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From Comic Culture to Virtual Reality: The Art of Animation in Hong Kong

Thoughts of moving pictures in Hong Kong instantly cast minds back to the heyday of its cinema culture – from the iconic Bruce Lee martial arts movies to Wong Kar-wai’s emotive, deep hued films. But another industry has been quietly brewing alongside the feature film industry. Animation and comic culture in Hong Kong are intrinsically linked, and though neither are as established as their Japanese and European counterparts, their presence is undeniable, and has continued to grow over the last 40 years.

Drawing on Hong Kong’s past, present and future, these animation artists are creating and harnessing uniquely Hong Kong iconography that invites local Hongkongers to tap into a collective memory, and an international audience to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and sentiments of the city. From classic cartoons to state of the art, interactive experiences, Hong Kong’s animators are breaking free from the limitations of a conventional art form, preserving a rich heritage while simultaneously propelling it into the future.

Inking an identity – the beginnings of animation and comic culture in Hong Kong

While it draws upon a strong artistic heritage, Hong Kong’s animation industry is a relatively new one. “The first animation in Hong Kong was released in the 1960s, but when I grew up, there were no ‘Hong Kong animators’, explains Connie Lam, executive director of the Hong Kong Arts Centre and curator of Comix Home Base – a dedicated centre for preserving comics and animation in the city. Even Wong Chuk, the artist behind one of the city’s most famed comics (and later animations), Old Master Q, originally hailed from Tianjin in mainland China. But from humble beginnings, a grassroots industry – and one with its own distinct identity – has formed.

Lam notes that significant government investment helped to foster the creative industries, while local network RTHK has been a driving force commissioning animation shorts and commercials, providing artists with a platform to create and for their work to be appreciated.