Siu Lon from Studio Mymu talks to us about the studio’s first iBook offering Mr. Fox and the Land Below. “When Mr Fox encounters unwanted guests one day, we are taken on an adventure to a mythical world under the earth’s surface. He must seek guidance from the only person who can save the earth from changing…”
Bianca Schulze: Mr. Fox and the Land Below draws on themes of friendship, teamwork and environmental issues. Can you give a little insight into why it was important for you to create a story based on these topics?
Siu Lon: The reason we made Mr Fox and the Land Below was to raise environmental issues and the importance of protecting the environment for the generations to come. We hope that through the book, our young readers will become aware that through our combined efforts we can make the future world a wonderful place to live and to explore.
BS: Your book is available for download on an iPad via iBooks 2 or later. How did you create the stunning artwork that captures the magical and traditional Ukiyo-e style of Japanese paintings combined with edgy and modern graphics?
SL: All the illustrations were created digitally, as we wanted to produce images that were cinematic in a way, something that we hadn’t seen much in other children’s books. We also wanted the illustrations to feel epic and grand, so as to create the feeling of being taken on a special journey from one world to another. We liked the idea of drawing the Land Below in a style very much representing something of the past, nostalgic and based on myth, whereas the world we live in today is far less stylised and recognisable.
BS: What came first for you: the artwork or the words? Or did they feed each other?
SL: We had the kernel of the story, but it was by no means complete, when we started the work. With us, the images come first. We make the story work around the imagery. Once the drawings were completed, we then started on the text, bridging the events on each page and building each character’s personality. Creating the book this way, you do not know what comes out until you actually make it.
BS: Could you tell us about developing the characters and why you selected to blend the worlds of animals, people, mythical creatures, and robots?
SL: That is a very interesting question. The blend of characters was used as an allegory, so as to get across various themes in the story. The robots are a metaphor for the rapid dominance of heavy industry and pollution that causes the ecological problems we face today. On the other hand, Mr Fox represents nature and the wildlife that is affected by the slow deterioration of the environment and finally, the little girl is the character the reader can relate to. We wanted the fantasy elements of the book to have a deeper meaning than they superficially appear to have. These elements are very much used to look at the world we inhabit in a different way.
BS: While I would consider Mr. Fox and the Land Below to be a modern cautionary tale that creates environmental awareness, it does behold a mythical essence. Which myths and legends from your childhood would you say have had the most impact on your creative mind?
SL: The myths and legends I would say that impacted most, were those found in the 16th century Chinese novel, Journey to the West. In English speaking countries, the tale is known as Monkey. Journey to the West has a strong background in Chinese folk religion, mythology and its value systems. The tale is at once an adventure story and an extended allegory in which the group of pilgrims journeying toward India represents individuals journeying towards enlightenment.
BS: What should we expect to see coming out of Studio Mymu next?
SL: We have just set up the website, www.studiomymu.com and we are preparing to work on a 2nd book.
BS: Is Studio Mymu your brainchild?
SL: Studio Mymu is my brainchild to bring together various creatives and to produce work under one umbrella name. There is a small team of creatives who produce the illustrations, story and production of the iBook.
BS: How long does it take you to create an iBook?
SL: Overall, the book took 6 months to create. The illustrations took 5 months to produce and then adding the words took a few weeks. To produce an actual iBook took around 2 weeks to make, using iBooks Author and then uploading it to the iBook Store.
BS: What words of advice would you offer to an author who may be considering publishing their work as an iBook?
SL: I would say get used to the technology and explore the possibilities it offers. In our next book, I hope to add more interactive and animated pages.
BS: As a parting note, is there anything you would like to share with your readers?
SL: I hope the readers of this interview share my enthusiasm for the book and enjoy reading it as much as we have had while making it.
For more information, visit: www.studiomymu.com
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