A Look Inside The Korean Studio That Made “Legend of Korra”

The Korean studio responsible for the animation production of The Legend of Korra is Studio Mir. The young studio was launched by Jae Myung Yoo, who was an animation director on Avatar: The Last Airbender. The studio’s other recent projects include season four of The Boondocks and an animated sequence in the recent live-action film Think Like a Man. Historically, Korean service studios have been content to remain anonymous, but Studio MIR represents the new young breed of foreign animation studios that make an effort to connect with the public and interact with fans. They have an active Facebook fan page, and offer glimpses inside their studio, such as in the video above. MIR has plenty of reason to be proud of their work on Korra since they also did some of the show’s pre-production work, in addition to the animation production.

They’re also posting small samples of pencil animation, like this Korra scene by key animation director Jung Hye Young…

and this piece by key animation director In Seung Choi…


  • Animator-in-Training

    Looks like it’s time for me to learn Korean.

  • Billy Batz

    awesome!

  • Tak

    YAY! Cool little video, and great work on the show. And I pretty much reiterate what Animator-in-Training says… if only national location and primary language didn’t impede employment on cool 2D animated projects like this. I bet we’d see more cucasians applying to places like Studio Mir or Studio Ghibli. Anyway, hope to see more from them in the future.

  • Down Under

    I hope these animators are getting paid enough. The first minute you see at least 3-4 animators just conked out at their desks with some kind of pillow or bed/blanket. One guy was brushing his teeth, and possibly had some kind of arm brace cast thing…or that could have just been his sleeve. And, another fellow holding his shoulder in mild pain. It may be fun for the video, but that really tells me one thing. They have pretty tight schedules and A LOT of work to do. The client probably just wants it done as quickly as they can muster. Go go go! Animation is beautiful though.

    • Animator-in-Training

      Looked just like college to me: people camping out to save time, power nap, avoid commutes etc.

      • Animator-in-Training

        I should have phrased that better… while it looks like a familiar situation we’ve all been through, it still doesn’t make it a good work environment, and I really hope they’re well compensated. Unfortunately I often hear otherwise.

    • Christine

      That would be a good question for someone like LeSean Thomas, who moved to Korea to work at an animation studio…BTW the second “Seoul Sessions” video was posted last week (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1qOQxeL3cE&feature=relmfu).

      Love Studio Mir, hope they and Korra get some love at the Annies or Emmys this year!

    • Sung Shin

      I’m an american animator that worked on Korra at Studio Mir as they were wrapping it up. Yes the working conditions have to get better for the Korean artists. So please keep them in mind when you watch shows you like and when they start producing their own content, give them alot of love and support!

      • Henry

        Awesome! But let’s get to real deal.
        How is their living condition? Are they get paid enough to have decent living? I’m not expecting them to be rich or anything, but I’m sure most of them wants to live with some sense of financial security. Animator-in-Training’s post of camping out at work is fun, but you can’t do that forever.

        Business wise, producing original content is no easy task. Without long term hit or successful franchise of their own, it’s difficult to maintain studio and personnel. Another thing is that the world has become extremely competitive place for animation skill set alone. Nowadays, animation labor is outsourced all over the Asia that every country is investing money on infrastructure and talent development for foreign investments. Serious marketing skill is needed to promote the fruit from labor of love.

        Looking at the Studio Mir’s animation style, I wonder where its senior animation staff got their experience. Japanese influence is definitely there. There is no way that handful of U.S. productions would develop Korean animation style as we see today. I’m not saying it’s bad or anything, but it’s interesting to see how cultural affinity and geographical proximity play their role.

  • Hey now

    [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, "Defamatory, rude, or unnecessarily antagonistic comments will be deleted."]

    • Someguy

      Preach it! It’s totally unlike working in North American studios. Yup. I’ve Never had to work 60 hours a week to get a show out in Canada. Never had to sleep at the studio. I’ve never been told that I needed to make “sacrifices” to hit a production deadline. I’ve never been asked by a studio manager whether or not I had family obligations that would prevent me from working late
      “if needed”…which turned out to be more like “every day”. Thank God, that the NON-outsourced world of animation isn’t based on “faster and cheaper”.

      SG

      • Billy Batz

        you probably don’t animate realistic human figures like they do.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        You really can’t argue with that.

      • pappy d

        In cyberspace no one can hear the drip, drip, drip of your sarcasm.

  • http://www.santiagocasares.com Santiago

    Their work in The Legend of Korra is simply amazing.

