Disney artist Yoo Jae-hyun shares keys to success

June 25, 2014

By Lee Kyung-min

Disney animation “Frozen” has swept box offices, but many moviegoers aren’t aware that the creator of the lovely Princess Elsa’s dress is a Korean visual effect artist at Walt Disney Animation Studio.

Yoo Jae-hyun, fx technical director at Walt Disney Animation Studio.

Yoo Jae-hyun, fx technical director at Walt Disney Animation Studio.

Yoo Jae-hyun, a fx technical director with Disney, shared some ingredients for success in his field during a recent interview with The Korea Times.

“Playing games, all kinds of games ― online games included ― is part of culture. It teaches the value of having fun in life,” Yoo said. He believes that having fun is just as important as working and studying, and just like everything else in life, it is about moderation and self-control.

The Disney animation “Frozen” was a sweeping success, grossing 1.2 billion in the worldwide box office.

The breathtaking visual effects — Elsa’s dress, the scenes of everything turning into ice by her magic power, and the castle, the ice stairs etc — were Yoo’s work, which took him one and a half year to complete.

Elsa from “Frozen”

Elsa from “Frozen”

Yoo, a design major, of Pasadena Art Center in California, U.S. started his career there, where his family immigrated when he was 15. He was working for the Sony Pictures Image Works when he was offered a job by the Blizzard Entertainment, the game company whose work includes World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo. After three years of working for the Blizzard Entertainment, he moved to the Disney.

He said that his 2012 work “Wreck it Ralph” at Disney was the point which has led to his current interest, Big Data. He delved into mathematics and computer science to become better at what he does. Then, he said, studying further had “opened his eyes” to “painting the bigger picture.”

“As I learned more about computer science, I saw the infinite possibilities. Now, I’m doing research on Big Data via methodology called ‘machine learning,’ which is a sub-category of ‘collective intelligence,’” Yoo said.

Rather than the animation work, he said he is drawn more to “communication art. ” And he is stepping closer to achieving the goal. In February, Google held a competition called Devart, “an art made with code,” and Yoo’s interactive software was among the top 20 shortlist.

His work visualized the geography using the distance data.

“My software creates ‘big data’ by collecting the distance data, and makes it easy to understand the geography,” Yoo said.

The love for what he does gets him so far.

Things don’t always turn out the way one plans, but for Yoo, the challenge all the more drives him hard to be great at what he likes — communicating with people.

“All the stress and pressure goes away when I accomplish my work the way I planned. I just enjoy what I do so very much. If I hadn’t had a job of a design artist, I would still have had something similar to what I do now,” said Yoo.

Going back to the first question of the interview, when asked if playing games helped him as an artist in any way, Yoo, a long-time game enthusiast, said that any attempt at controlling culture is too abhorrent an idea, strongly criticizing the Korean society of socially stigmatizing the online games, and the gamers.

“I’ve played games since I was eight. All kinds of games. ‘Putt Putt,’ ‘Card Capture Cherry,’ ‘Alligator Nation,’ and Final Fantasy7. Those are among the sweetest memories of my childhood. I’m still inspired by those memories, too. It brings back the time that I was so young and innocent. I need them, and that’s what got me here,” Yoo said.