 2 bagged HK$8 billion from global box offices. For Shrek 3, Raman was promoted to be the co-director, becoming the first ethnic Chinese to take such a high-ranking position in the computer animation industry.
Overcoming Challenges to Stimulate Creative Ideas
After kicking off a splendid career in animation in the US, Raman worked around the world with Dreamworks, but Hong Kong—the place of origin where he cultivated his creativity—never slips his mind. “Perhaps in many people’s eyes, landing a job in Hollywood is the ultimate goal in life. However, after touring the world, I have not found emotional attachment out there. My roots are still right here in Hong Kong.” Raman’s words were imbued with admiration for the good old days in Hong Kong. “In my generation, people lived a simple life. They fought hard for their dreams, enjoyed the fruits of their efforts, and were therefore happier.” He aspires to spread the sense of happiness to people of different ages from different places through his creations. In 2013, Raman returned to Hong Kong for the production of Monster Hut, in which he pioneered a daring trial of incorporating overseas experiences into Chinese traditions, and went on to swiftly break the box office record in mainland China.
Having been on an adventure from Hong Kong to Hollywood by himself, Raman has come back to the China market. Even though he has encountered a wide range of Eastern and Western cultures over the years, he feels that he still needs to adapt to the mentality, lifestyle, language and even cuisine all over again in each new place. To him, these changes are what he would gladly embrace. “Facing disparate cultures in different places would definitely bring about acculturation issues, but it is exactly the urge to overcome these challenges, that stimulates my creative ideas.”