Interview with Harmony Gold's Creative Director Tommy Yune

by Wassabogen from Robotech Union @ China

Tommy Yune first worked in an official capacity for the Robotech universe by helping design for its launch in 2001. He has since come aboard as Harmony Gold's creative director and oversees new development, including Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles which completed production in 2006.

Wasserbogen Drache, from Robotech Union @ China, interviewed with Tommy Yune on 8th May, 2008 on the issues of Robotech comics, the future of Robotech, as well as his own career.



Wasserbogen Drache : Would you mind tell us about your career before you came on board Harmony Gold? Did you have any exciting art work from the 'pre-HG' period that you would like to share with us? How has Robotech affected your life and career?

Tommmy Yune: During the 1990s, I worked as a designer on a few series of early CD-ROM video games such as The Journeyman Project and FX Fighter. Some of my robotic designs were influenced by the work of Mospeada co-creator Shinji Aramaki who I have always greatly admired. I left the video game industry when an opportunity arose for me to work on a new comic series for Speed Racer, one of my favorite childhood television series. I was originally considered as an artist because of my knowledge of the series, but editor Scott Dunbier really liked the story I had written for the main character whose origin had never before been explained. I was given a good degree of creative freedom and the comic introduced a new style to DC Comics that had not been seen before. When I was looking for my next comic project, I looked to Robotech, which was animated by Tatsunoko, the studio that had also produced Speed Racer. I did not realize the relationship between the series at first, but it became clear to me later that many of my favorite series such as Speed Racer, Gatchaman, and Robotech were from the same studio.

WD: Which part or parts of creating comics you would feel you are the best at? Is it design, sketch, coloring or all of them? Do you usually complete the whole work all by yourself, or you have many assistants to help, which is very common among the comic authors nowadays? Which way do you prefer?

TY: My favorite part is composition, a combination of story writing and arrangement of the scenes because this is what I feel is the most important part of storytelling. In animation, this is covered by the storyboarding phase. I also enjoy the final phase of coloring and polish for the sense of accomplishment in completing a work. It was easier for me to do more when I was younger, unmarried, had fewer responsibilities, and not much need for sleep. With many simultaneous projects, I certainly do rely on many talented people who collaborate in the volume of work that we have. It is enticing to maintain complete control of every step, but it is more important to be able to delegate to be efficient.

A sketch and game model of a robot from The Journeyman Project game by Tommy Yune.Click for larger image.

Cover of Speed Racer & Racer X: The Origins Collection, a compilation of the comic series created by Tommy Yune and Jo Chen that was released just in time for the Speed Racer movie.Click for larger image.

WD: Why did you choose Udon Studios? How was your work relationship with them? Was there any substantial difference between your style which has some oriental touch and their pure western style? If the difference did exist, how did you strike a balance between the two styles?

TY: The Udon Studios artists had a visual style that was also influenced by anime, so I felt that their artwork was very compatible with my own. We had a very good working relationship and I respected the unique style of each individual artist. I remember Takeshi Miyazawa had the style that was closest to true Japanese manga, while Long Vo and Omar Dogan captured a look that was much closer to that of anime cels. Because everyone shared a common affection for the Robotech television series, I felt that clarity of storytelling was more important than the specific visual style.

WD: As a fan who works in creative design field, I myself am totally aware of the difficulty of creating new work under the immense influence of the old work, which requires not only keeping the well-known characteristics from the old work, but also introducing new spots of light. And we all like the 'new appearance' of the 'old characters', especially Minmei and Dana, who looked fresh and natural more then ever, my question is how did you manage to achieve this?

TY: With still images, the artist has a greater luxury of time to devote more time to visual detail than is practical for ordinary animation. We try to keep up to date with design trends in anime, but it is important to strike a balance with the classic designs so that characters remain recognizeable to the audience. I try to focus on the expressiveness of the eyes and mouth because an important detail that audiences remember from characters is a sense of emotion.

WD: After you came onboard the world of Robotech, do you plan to add or have you already added some more elements that are deeply rooted from the oriental world? such as philosophy or value?

