The Creators Project: Hello. How would you describe what it is you do?
Ray Lei: A couple days ago I saw a survey on the internet, and some people called me a trendy animator.
Yeah, the trendy animator. But indeed I’m not really trendy at all. For example, my pants were made by my mom. And I don’t really think of myself as an animator, because I do lots of different kinds of works. I draw, and I still think of myself as the kid who enjoyed drawing in class. Suddenly one day I found out I could do animation, but at the same time I also found out I could do murals, too.
You also compose music.
I just want to do everything. For me, animation is one of those things. There are a lot of different sides to life—hanging out with friends, relationships, skateboarding, drawing. These activities are the ways that we express ourselves. I think I have multiple positions at the same time, and maybe my design level is not as high as professional artists, but it’s just me, like a free-style person.
How would you define your style?
Actually I haven’t found out yet. Right now I think I’m in a bottleneck. I’ve been stuck in this problem for a while; people like my works and think those works are pretty good, but for me they are not good enough. I guess I need more exploration and life experience so that I can keep improving.
Recently you’ve been doing a lot of multi-media installations—you’ve even started a band, right? Yes. Well, it’s not officially a band—just some of my friends and I playing original music. In fact my friends already had their own band, and they've won some awards. Most of the sound sculptures of my animations are made by them. Those are my college friends, but after we graduated from college, everyone was too busy with their jobs. We found out that we didn’t have time to write songs, so we just decided to be together and play music. Last year we made some works, such as the combination of animations and free-style music. This year we’ll try something different.
What’s the process for incorporating your art with music?
I think the main idea is free-style—that we can do whatever we want. What I am thinking is just playing the animation spontaneously, and when people get more and more excited, then we add music. And when people calm down, we put another animation. That is the idea that we used last year. But this year I want to add other factors such as B-Box, VJ, DJ tattoo... so that all young people think animation is funnier, not just that boring flash on TV. It could become more creative and when we play it live, it has more energy.
Do you generally work at home or in a studio?
Most of the time I work at home, but I still have to go to other cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, Canton, Beijing, Hong Kong.
Do you have any long term projects in the works?
Actually I’m doing a long project right now. I'm working on some animations that tell a similar story: at first there is a threat, but in the end there is peace and love in the world. After these projects, I have another long project. It’s about my family: how I deal with my parents getting older and older, facing the history of my family. This project might take some time.
It sounds much different than a lot of the work we see these days.
I want to do this animation because I feel like college students think they are artists and are being noticed because they found something new on a foreign website and they imitate it. They tell people they are artists, or designers. For me I can’t stand this behavior, but frankly, I was one of them once. However, I think those young people should search themselves, because I know during this rapid development of our country, our young generation doesn’t want to look back. Lots of young artists or designers simply imitate trends. Once the trend is gone, they are gone, too. They don’t look inside themselves, so they lack creativity.