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Erick Oh Talks About Leaving Pixar To Direct At Tonko House

Tonko House, the animation studio started by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, is publishing a series of video profiles of the artists working on their projects.

The latest profile in the series highlights Erick Oh, who is directing The Dam Keeper series that Tonko is producing for Hulu. Like the two Tonko founders, Oh formerly worked at Pixar:

In the video, Oh explained why his desire to chart his own creative path led him to leave the house of Lasseter. “At Pixar it was huge fun to be able to work with so many talented artists and learn so much there, but in the end of the day, you are serving someone else’s story,” he said. “Practically, I learned so much while doing that. I thought, ‘Maybe it’s time for me to move on and really try to seek for what I’ve been looking for for my entire life.'”

Oh, who studied at Seoul National University before getting his MFA at UCLA’s film program, also hinted at future plans, expressing a desire to help the animation industry evolve in his native South Korea.

“I have so much of affection [for] my own culture in Korea, and I always dream about in the far future when I really gain more experience and if [I] get a really good opportunity, how it’d be so great if I could contribute, even just some small part, to help the industry grow, make the [animation] culture a little better in Korea.”

  • Jonathan Lyons

    I once had a student ask me why would anyone leave Pixar. Some people leave because it’s hard to advance. If you want to take the next step in your career, you sometimes need to look elsewhere. I know at least two people who left because they got tired of the stress of working in a perfectionist culture.

    • Mesterius

      Yeah, they really seem to only trust a handful of people to direct at Pixar. And even when others do get the chance to steer their own project, half of them are yanked off their film before it’s finished.

    • KW

      A friend of mine working there said something similar to me a few years back about the perfectionist culture. There was a feeling that everyone’s competing with each other and constantly wondering if theyre good enough because something was less than perfect. He was even working weekends and not recording the hours so his supervisors wouldn’t think he worked too slow and needed weekends in order to finish shots.
      It sounded like a lot of stress because everyone was trying to maintain an appearance of being stress free and perfect at everything.

  • Elsi Pote

    Sometimes you have to provide your own job security and create alternative streams of income, and punching everyday in and out is not the safest path in this sometimes volatile industry.

    Look at Dave Burgess, he is working at the Lego movie 2 and still has a job at DreamWorks (I think).

  • I’m thrilled to see what Tonko House and Erick Oh will do in the following to come (I enjoyed Oh’s film ‘Heart’, definitely worth seeing).

    What this is also says is that Pixar will have a difficult time ushering in new talent for feature films, and mold them in a way that will continue to preserve Pixar’s legacy. The Brain Trust will not be there forever, and if they’re not careful, the transition and care could be damaging to their brand. Pixar needs to take chances and risks again in new talent and new stories (and stop relying on sequels).

    Best of luck to Tonko House, I hope they grow to where they can be a major player in animated feature films.