‘Changyou’s Journey’: A Son’s Animated Tribute
***This story originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 287)***
Before he was even finished with middle school, Perry Chen began a deeply personal creative journey he hoped would touch and inspire his terminally ill father to live even just a little bit longer so they would have more time together.
“I made the first trailer in July 2012 when my dad Changyou was still alive,” says the 18-year-old Chen in a recent interview. “When I first learned that he only had about two weeks to live, I decided to make an animated film to honor his life and give him hope to live longer. I was drawing from early morning till late at night every day for an entire week to make the trailer which my dad barely managed to see before passing away five days later.”
After his father died, Chen knew he had to continue on and make a longer version of the film which he named Changyou’s Journey. Using tools like Toon Boom Storyboard Pro 4.1 and TVPaint, Chen made a five-and-a-half minute version of the story over the next five years. With the help of his mom, producer Zhu Chen, he also brought on animator Matthew Fisher and background artist Kiana Mosser to help with work on the final project.
Changyou’s Journey follows the life of Chen’s father, who was born in rural China and went on to do well in school, emigrate to America and start a family. It also tackles his father’s cancer diagnosis and untimely death from the disease.
“At its core, Changyou’s Journey is a story directly from the heart” notes Chen, who is now a freshman at UC Irvine. “It’s not exactly the retelling of my dad’s life. What I wanted to convey is the feeling that I wanted the viewers to leave with. This is a film on many different levels about love: the love between my mom and my dad, my dad’s love for and dedication to his work and his family, my own love to both my dad and his memory, and to the artistic medium of animation itself and storytelling in general. There is nothing greater I can convey in this film than love, resilience, determination and enduring hope.”
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