Mun Ki “Moon” Kim was born in South Korea on October 29, 1993, and lived with his mother and brother for four years before moving to the United States to join up with his father working in America. He had a great fascination with insects, spiders and various creepy crawlies and made a hobby of collecting them and rearing them. Moon wasn’t geared towards academics so he did rather poorly in school as he much rather preferred to invest his time into creative activities. In 2011 Moon graduated high school and was accepted into San Diego State University, where he would proceed to pursue a degree in Television, Film and New Media. In the fall of 2014, Moon was diagnosed with a Lymphoma based cancer and had to leave for South Korea for treatment. After six months of Chemotherapy, the cancer was cured and Moon returned to the states where he made a rapid recovery. He plans to resume his schooling in the fall of 2016, but until then is happily making Stop-motion animations. Many of which involve Stikbots from Zing toys. Recently, Mun spoke to the Examiner about his experiences working as an animator:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How and when did you decide to become a stop motion animator?
Mun Ki Kim (M.K.K.): In the spring of 2011, I was finishing up my senior year of high school and had a lot of free time. I always loved telling stories and playing with toys, so I decided to try my hand at making a stop-motion film with the toys I had collected over the years. It was fun to make and I didn’t think much of it and posted it online. The video was quite popular and garnered some traction. I think it was around this time that I had thoughts about a potential future of storytelling through toys.
M.M.: Growing up, what kind of movies and media interested you?
M.K.K.: When I was four my father took me comic-con, and that was the first time I was exposed to the “Alien” series. On display was a massive life size model of the Alien Queen from the 1986 film “Aliens”. While most children would have drawn back in fear, I fell in love. I was absolutely obsessed with the design of the Alien. When I went back home I watched the Alien movies, horrified, but glued to the screen. The mix of horror, sic-fi, action and suspense really hit home with me at that young age. As I grew older I began to develop more appreciation for the cinematic western films, specifically the Clint Eastwood Trilogy. It wasn’t until the end of high school that I developed an interest in Anime and Japanese culture. I was mostly drawn into it due to the brilliant and ingeniously sculpted figurines engineered by Japanese Artists. These figurines were based off their characters in various Anime/Manga/Video games, so naturally I would watch the series of whichever figurine I purchased for a stop-motion.
M.M.: How would you describe your animation style and what inspires it?
M.K.K.: “Where cute and moe come to die.” That’s my channel motto. I came up with it when I first started making stop motion videos with Japanese action figurines called “figma.” Now the figma line has come very far and has since expanded their marketing demographic, but back then they primarily produced cutesy school girl characters. I would essentially take these cute characters and put a violent and morbid twist on them. They’d often be depicted very violently wielding weapons and performing vicious actions. I was never a fan of “cute and cuddly,” and instead I imagined a world where these innocent characters were dropped into the middle of an action movie or a criminal gangster flick. I essentially took characters from Japanese cartoons and dropped them into a western cinema setting. Many stop-motion YouTubers I see put a very heavy emphasis on special effects and flashy visuals. But I like to keep special effects to a minimum. I am a strong believer of hardcore, good old school filming with practical effects. I take the time to hand make every set and to design the world of the characters. I want the audience to be immersed into the scene. I’m very hands-on with my animation. I want to be able to manipulate even the tiniest aspects of my film. If a character is thrown against a wall, I want that wall to shake and dent. If a character is shot by a gun, I will speckle blood here and there and animate the trickling blood flow. I love going the extra mile for each and every one of my works, because nothing makes me happier than seeing a toy come to life.
M.M.: How did you find out about Stikbots?
M.K.K.: I saw a Stikbot at target while I was shopping for toy props and figured I’d buy one and try it out after seeing that it was marketed for stop-motion animation. I thought it was a great idea, fostering the art of stop motion in children from a young age. The fact that almost everyone has a smartphone now days made it even more convenient with their special Stop-motion app. I bought a couple to try my hand at animating a couple. It was actually a lot harder than I thought, but I made it work with a few adjustments. A day after uploading my first Stikbot video (albeit an incredibly morbid one), I was surprised to see that the people at Stikbots liked my work and wanted me to enter their contest as well as hire me for a series. The prize money and job offer were both enticing, and so I gave it a shot. I think I made a good choice.
M.M.: You now create videos under the title Moonshine Animations. How and why did you choose that particular name?
M.K.K.: Well my name is Mun Ki, but everyone called me Moon. In high school I was a bit of a trouble maker, and so I ended up being called Moonshine. I later made stop-motion animations and needed a channel name. Hence Moonshine Animations was created.
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving being a stop motion animator?
M.K.K.: When I can make the viewer forget that what they are watching on screen is a toy, that’s the best feeling. As a stop-motion animator, my greatest goal in every film is to breathe life into my characters, to give them motion, and character. When a viewer can feel for a character, and when a simple doll can invoke so many emotions to a viewer and suspend their reality, that’s when I know I’ve succeeded.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become a stop motion animator?
M.K.K.: Never lose the ambition that you start out with. When I started out animating, I dreamed big and aimed high. My projects were incredibly ambitious, and although I couldn’t quite pull them off as I had envisioned, what mattered was that I tried. As I made more and more animations I got better and better, but I also learned of the limitations of stop motion animation. Knowing what you can and can’t do really affected the way I wrote my stories, and perhaps in a sense, kept them from being told in the truly best way possible because I felt that I couldn’t do it. But looking back at myself when I was first starting out, there was nothing that was impossible. You should never lose the mindset that you can animate anything, write anything and envision anything. Keep the mentality that fuels your animation and never stop practicing, because with patience and hard work, you WILL get better.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
M.K.K.: I am currently constructing customized figurines of my own personal characters that will star in my original stop-motion series “Shrapnel.” It will be my first truly original production featuring all original characters. It is the story of four very distinct and unique individuals that live in a post-apocalyptic world and will follow in the day-to-day lives of these characters. Imagine a violent, post-apocalyptic slice-of-life series, where battling a giant biomechanical threat just to cross the street, might just be a very commonplace thing. It’s a world years after the apocalypse hits and society has changed, but life finds a way to go on. If you’re interested or would like to support its creation, please feel free to contact me.
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To learn more about Mun Ki “Moon” Kim visit his Facebook, Patreon, YouTube and Instagram.