TY: I think an important element of Robotech since the original series is the element of emotional growth, where the main character overcomes personal shortcomings and learns a sense of responsibility to support his fellow comrades. I feel that Robotech has been successful in many countries because this is a common virtue across many cultures. Some fans question why I put characters through such difficult situations in some stories; I feel that overcoming a seemingly insurmountable and emotional challenge is the best way to explore the inner soul of a person.

Jo Chen's line art from Little White Dragon.Click for larger image.

Dana's comparison sketch by Tommy Yune,the older Dana Sterling was used for Robotech: Love & War and Robotech: Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles.Click for larger image.

Tomm Yune with Jo Chen(center) and George Takei (Star Trek, Heroes) .Click for larger image.

WD: When you first started the Robotech comics, have you had a broad picture of the development in the Robotech world? The 4 published comics series (From the Stars, Love and War, Invasion and Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles) all supplemented the TV series or the movie with untold details or stories. How did you choose the standing point for each story? Can you provide some detail about that?

TY: Fans of the Macross Saga wanted to relive events from that past series, but I didn't want to simply recycle story elements exactly as people had seen them before in the television episode. So I worked with the comic writers to create stories that filled gaps and provided additional details to beyond what was seen on television. For example, in the first episode of Robotech, 10 years passes by within the first few minutes of narration. I felt this would be a good time to explore more about the background of young Roy Fokker and his early experiences in VF-1 program before the arrival of Rick Hunter. This became the foundation of the plot for Robotech: From the Stars. I also felt Lancer was an interesting story to cover for Robotech: Invasion because he was another soldier like Scott, but he had already been on Earth for a long time before him.

WD: RTUCN interviewd Ms Jo Chen in 2005, where she mentioned you have appointed her to create 'Little White Dragon'. Why did you decide to push forward this story, is there any special meaning in Robotech world?

TY: I previously worked with Jo Chen on Racer X, her first comic series in the United States. She is an extremely talented artist and I felt that her familiarity with Chinese culture would benefit the story of Little White Dragon, which was seen only as a movie in the Macross Saga television episodes. I felt this would be an interesting blend of the style of Chinese martial arts cinema within the Robotech universe. Some fans were curious about the mysterious ending in which Dolza mentioned that a Zentraedi vessel was lost about 1000 years ago in the same area. This is a subtle reference to the story of the movie, in which legends that are passed down through the years often have a seed of truth in the past. (We meant to imply that the lost Zentraedi ship in the year 999 became the source of the legend of the giant that appeared in the story of the film.)

WD: Do you have any recent plan to publish a new comic series? If so, which period of the timeline will it belong to?

TY: We are definitely working on developing new stories for comics. We understand that there are many fans who would love to see us revisit the Macross Saga or expand on the Shadow Chronicles, so it will be a challenging decision of which one to pursue first.

WD: Since the press release of the live action movie, all the fans around the world have been waiting impatiently for more information. There had been news saying the production company was negotiating with first-line actors or actresses regarding the roles. How will HG push WB for this project? Will it be a 3-hour movie?

TY: We are very excited that the live action movie rights are now at Warner Brothers. This is the right company with the right resources to make a great Robotech film. Unfortunately, I can't go into any more detail than that at this time.

WD: Last year Mr. Kevin Mckeever came to Hangzhou, China for the 3rd Chinese International Cartoon and Animation Festival (CICAF) representing Harmony Gold. Do you have any new consideration about the Chinese market after this event? Will you come to China for similar event?

TY: I think China is the important emerging market of this century and will also be a significant factor in the production of new animated entertainment that will be seen around the world. I would love to visit China when the time is right.

WD: This is a question somewhat personal. I am a big fan of Dana and Zor, would you mind give out some info on them? Will Dana appear in any of the new works, either comics, TV series or movies? As the initiator of the Protoculture, will Zor come back in one form or another in future?

TY: I am also a big fan of these characters and it is interesting the great influence these two have on the Robotech universe even in their absence. One of my favorite designs is the older Dana Sterling that was not used in the Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles movie, but was seen in the Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles comic series. I would definitely like to explore more stories about them in the future.

WD: I'm very glad to have this interview with you today. Thank you very much for your time and informative answers.

Left:Old photo of Tommy Yune and Carl Macek (the producer of Robotech in 1985). Right:Tommy Yune and Dong Wook Lee (the other director of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles). Click for larger image.

(c)2001-2045 Robotech Union @ China: All Rights Reserved