Han Meilin Interview

March 11, 2009

The translated script of an interview on Olympic Mascots designer Han Meilin. (Beijing Times, November 3, 2005)

Han Meilin and the Friendlies
Han Meilin and the Fuwa. [Xinhua]

Reporter: How did you come out with the image of the Fuwa

Han: The Fuwa were based on the prototypes given to me by Mr. Wu Guanying from the Tsinghua University Fine Arts Institute. On February 2 on China’s lunar calendar (March 11, 2005), after spending a fruitless night on them, I couldn’t go on with my work. So I took a cold-water shower. While I was bathing, the idea flashed across my head – why not let these creatures wear headgears with animal characteristics.

Reporter: The athleticism is a core factor to Olympic mascots design. How did you handle this?

Han: After deciding on the primary look of the Fuwa, we went through a great amount sports materials, text and graphic, to draft the firendlies practicing different sports. Panda practices weightlifting; Tibetan antelope running; fish swimming ¡­etc. But when all the drafts were combined first, they looked a bit clumsy than we thought. It was from the images of Tibetan antelope that we finally drew inspirations to tackle this problem.

the friendlies, han meilin
The first draft Han Meilin drew for the Fuwa.

Reporter: How many changes did you make along the process?

Han: We all together have more than 4000 manuscripts inside the process and more than 60 changes were made to the prototypes.

Reporter: Styles may differ within a designing team. Were there any disputes?

Han: Sure. You may like a color others don’t like; you may favor a image others don’t favor. We used to think about the proposal of rattle-drum, but when a drum was added legs, it turned out somewhat unacceptable to me. So we dropped it.

Reporter: You were severely sick during the period?
Han: Yes, two times of heart-attack, but I was back after receiving emergent surgeries.

Reporter: How much did the Olympics organization committee pay for your work?
Han: I don’t want any payment, besides the copyright, but the committee rewarded me one yuan.


Other candidates for 2008 Olympics mascots

Reporter: Do you have regrets over the Fuwa?
Han: Yes. The biggest regret that held me now is that the Fuwa failed to embody the great art of Chinese calligraphy. We tried for thousands of times, but the results came out unsatisfactory.

Reporter: Among the five, which is your favorite?
Han: All these five were from my hands. I am like their father. There’s no preference inside me. But picking up the color for Nini (swallow) tortured my team really, so the color side of Nini is a bit unsatisfactory to us.

Reporters: Why do we have five mascots?
Han: It’s become a trend for mascots to appear not solely since the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Actually we had six mascots candidates – Panda, Tibetan antelope, golden monkey, Northeastern tiger (Siberian Tiger), rattle drum and China dragon, but none of the individual could completely embody the image of China’s Olympics along, so we got five.


Other candidates for 2008 Olympics mascots

Reporter: Where did the idea originate from?
Han: A folk artist painted five babies based on China’s traditional concept of Wuxing (the five factors making up the world), including gold, wood, water, fire and earth. Our impulse is from that. The real art is from the folks.

Reporter: Why is the dragon discarded?
Han: Dragon is too solemn. It represents the soul of Chinese nation. To making a dragon frolicking around would hurt its dignity. Besides, dragon has a different meaning in the west.

Reporter: Why swallow?

Han: We hope the dragon could be substituted with a bird. Crane and magpie (the propitious bird if translated literally into Chinese) were options favored by many, but crane is too slime to match others and magpie also has a different meaning. Then we think of the swallow, which often appeared on the covering of traditional kites in Beijing.

Original text found at: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/2008/2006-08/22/content_671363_2.htm

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