    Thanks for sharing this and shinning a spotlight on Studio Mir.

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron B.

    Very cool videos. The excruciating detail needed for the martial arts requires a lot of talent.

    It’s interesting to note the coming-out of formerly work-for-hire studios as companies with their own personality. For Korean and Chinese studios, I’ve noticed a unique warmth and willingness to communicate with western hubs as their local market for original intellectual properties keeps moving forward. Not to claim I know a ton of animators native to South Korea or China, only to clarify that of those I’ve spoken to in the past couple of years, they all seemed wound-up and ready to break out on their own.

  • Mike

    Great to see some of the talent behind the incredible animation on Korra. Don’t know that I’ve ever seen realistic human figures animated so well on a Saturday-morning-cartoon budget…

    • Dearyvette

      These animators do an absolutely amazing job in capturing such realistic movement in the martial arts and even dance sequences (i.e. “The Headband” episode of Last Airbender, season 3) of both of The Avatar series. I haven’t been this captivated by made-for-TV animation since “Battle of the Planets”(a.k.a. “Gatchaman”) when it came to the U.S. in the 70′s. I hope that working conditions for these talented animators gets better and I will better appreciate their sacrifice and hard work then next time I watch. I’d love to know what future projects they have in the works.

  • Mister Twister

    I am impressed.

  • http://www.alexandergellner.de alex

    studios who make their employees sleep in the studio should be ashamed. they should not boast with this, they should lose their contract work for inhumane working conditions. i am so pissed that this business behavior is tolerated and sometimes even admired.

    seriously, is nobody here angry about this?

    • Chris Sobieniak

      It’s happened all over.

      • http://danielmaraya.blogspot.com Danny

        I hope you’re not saying that excuses it.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        No, that’s really what happens even at the best studios (and usually because those outside the US aren’t unionized anyway).

  • Sarah J

    It’s cool to see this. The animation in LoK is AMAZING. I’m also pretty happy to hear that they’re doing the animation for season four of The Boondocks, now I’m REALLY look forward to it!

  • Mr-Famicom

    I’m not going to talk about Korra; But I will talk about the studio.

    Studio Mir (or you guys over there that can understand English) tends to do great work (or speaking to you guys, you do great work), and when the animation is fluid, the animation is quite nice, but most the the time, it’s quite choppy, not to mention that the whole thing just looks boxy (unless thats what the US staff whats), and sometimes it can look scratchy (and not in a good way), I am glade that most (if not alot) of you guys are going on strike so that you can get more money; Gregg Vanzo (Rough Draft) and Nelson Shin (AKOM) do treat there staff much better then what I have seen of what you guys go through, Vanzo and Shin treat there staff like the best parts of their family members and not like dirt, I (I’m only speaking about directors hear) know that you might not be able to get 18 to 23 dollars a hour (or 18,000 to 23,000 won a hour for you guys) which is what Rough Draft’s staff gets a hour, but I do hope that you guys get more money soon.

    Also, Studio Mir =/= Rough Draft, I’m not saying that as a bad thing, you guys are on Korea’s B list (with JM and Moi), but there are some people that post on this topic are not to bright in the head, and you guys are not as good as Vanzo’s studio (the Telecom Animation Film of South Korea, but not as good as them, of course) and alot of you guys are ex Dong Yang, Hanho Heung-Up, JM and Moi staff, but don’t let thing like this get you down; Being on Korea’s B list is not a bad thing (look what Taito and Sunsoft did on Japan’s B list), and I do hope that you guy’s stop outsourcing and start doing original productions, and if Mir dose not work out (as if you guys end up getting fired from going on strike), you can always go over to Rough Draft when you know that you will be treated right, payed well and become better artists all around.

    And if you what to talk about blogs that will make you a better artist (the blogs are in English only), theres Tom Ruegger’s blog (http://cartoonatics.blogspot.com), He’s the one that made Telecom Animation Film what there are today, he dose not put up said info (you guys know how to do animation already) but he is the gold stander in Japan (along with Hayao Miyazaki and Shigeru Miyamoto) and there is also John K.’s blog (http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com), when he dose teach you how to do animation (you guys know this, but it will help make you into a better animator), he tends to be not the brightest apple in the tree (His work however is top notch) and is best to just skip most of his blog to go right the teaching parts of his blog and bypass the rest (that and/or see his own works, mostly Ren & Stimpy).

