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The Global Search for Education: Director Alexis Wong on Animation, Lion Dancing, and Making New Friends

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This month audiences can screen Director Alexis Wong’s film, Lucky, curated by KIDS FIRST!, on the Planet Classroom Network. 

Her enchanting story is an animated short about a young girl named Ming Ming who is having a tough time fitting into her new community. To address these challenges, Ming Ming embraces the ancient Chinese tradition of lion dancing. 

She ties a red ribbon around the horn of her lion Lucky’s costume.  This grants her lion its “soul”.  To her amazement, Lucky comes to life, bringing comfort and joy to Ming and the lives of her family members.

Alexis Wong grew up in Sacramento, California, where she discovered a passion for creating at a young age.  She pursued a double major in Film Studies and Art at CSU Sacramento.  Today she is an animator, a creator of short films and a storyboard artist based in Los Angeles, California.

What inspired the idea to center Ming Ming’s story around a dancing ancient lion and to have the lion come to life?

A lot of Ming Ming’s world is inspired by my own childhood. When I was young, I was very shy and loved animals – just like her! I am also a lion dancer in real life, and dancing under the costume helped me express myself in ways I never had before. So in a way, the lion dance became my friend, just like in the film. 

Why was the theme of Ming Ming’s story about struggling to move and fit into a new community so important to you?  Was this based on a personal experience?

Yes, I’ve had some difficult experiences with switching schools and making new friends. I think anyone who has gone through a big change can relate to the intimidation – especially for a young child!

What advice do you have for our young viewers who may be facing a similar situation as Ming Ming?

One of the ways I cope with change is by doing the activities that make me happy. Spending time on your hobbies will help you find other people that like the same things! Also remember it’s okay to miss your old home/school. Feeling a little sad every once in a while is normal.

What drew you to use animation as the medium to convey your story?  Tell us a little about your creative process to bring your characters to life.

Animation is a lot of work, because you have to create everything you see in each scene – from the background, to the props, to the movement of the characters. In fact, everytime a character moves, you are seeing 24 drawings go by per second! But the beauty of animation is that you can draw anything your imagination can dream – so it’s perfect for bringing magical creatures (like Chinese lions) to life! 

What are you working on now?

I just finished a 3D animated short film called Bane of the Beasts, which is a more somber story with lots and lots of fantasy creatures. As you can see, I really like mythical animals! I also have been making live action skits for the YouTube channel, “ChineseLionTamer,” which is purely dedicated to my love of lion dancing. Feel free to check it out!

Thank you Alexis!

C.M. Rubin and Alexis Wong

Director Alexis Wong’s film, Lucky (curated by KIDS FIRST!), is now screening on the Planet Classroom Network.

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