Watching the Cartoon Network Inspired Visual Development Artist Cheng Guo to Earn Numerous Awards
Having recently worked on videogames, animated features and short films, China-born and US-educated Cheng Guo has developed his design skills to include visual development, background and character design, Autodesk Maya, 3D character modeling and Substance Painter. But his love of animation goes back to his childhood.
Starting the New Year working at the eminent Warner Animation Group as a visual animation artist, Cheng’s first taste of the animation experience occurred when “my homeland China and Japan were still in the honeymoon relationship.”
Therefore, Cheng recalls, “Pop culture form Japan flooded my country with the local TV station constantly broadcasting anime programs. I grew up with that environment and fell in love with animation. It was the only entertainment for us because back then desktop computers were still a luxury for an ordinary family. But my first contact with the wonders of Disney animated features was when I began taking an English language course called Disney English.”
Furthermore, this busy LA-based visual designer isn’t ashamed to admit that a cartoon TV station inspired him getting into the omnipresent animation field, confessing, “The Cartoon Network is the reason why I come to America and furthered my education here. My style got influences from animation programs such as The Amazing World of Gumball — about a young cat named Gumball Watterson — and, Adventure Time — 12-year-old Finn battles evil in the Land of Ooo. I was mesmerized by the English-speaking characters. Later on, I got into We Bare Bears, along with other contemporary shows like Robot Chicken, and I was motivated by the social satire of Futurama.
For example, social commentary is something he likes to include in his own ongoing work like with Rat King, explaining, “Rat King is my favorite personal project. I got lots of inspiration from George Orwell’s futuristic and satirical novel, 1984. The strong emotion and description of Orwell’s intense society give me the idea to create the background story of Rat King, a story about betrayal, conspiracy and revolution. I hope I can have more designs in the future concerning social hot-button issues.”
However, for the present and through his affiliation with the Warner Animation Group, he’s been enthusiastically working as a visual development artist in several roles — working with the art director to optimize 2D concept design to animated 3D shorts, and creating color keys for the featured animations. Moreover, he’s also worked with the creative director and created motion graphics for the Getty Unshuttered Live at the Getty Center. And, he’s worked at Penta Studio as a character designer for the animation series Lu’s Time for season 1 and 2.
More importantly, he directed and animated his own super cool and hip short film, Kung Fu Express, which was recognized by various sources including: Official selection of Toronto Film Channel Award for Best Animation Category; Official Selection of Los Angeles Lift-Off Film Festival for Short Animation Category; award winner of Independent Short Award for Best Animation Short Category; and, Final List of Los Angeles Animation Festival for Best Character-based Short Category. Kung Fu was also official selection at the International Film Festival of Wales, and LA Under the Stars: Film Festival.
As a result, Cheng is jazzed about working in the ever-widening animation world.
But. his zeal and gusto for the world of design and animation goes back to Cheng’s background where his family wanted a more practical path for their son. He explains, “My father used to be very strict to me like lots of parents in China. So, he thought that I could only survive on the same career path as him. He had a very practical plan for me but I refused. I let him see my enthusiasm to be a designer for cartoon/animation, and my keenness and hard work helped him change his mind. I still feel grateful that he allowed me to choose.”
Subsequently, that path took him to the University of Shanghai where he learned the basics of animation, and how to develop a professional attitude. That experience motivated him to study at the University of California where he adds, “Studying at USC is like sailing on the sea. Faculties give us a lot of freedom to explore but always guide us to avoid mistakes.”
Consequently, he’s designed at leading edge Super 78, an award-winning content, design and creative studio, and also at the Getty Center. Likewise, he’s also worked on various cool projects, including: the independent game Onwards, where he worked as a 2D Animator and character designer for the team, a small group of many talented game developers from both China and the United States; Go! Go! an animation short directed by Cheng’s friend Dodoo and for whom Cheng worked on background designs; and, Robot Vacuum’s Escape, a story about an A.I. vacuum leading a revolution with other smart electricity and escape from an evil human’s “jail.”
In addition to creating visual designs, busy Cheng keeps a close eye on newer technology that are revolutionizing the world of animation: “You can’t imagine how fast technology is changing our industry. For example, I tried using Oculus, a VR headset brand, to paint at the VR World show before and the result was amazing.”
In short, while Cheng believes he’s “very good at drawing” he also feels his keen observation of daily life contributes to his design projects.