Ray Lei

Above is a profile of Ray Lei (aka Lei Lei), a Beijing-based graduate of Tsinghua University, Academy of Arts & Design. I was first introduced to his work when I was on the jury in Ottawa last year and saw three of his student films. As I recall, all of us on the jury had a similar (and curious) reaction in that we admired his work and thought it was creative, but didn’t particularly like the films. Nevertheless, Lei has plenty of ideas and creativity and I’m looking forward to following his professional career.

In the video interview, Lei says something that I hear often about animation schools in Asia, India and other developing animation regions of the world: that the schools treat animation too much as a trade and overemphasize technical skills at the expense of individual expression and thinking. That will be a big hurdle for those regions to overcome if they want to compete creatively with Western animation. Lei puts it best in the interview:

“It seems to me that too many people are too focused on the technical side of their work. Because I know After Effects, or Maya, I’m an animator. But that’s only one component in this big production. The technical skill that you’re proud of now will eventually become outdated and useless.”

More of Ray Lei’s illustration work can be seen on The Creators Project. Here’s a new eye candy-filled short by Lei:

And here’s a video of him rapping in Chinese accompanied by Simpsons director David Silverman on the tuba:

  • That’s a Sousaphone.

  • I think this guy’s pretty refreshing, and although his particular style is not to my taste, I like his hat.

  • SMW

    I love when somebody comes in and shows us something fresh, this is what this guy’s work looks to me. And it reminds me that creative expression is everywhere, you don’t need to buy expensive materials or equipment to get your vision through. Love the notebook drawings, thanks for showing us this Cartoonbrew :)

  • Most Western student works also seem too focused on the technical side to me, with content being secondary to technique.

    Solely from my opinion as a viewer, it seems to me that Russian animation schools take more of an opposite approach, judging by recent student works from VGIK and GUKIT. Art styles and animation are structured around screenplays/ideas, rather than the other way around, whether it’s the “light comedy” of the GUKIT school or the “grand philosophical themes” of VGIK. And there’s no 3D to be seen anywhere. Some of them can be seen over here (more towards the bottom):

    This sort of education might be ill-suited for advertisements and uncreative for-hire work, which is where the money is. (average pay for a director of an animated film in Russia is currently ~$900, and can be much lower)

    So perhaps those Asian schools are merely being more economically practical…

  • Ben K.

    Thanks for posting this! I saw two of his films at Ottawa and was curious about the animator. It’s great to see that people can be happy just doing their own thing.

  • I’m a big fan of Ray Lei’s work. It has a youthful exuberance and shows he really has fun making his work. It’s infectious for the viewer. He also has a really great, bizarre sense of humor that I appreciate.

  • I’m pretty sure his name is Lei Lei! And he’s a powerhouse!