Animation is a notorious boys’ club. From the early days of Leon Schlesinger producing Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes for Warner Bros, to more modern days of Walt Disney and his mostly all male team of “imagineers,” today’s talent now includes young Ellen Jin Over, a Korean-born woman who came to the US, mastered a new language, and with the right training and hard work, broke through to excel in this testosterone-filled creative arena.
Retelling classic stories with the help of her colleagues over at Disney, Ellen has worked closely for years on the Tinker Bell collection for the studio with some extraordinarily talented men and women of one of the most expressive of all the art forms.
It was the vividly ilustrated literature of Walt Disney that captured her imagination at the age of five, well before she was able to enjoy their animated films. This inspiration netted a career that now fuels the imaginations of youngsters all over the world.
Her recent life’s work of creating captivating animated frames starring Tinker Bell, a tiny winsome fairy who bumbles and triumphs in many adventures has created a reborn franchise for Disney.
The Emmy Award-winning art director was born in Seoul, Korea. But it was a combination of fate and hard work that got Ellen to her position today with Disney animation.
A graduate of Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, Ellen’s first professional job in animation was as a layout artist at Rainbow Animation and her talent caught the eye of Pixibox Studio (The Prince Of Atlantis) where she became one of the first digital background painters in the United States.
It is her deft hand in creating naturalistic backgrounds that gives an earthiness and depth of feel to the modern animation techniques of animating, that have replaced ink and painting for 3D computer software.
Ellen was recruited by Hong Ying (Sonic The Hedgehog) in China and SO.B. Animation Group in New Zealand, training their background painting departments. After that, she joined Mike Young Productions on Clifford the Big Red Dog. Ellen was named Art Director on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Her following project at Mike Young was the computer-generated animated series Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks where she received a 2004 Emmy in the Special Achievement category. This led to her feature-length work on Doctor Strange and Iron Man for Marvel Comics and Lionsgate.
Her path towards Tinker Bell began in 2006, hired by Disney Animation as Art Director on the latest DVD release, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure. She is now working on the fourth installment of the Disney Fairies’ film franchise.
Produced by DisneyToon Studios, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure is the second film in the continuing Disney Fairies Franchise building on Tinker Bell’s popular adventures through Jin-Over’s coordinated team efforts, giving us crisp and stylized animation, spectacular music and an all-star cast of voice talent.
Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure takes Tink far beyond Pixie Hollow in an original full length animated film on Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray +DVD) and standard definition DVD, all available on October 27, 2009.
The DVD will feature the voice talents of Mae Whitman (Tinker Bell), Jesse McCartney (Terence), Eliza Pollack Zebert (Blaze), Angela Bartys (Fawn), Raven-Symoné (Iridessa), Kristen Chenoweth (Rosetta), Lucy Liu (Silvermist), Anjelica Huston (Queen Clarion), Pamela Adlon (Vidia), Grey DeLisle (Lyria / Viola / Narrator), Jeff Bennett (Clank / Short Troll / Fairy Gary), and Jane Horrocks (Fairy Mary). It was directed by Klay Hall and produced by Sean Lurie. Ellen Jin Over served as the film’s art director.
In Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Tinker Bell’s greatest adventure yet takes place in autumn, as the fairies are on the mainland change the colors of the leaves, tend to pumpkin patches, and help geese fly south for the winter.
The rare Blue Moon will rise, and when its light passes through the magical Fall Scepter that Tinker Bell has been summoned to create, Pixie Hollow’s supply of pixie dust will be restored.
But when Tinker Bell accidentally puts all of Pixie Hollow in jeopardy, she must venture out across the sea with help from her favorite friends – Fawn, Iridessa, Rosetta and Silvermist – as well as appearances from the mentoring, benevolent Queen Clarion, the nurturing Fairy Mary and the comically-talented tinkers, Clank and Bobble, on a secret quest to set things right.
Monsters and Critics spoke to the art director of the new Disney film and DVD release, “Tinker Bell And The Lost Treasure,” Ellen Jin Over.
How long did it take you to complete the Tinkerbell movie?
Ellen: Gosh, I have been at this for nearly two years…from conceptualizing out the environment, the characters and rendering concept designs…
How big is your animation team for this project?
Ellen: We have three background designers, one character designer, four visual development artists, or painters. Different departments are here, and there are some animators overseas as well…our rendering is done oversees, pre is done here.
Designers, painters, visual development artists, then the 3D team here does the rough character passes, modeling all done at Disney Toons studio in Los Angeles.
I’m actually working on the fourth installment of Tinker Bell. I’m going to be on it for another year and a half.
Which animation affected you most as a child?
Ellen: My influences…initially from Disney books, then they come from various different sources. I watched a lot of Disney movies …Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty. Then of course I also grew up watching a lot of other animation, including Japanese anime.
First of all, I never dreamt of working in animation, it was just a far-away dream influenced by Cinderella and Snow White early on…in book form first, even though I didn’t see the movies growing up, but the books influenced me in a big way. It was just pure chance I somehow got to work for Disney, and I am so happy to be there now.
Let’s talk about birds, Why are they always the Disney comic relief? Dorky, uncoordinated and a bit dopey?
Ellen: Hmmm, (laughs) I never really thought about that…I guess somebody needs to be comic relief! They have an innocent character I suppose- I think animators are unconsciously making that decision.
Along those lines, The Scottish characters, there is always one, and he is always a fat guy. Any comment?
Ellen: (laughs) I don’t know if I should I comment on that! I will have to go back and check the Disney catalog, but the Fairy Gary character is an authoritative character, a kindly father figure…It just happens that way I guess.
The backgrounds of Tinker Bell looked like very old school animation, a nice backdrop for the newer 3-D animation layered on top of it-was this a design decision for you?
Ellen: Funny you asked, any scene except immediate environment character backdrops are painted by design choice, map painting for the background, pull it toward the natural feeling 2D and 2D together, 3D can be very cold…the rendering techniques are changing, and ours has moiré natural feeling to it…softer lighting, warm skin, especially in the jungle parts, we were hearkening the old Peter Pan movie, this new Tinker Bell series was designed to reference the original movie in animation style.
How has Tinker Bell the character been updated for this retelling of the classic?
Ellen: Tinker Bell is a total eco-friendly fashionista! Everything she makes her clothes out of is recyclable. It’s all organic and she’s very conscious of recycling materials and being green. A lot of effort went into trying to find things that we could pull from nature to make her clothes and accessories from. The Autumn palette of colors is the most varied, because trees are in various shades of yellow, green, red and brown. It’s been really exciting to use these colors for the clothes.
Which famous animator of the days of yore was your hero?
Ellen: You know I think I must say, Glenn Keane, a hero of mine who designed Ariel from The Little Mermaid, one of the first animation moves I ever saw. I was so impressed and taken by Ariel’s voice, her songs; I can hum every one. The music was just so beautiful.
Your favorite female villain?
Ellen: I would have to say it is Sleeping Beauty, the powerful Maleficent, she looks so ominous in her designs. Ironically, she was a creation of Disney artist and animator Marc Davis, who also created Tink!