APRIL 9, 2021
USA | 26 minutes | 2019
Animated, sci-fi, fantasy, action-adventure short film directed by Gene Kim
One Last Monster
Empress Eura, ruler of the distant world of Adin, faces her greatest challenge when she is forced to face her prejudices and choose between trusting or killing a monster who arrives on Adin with a warning that could save or destroy her people.
CineAsian Films (CAF): One Last Monster is such a great story that explores prejudices and the choices we make. What inspired you to tell this story?
Gene Kim: I’ve long admired stories that have both style and substance; things like Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings along with Studio Ghibli and Pixar films. Having worked as a CG artist at Disney’s Blue Sky Studios and Pixar, I wanted to transition out of animation into screenwriting/content development. I became convinced that the next stage of my artistic growth would be trying my hand at making a short film that attempts to be both visually exciting and have deeper meaning.
I also found it really interesting as a Korean-American creative that there hadn’t (to my knowledge) been a Korean historical fantasy epic with the scale of China’s Journey To The West before. I thought it would be really fun to create something along those lines, taking inspiration from the wild world building of the Final Fantasy games, Evangelion, Akira and wuxia classics like Hero, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the aforementioned Journey To The West.
The story of One Last Monster was initially driven by my curiosity with what motivates good people to do bad things or become prejudiced – something I’d been curious about since I was a teenager. I was reading Philip Yancey’s Where Is God When It Hurts? sometime around 2013 and it struck me that what we think can be good for us can actually be bad. Conversely, things that we think of as bad for us can actually turn out to be good.
As soon as I had this realization, I knew I had a potentially very twisty and dynamic story on my hands. I felt even stronger about the idea once the 2016 US election rolled around and the concepts of prejudice and isolationism rose to the front of the cultural conversation.
Writing the story really took another turn for me when my mother passed away in 2015 after a long fight with cancer. I consider myself a politically liberal leaning Christian and my faith was severely stressed after my mother died. And so I wanted to subtly weave all my spiritual frustrations, doubts and strangely – hopes – into the fabric of Monster. As a result, on top of everything else I previously mentioned, the film is also a story about a person who wrestles with a power greater than themselves and though they struggle, ends up changed.
This is all heavy stuff for sure! So I also made sure to balance out all the seriousness with some amusing animal characters like Prime Minister Oolong the Rabbit and General Bizzo the Bear – both of whom were based off of stuffed animals me and my brother grew up playing with. I’m very happy that in a way, Monster is simultaneously the most serious and most absurd thing I’ve ever made.
CAF: What was the entire animation process like and how long did it take?
Kim: I asked a close and super-talented friend of mine named Elmer Barcenes to help me animate the film and so we spent almost two years animating over 10 minutes each, mixing traditional 2D and puppet animation to save time. We used ToonBoom Harmony along with a few assists from Autodesk Maya and the process was a long, slow marathon just to draw and paint everything by hand using Wacom Cintiqs.
Shaping the story and storyboards was also a long process even before animation started. I would like to thank NYU/FIT professor David Zung for his feedback and constructive criticism to help shape the story. I’m also thankful for our wonderful music and sound team in Lulu Chen, Cai-Jhen Jhu and Jeremy Siegel, along with our incredible lead concept artist Eileen Kim and the rest of the production team. Collaboration just elevates everything in a way that I could never achieve by myself.
CAF: What do you hope people can learn from One Last Monster?
Kim: I hope that it leaves people thinking about how easily we can become narrow-minded and how invisible and automatic that instinct is. Despite her flaws, I ultimately consider Empress Eura a hero because of how she chooses to fight that instinct and pay the cost to change instead of staying forever locked in her comfort zone.
CAF: Do you have any plans to expand on this film and adapt it into a feature? What exciting projects can we expect from you in the near future?
Kim: I am developing pitch materials for a sequel – trying to figure out at the moment if it will be in TV series or feature film form. I am also considering creating a WebToons series based on One Last Monster as well. To stay posted, please follow @one.last.monster or visit onelastmonster.com. Thank you for reading and I’m excited to continue delivering stories from the Monster universe!
One Last Monster is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your film.
Director, Writer, Producer, Cinematographer: Gene Kim
Producers: Michael S. Kim, Elmer Barcenes
Story advisor: David Zung
Sound Design & Editing: Jeremy Siegel
Composers: Lulu Chen, Cai-Jhen Jhu
Featuring the voices of: Martha Harms, Mike Meth, David Thomas Tao, Gene Kim, Darrian P. Mack, Annabelle Kung, Yusuke Muramatsu