'Mother Land' marks first Korean feature-length stop-motion animation film released in 45 years

A reindeer is featured in the stop-motion animation film "Mother Land" [KOREA ACADEMY OF FILM ARTS]

“Mother Land” is a new Korean feature-length stop-motion animation film, the first such release in 45 years. It took over three years of finger-aching work to make.

The first stop-motion animation released since “Kongjui & Patchui” in 1978, the film centers on Krisha and her efforts to heal her mother from an illness. Her journey takes her on travels to an enchanted forest filled with mysterious creatures.

“I think it is a miracle in of itself that our film got to be released,” said Park Jae-beom, the director of “Mother Land,” during a press conference held at CGV Yongsan in Yongsan, central Seoul, on Tuesday.

“I hope that through our film many more people will get to know the diverse work that is being done in animation and stop-motion in Korea.”

The producers and main cast of ″Mother Land″ answer questions during a press conference after a screening of the film at CGV Yongsan in Yongsan District, central Seoul, on Tuesday. [LIM JEONG-WON]

Krisha is part of the Yates tribe, a people that live in the wild tundra region of an unnamed country. The tribe’s livelihood is threatened by a hostile government and forces that aim to destroy nature and exploit its resources.

When her mother falls ill, Krisha and her brother Kolya go on an adventure into the wild forest north of their habitat to find the mysterious “master of the forest,” a humongous bear with red eyes that can see and talk to spirits.

“The story is a confrontation between nature and industry, but I also thought that it is a reduced version of the world we live in naturally,” said director Park. “Even the antagonist, Lieutenant Vladimir, is not someone who believes that he is doing anything purely evil but thinks that he is serving his country.”

According to the producers, the toughest challenge in the production of the film was trying to exclude 3-D or CG effects as much as they could and stick to purely analog ways of production. Styrofoam was used to create snow and the aurora of the tundra was made using fabric.

Main poster for "Mother Land" [KOREAN ACADEMY OF FILM ARTS]

The message of the film isn’t something completely new but is still relevant, the producers said.

“Coexistence with nature is a timeless theme and expressed in many films before ours such as in 'Princess Mononoke' and most recently 'Avatar,'” said Park. “The idea that we should take from nature only as much as it is necessary was something that resonated with me.”

Korea has been sluggish in producing animation features, but that may change in the future with films like “Mother Land.” The government has also promised a 3-billion-won ($2.3 million) investment into animation starting this year.

“Mother Land” opens in theaters in Korea on Jan. 25 and is preparing for releases overseas sometime later in the year.