    Thats all I what to say about this, good luck in the future and ect.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I feel like I’ve just been schooled in Korean animation studios here!

  • Anim2

    [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, "Defamatory, rude, or unnecessarily antagonistic comments will be deleted."]

  • http://www.leseanthomas.com LeSean Thomas

    I started at JM animation (’09) & finished at Studio Mir (’11) –before AND after the studio split between Yu Jaemong and Joung Mee(JM Prezzy). While JM was a much older set-up conditions-wise, MIR and studios like MOI have leveled up and moved to much better working conditions. I worked on Legend of Korra (Storyboard/animation production) when Mike & Bryan originally had it started at JM (’10) and left just towards the end of production in August of 2011 at Studio MIR (I went to MOI after, then Dong Woo to produce Black Dynamite). The staff there are my big brothers and sisters and are all very talented individuals that i learned a lot from.

    I wouldn’t exactly call directors Kang Sung Dae, Han KWang Il, Choi In Seung at MIR “B-level.” That’s a bit harsh, IMO. In fact, i personally feel comparing MIR to “Rough Draft” and “Akom” doesn’t make sense to me. the latter two studios only do “cartoonish” animated tv productions comparatively. Nothing on the level of draftsmanship that’s depicted in Korra. I’m not saying the stuff those two studios do is easier, I just think if you’re going to make a fair comparison, then compare them to another Korean studio that produces a current tv show on par with the level of detailed, “Full-Limited” animation style displayed in Korra, or even “The Boondocks.” Comparing limited TV budget shows to each other defeats the purpose to me, since they all have a limited footing count compared to features.

    Also keep in mind MIR is not even 2 years old. They are primarily comprised of a lot of younger artists with several senior animators from the older, Korean OEM circle. But i do think conditions will get better and studios will try to create more domestic content.

    • Mr-Famicom

      1.That is good to hear.

      2.You guys are indeed quite talented and it is good that you guys are using it (unlike what Gainax did on Panty And Stocking when they just wasted it to no return; When there were some parts that had construction and detail, most of it was just flat and lifeless, and coming out of a studio that can stack up to the likes of Ghibli and TMS/Telecom, that is a crying shame), sorry that I was being harsh about comparing you to other studios, If you don’t what to be compared to other studios, just say so (which you already did).

      3.I know you guys are a newer studio, but I’m am glade that you are trying to get better pay and better working conditions.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        At least we’re starting to see some real ground being accomplished here at all. I’m sure there is a divide between those studios well versed in the more western form of animation we take for granted anyway and those that want to pursue other unique forms and styles in their approaches hoping to make a dent in the medium itself. It’s those works I’m a bit interesting in seeing nurtured domestically and hopefully become as viable a success at home as it is abroad.

        I’m reminded “Mr-Famicom” mentioned the “choppy” nature of the work which no doubt comes from the need to use lesser frames of animation common with those shows on a budget, most of us wouldn’t mind seeing more “2′s” or even “1′s” if those chances are ever provided for whatever impact a scene may call for it in. “3′s” are fine for slow, more subtle moments if the scene calls for it, but can also work for background scenes too.

  • Jack Ruttan

    Video is a good way for the audience to meet the creators, and also see how they work. I’d hope they’d get an amusement-park-like office such as what you see in Pixar vids, and get well-paid while working human hours.

    • Mr-Famicom

      Better pay and working conditions are a must, but the building dose not need to look top natch, just look at Termite Terrace, the place was a dump but look at the content they made, it’s some the best stuff ever made; Also it’s not the building that makes the company, it’s the people working for it, and fancy stuff in the work force just adds up to more bills and less money for the staff, I do hope things are better for Mir in the future, but paychecks > fancy stuff in the building.

  • CCS

    Mir’s stuff is incredible. I really sympathize with their working conditions.

  • http://leseanthomas.com LeSean Thomas

    Mr. Famicon, Mir started with a brand-new office when we started Korra. i’m not sure you worked there, or we’d met. To the rest of the readers: Just because artists chooses to sleep at their desks doesn’t mean they are somehow being oppressed, lol. I sleep at my desk all the time, to meet deadlines. We all certainly did at WB on BEN-10 ALIEN FORCE and BRAVE AND THE BOLD. It happens.

