Chan found the trip to Australia enlightening. He thinks it is easy to become numb if you just stay in the same place all the time. He points out: “Sometimes we can go to another place to observe the way people live there. You will have a very different experience and think much more broadly.”
In Australia, Chan visited many museums, art galleries and art exhibitions held in shopping malls. He was deeply impressed by the Australians’ respect for art and their effort to incorporate art into everyday life.
His time in the country bolstered Chan’s confidence in creating animations. He was reminded that art can move people, just as he had believed in childhood.
After coming back to Hong Kong, Chan changed his drawing style. He gave up drawing intricate sketches.
“Drawing these [very delicate drawings] is of little significance,” says Chan. “Focusing on the story or the message conveyed in the creation is more important than simply drawing something detailed.”
He did not become a full-time animator straight away. Instead, Chan worked as a multimedia designer, designing websites and software for teaching materials. Nevertheless, the job still gave him the opportunity to learn many techniques for creating animations as they were commonly included in websites. He also read books to further enrich his knowledge of technical animation skills.
Every day, Chan would spend a couple of hours after work to make his own animation. It could take up to several hours for him to complete several seconds of the animation as he needed to draw 25 frames for each second of the production.
In this way, he completed his first prize-winning animation, Foollee.
Foollee won the silver award in the ninth Hong Kong Independent Film Video Festival – Animation Category. It is a love story in which Foollee always secretly helps a girl and she finally finds out.
Chan hopes to convey the message that people should do things that make them feel good, even if other people mock them for it.
More and more advertising agencies came knocking on Chan’s door after the prize. He quit his job as a multimedia designer and worked as a full-time animator. In 2004, he set up a design house and animation studio, Postgal Workshop, with his wife Pam Hung.
Although he was now working for himself, Chan still had to struggle between commercial and independent creation. He says he found it hard to bargain with his commercial clients in the beginning.
All he could do was reject projects or work which required him to be a mere a cog in the wheel in order to satisfy all the clients’ requirements. He thought over the dilemma constantly. In the end, he tried to incorporate a bit of his style into the work clandestinely and persuade his clients that the work might become even more popular because of those elements.
Chan steadily added more of his own ideas into the creations as his clients gradually accepted his style.
Chan feels lucky that he could come up with a solution to the dilemma. “Fortunately, I could clearly remember my goal and try not to be a gear wheel, incessantly doing the same thing again and again instead of pursuing something I like,” Chan says.
His persistence in creating animations with strong personality has won him even greater success. His animation Hidden Elders was awarded the grand prize of the 10th TBS DigiCon6 Awards in Japan in 2008.