K-Content News

Let’s make the world dream Heedong Kim, CEO of Dream Factory Studio
  • February 24, 2021

Let’s make the world dream
Heedong Kim, CEO of Dream Factory Studio

Was there a time when we realized the power of Korean content like these days? While Korean content including K-drama, K-beauty, and K-cinema are making a name in the world with K-pop at the forefront, another genre of content has declared a challenge to the global market. Introducing Dream Factory Studio, who won the 1 Million US Dollar Export Tower in 2019 by recording a mega-hit in China with its animation ZellyGo.
Q. Please introduce Dream Factory Studio.

A. Dream Factory Studio is an animation production studio that launched on April Fools’ Day of 2014. We started with 15 employees and now we have 60. We have successfully launched our first IP ZellyGo in China. We are currently working on follow-ups such as PongPong Dino, Ping’s Oddventure, and Monster Agent.

Q. How did you first start animation production? We are curious about how Dream Factory Studio was founded.

A. As a child, I loved watching movies and dreamed of making them. I studied design in university, and as soon as I graduated, I started a video production company called Motion Factory for ad and motion graphic production. Since then, I have worked in movie VFX and animation production, going through a good amount of success and failures. Afterward, I joined CJ and spend 7 years in the VFX and animation production department. Then in 2014, I started Dream Factory Studio and jumped into the animation production business in earnest to realize my dream of creating my IP.

Q. Was there a special reason why you targeted the global market from the beginning? What process did it take?

A. It was simply based on my experience. When I was running Motion Factory, the biggest loss came from making a theatrical cut of the animation. In Korea, people still think animations are for children and that it’s a waste of money to watch them at a movie theater. So the animated movies made with a lot of money always failed, and the talents all went to the game industry. It’s a vicious cycle. Based on my past successes and failures, I wanted to uplift the mood in the Korean animation industry. I believe we are equipped with great characters and storytelling ability. ZellyGo made its debut in 2017 at MIPCOM, the largest entertainment content market in the world, hosted in Cannes, France. It was sold to Nickelodeon and was aired in 150 countries around the world. Then it was picked up by Alibaba and launched on a Chinese platform Youku. It was the most popular animation in China in 2019.

Q. It takes a lot of stages before animation is completed. Which process do you consider the most important?

A. The most important thing is to have a unique concept. We targeted the global market from the beginning, so we concentrated on coming up with a unique concept, story, and character. The setting for ZellyGo is the distant future, and the character is something that is not human nor animal. Of course, we were conscious of the Chinese market, which meant using more red color. But when building our story and characters, we made sure they could be aired anywhere in the world.

Q. It must be the same for all businesses, but the most crucial thing is sustainability. What is the plan for ZellyGo?

A. When I first started my business, I believed that it was necessary to produce many works. A couple won’t do it in the industry where content are the most important. We already have four animations with planning and development completed – PongPong Dino, Ping’s Oddventure, Monster Agent, and Dream Factory. And we are working to create IPs that can target a wider audience in terms of age. PongPong Dino is scheduled to be aired starting April next year on KBS. And we aim to complete the production of Ping’s Oddventure by the end of next year.

Q. Obviously, doing business requires capital. It must have been very difficult to secure funds when the circumstances for the domestic animation market were not so favorable.

A. Capital is important, of course. When we first started with ZellyGo, we participated in KOCCA’s program for character creation. We were able to get 50 million won, and with that money, we continued developing ZellyGo. As we made more seasons of ZellyGo, 500 million won received as KOCCA’s pilot animation production aid was extremely helpful.

Q. What does animation mean to you?

A. Our company slogan is “Let’s make the world dream.” Personally, I loved dreaming as a child. There are two kinds of dream – one is a sensation occurring during sleep and another is a cherished aspiration and hope. I love the word “dream”. The most attractive part was that I can realize something to dream about. And I have a sense of duty to create something to dream about. The work of creating one’s own IP is followed by difficulties, but once you finish, you may have some regrets but will definitely feel rewarded. That is what animation means to me.

Q. Is there anything you would like to comment on about the Korean animation industry?

A. The standard of the Korean audience is very high. They have a great eye for recognizing good movies, so when a Pixar movie is released, at least 2 million people watch it. The days of consuming Korean content out of patriotism is over. It’s up to us to create high-quality works according to the needs and the eyes of the audience. What I actually want is for the soil to change rather than the audience. People have a negative view of the animation industry, so only with government support, the industry can survive and grow. The government in Canada and other European countries fully support the animation industry. Since we don’t have financial strength, we get swayed by the clients with money. Personally, I respect those who are in the industry while also feeling sorry for them. I think government support is a must to have them survive in the global market.