    Based off of my personal experience (I cannot speak for anyone else) the working conditions/ office spaces at Mir and now Moi (they moved to GuemCheon-gu) are quite nice overall. No different from any other small video game studio in Cali renting an office to make games. Also keep in mind, that unlike Americans, a great many Korean animators work from home (it is freelance after all). But i’ve lived in Korea for almost 3 years, so my point of view is a bit more solid than the speculators. I’m typing this in Seoul, now. If you haven’t worked at these studios yourself, it would behoove you to assume these animators are all like what BANKSY depicted in that skewed, Akom-insulting, Simpsons intro. Be informed.

    Finally, about “2s” and “3s.” Keep in mind that the timing for these shows sent to Korea are timed by American x-sheet timers, who-from a good observation over the years- haven’t animated anything themselves in quite some time. A good bit of them are timing-by-numbers. not bringing any new flair to movement. Keep in mind, that in the outsourcing process, Korean animators follow x-sheets already set for them. Good timing is our responsibility, not theirs. This means our x-sheet timers have great responsibility. If you want more slow-ins and slow-outs and great motion timing, it’s to be established at the pre-production stage by us, not the animators overseas, which means your x-sheet timers have to do that. Or leave the sheets blank, just track the audio/lip synch and leave the timing to actual animators. Either way, more communication has to be made to work together.

  • Mr-Famicom

    Sorry for the late reply, but any way.

    1.I have seen said work places (along side Akom’s and Rough Draft’s) and they are quite nice, And I did not know about the home gig as I mostly deal with Japanese studios (GAC (Golden Age Cartoons) members and this sties Jerry Beck are already gone through US studios and back, and there is not alot of English speaking people who deal with Korean animation).

    2.Nelson Shin himself was also against the BANSKY couch gag as well, this also reminds me of a Simpsons episode (Itchy And Scratchy The Movie) when Kent Brockman show cases a Korean studio working like slaves, and when they shipped it over to Korea (this episode was done by Rough Draft by the way) Gregg Vanzo was against it and said part and Film Roman ended up doing said part themselves (as I got form said commentary on the DVD), I know South Korean staff are not treated like that.

    3.Theres US pre production staff on Korra?!?, I just figured that the Korean staff did almost everything because Mike and Bryan did not find enough people to work on Korra during season 1 (I do know that Lauren Montgomery is working on season 2 of Korra), but the first show has a 1,000,000 dollar (I don’t know how much Korra costs, But I heard that it’s less then the first show) budget and the animation was (mostly) just a choppy, what did they put the money on, Mako’s pay check?, large sums profit for Mike and Bryan, what?

    4.I know how outsourcing tends to work, But I don’t tend to watch alot of modern animation that much, unless it’s very smart about what it dose (like with TMS’s/Telecom’s output with Disney and Warner Bros, Matt Groening’s works and John K.’s works), I don’t bother with it (Avatar/Korra are things I tend to not bother with).

  • http://www.leseanthomas.com LeSean Thomas

    Thanks for the reply Mr. Famicom, but you confuse me. You have back-handed dejected things to say about shows you don’t even watch. You name-drop people but you don’t answer any of my questions. I respect your knowledge of the cartoonish-styled studios you know of. But you don’t seem to know much about what i’m talking about. So unless you’ve worked at studio Mir with us on season 1, or at NIck (which you didn’t) i’m inclined to believe you’re speaking merely from a loose, subjective stance and hearsay. Not one of actual experience. Which is quite fine i guess. Criticizing is easy. Art is difficult. Good luck on your projects sir!

    • http://twitter.com/mrfamicom91065 Mr-Famicom

      Your welcome, but with a show like this you don’t really need to watch it to under stand it, just reed the recaps and you are their; True I do not work on Korra or at Nick (Freelanced as of now) but where I come from, people back-hand things they never watch all the time because they can just read a recap of it (like back-handing K-On!, yet they never watched it), And thank you for your support, I do have my own projects but I mostly do fan art, you can check out my Deviant Art (http://Famihamu64.deviantart.com ) and my Pixiv (http://www.pixiv.net/member.php?id=1411243 ) if you like, but thanks for your support.

      Anyway, what questions? if you what to ask something, put it in a list and I will try to answer them, I did answer whatever I can find, but if you say that I missed some, please list them.

  • eline

    ITS AMAZING!!!!!!!WAUW , what are the using except paper? That kind of tab, what is that?whats the name of that thing?

    • hoi

      I also want to know which software they use for coloring en digitalizing. Would it be toonboom? TVPaint?

  • Angelina Barker

    this company has been my goal since 15, i hope i can actually get there in3 years and meet them or even better work for them!