Soyeon Yoo
Soyeon Yoo

If you haven’t heard of Crunchyroll, don’t worry as you soon will. Crunchyroll is gaining an increasing amount of attention with their streaming animated productions that rely heavily on Japanese style and influence. A subsidiary of Otter Media (with links to AT&T’s WarnerMedia), Crunchyroll has fifty million registered users worldwide. Put simply, the company’s bolting presence is a product of artistic ability and a willingness to make daring choices.

While others are watering their stories down to gain mass appeal, Crunchyroll is focused on making their productions unique and exceptional in order to bring the market to them. The irony is that this purist approach is bringing even more fans to this entertainment company. A prime example is their latest animated series High Guardian Spice. This webseries about four strong female protagonists also notably boasts a writer’s room that is 100% female.

Included in the 50% of the production make up of female professionals is animator Soyeon Yoo. Yoo’s resume includes some of the most respected companies in the industry such as Dreamworks Animation Television, Amazon productions, and many more. Her inclusion as an animator for High Guardian Spice has brought a notable definition to the look of the show and its characters.

High Guardian Spice is unquestionably a tale of action and adventure. While storylines such as this have almost exclusively presented male protagonists, Crunchyroll astutely recognized the need for a show presenting heroines in this role to young viewers of any gender. Seeking out the most skilled and insightful collaborators for the project, Soyeon was enlisted to specialize in finalizing the looks of the main characters in regards to their weapons and props.

Known throughout the animated production community for her work on Amazon’s The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Disney’s Duck Tales (Daytime Emmy Nominated), the creators of High Guardian Spice understood that Soyeon could bring an artistic complement that was malleable to the style of the show.

In this animated production, Rosemary and Sage (humans) meet Parsley (a dwarf) and Thyme (an elf) at the High Guardian Academy; a school located in a magical city where they learn to be protectors of the world. Throughout the story, these four girls protect the world from a variety of threats. The show involves magic and combat. There is an identifiable medieval influence in aesthetics but juxtaposed against the setting of a new world. Soyeon’s designs are an essential part of melding these two ideas.

She states, “I tried to help visualize the characters’ personalities through their own personal props. Rosemary’s weapon has a rose stem around on the handle. I also put floral details referenced by a Victorian pattern on the sword to make it more personalized; a direct reference to her name and look. Sage is a magician. She is typically very calm and tends to stay in the background so I designed her wand to look more simple than the other characters’ weapons. It’s a subtle way to communicate that she doesn’t desire attention.

Parsley’s Hammer is actually pretty big for her but not too large to wield. For Thyme’s bow and arrow, I designed an elegant look using sharper shapes with some details to match with her style and personality. Ultimately, we wanted these accoutrements to be an extension of each character’s personality and inner feelings. These are nonverbal cues and connections for the viewers who will see some of these qualities in themselves. It’s about presenting positive role models without being too heavy handed.”

The animator’s work extends much further than these defining weapons though. Soyeon’s designs for the show include vehicles, books, wands, and more. With so many male character dominated animation productions, Soyeon and Crunchyroll are bringing some much needed female representation to the world.

Following her work for High Guardian Spice, Soyeon finds herself immersed in an upcoming animated TV show produced by Mattel. Working with Six Point Harness as the Character Designer for this yet unannounced show, she is in charge of visually developing and discovering the character’s personalities, moods, and tone. As the company responsible for such evergreen toys as Barbie, Hot Wheels, and others, Mattel is placing great emphasis on their animated productions and further endear them to children of all cultures.

Soyeon describes, “I’m not at liberty to say much but I can say that I’m drawing character poses and expressions to show their personalities and how they move/interact with each other. In addition, I am in charge of drawing characters’ five point turnarounds [front, profile, 3/4, ¾ rear, and back view] to show how they look in different views.” Though no release date has been announced for this production, the powerful Mattel name hints that Soyeon Yoo’s substantial artistic contributions will make her a part of the lineage of Mattel’s pantheon.

Writer: Jonathan Mans

By Punit