About the Film
With little to no prior training, a home-made multiplanar camera, and perpetual resource scarcity, Shin Dong-hun managed to complete the impossible: he directed Korea’s first feature-length animated film. Uniquely Korean in character, but ubiquitously critical of class structure, 1967 film “The Story of Hong Gil-dong” follows folk hero Hong Gil-dong’s quest to right society’s wrongs. In over 125,000 cels barely spilling over one hour, Hong must endure dancing skeletons, intense training, and even a dragon to overcome the common enemy: the power-hungry civil officer who over-taxes his locale for his own gain.
The Robin Hood-like tale reportedly originates to Heo Gyun, a radical intellectual from around late 16th to early 17th century Korea. In the 1960s, director Shin’s brother Shin Dong-woo adapted the folktale into a comic-strip, of which Shin Dong-hun has worked from himself. His characterization of Hong Gil-dong follows that of the strip
Hong Gil-dong is the attractive, yet illegitimate son of a nobleman and lowly concubine. He is rarely seen alone however; teamed up with miniature partner Chadol Bawi, the two regularly tease the rich who exploit the poor. When the entire village gets punished for Hong Gil-dong’s latest stunt, however, the duo decide to draw the line. They set out to master the art of sword-fighting under a mysterious spirit-teacher, eventually rounding up their own army to properly finish off the corrupt magistrate once and for all.