10-year-old Perry Chen, prodigy in the making
At 10-years-old the budding animator and world famous film critic, Perry Chen, has only begun to share his talents with the world. The young San Diegan with an extraordinary imagination has already gained recognition from famous animators, bi-cultural foundations and film festivals worldwide.
As a fourth grade student at Torrey Hills School, Chen has begun to branch out from what launched his career, and is now critiquing movies and other entertainment. Chen met Bill Plympton, twice-Oscar-nominated animator for “The Fan and The Flower,” one of Chen’s favorite movies, at Comic-Con International in San Diego in 2009.
Now although Chen has found his calling, writing movie critiques, the young talent is also an artist at heart. He was able to demonstrate his drawing talent for Plympton, and soon Chen got the opportunity to pursue a chance to animate. With his mother Zhu Shen’s help Perry attracted two major corporate partners: Wacom, the leading computer tablet maker to donate its tablet, and Toon Boom, a leading animation software developer to provide its software for Chen’s animation film. Shen, the executive producer of the animation, will soon lead a fund-raising campaign for the project to get communities involved.
“I’ve always liked to draw ever since I was 3-years-old. I began making up my own unique style of drawing- I started doing a lot of creative projects in pre-school,” Chen said enthusiastically as he described his upcoming role in helping to animate “Beyond the Forest,” an educational short about a young Jewish girl, Ingrid Pitt, who survived the Holocaust, slated to premiere in 2011. “I’m honored to be a part of this project to help educate today’s children about the Holocaust.”
In Chen’s spare time he creates shapes of animals from foil, origami paper, twist tie, and wax, has designed his own greeting cards and has even written poems in Chinese and English. He claims to be most inspired by nature, and loves nature walks as well as going to the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park.
Shen said, “Perry has a tremendous imagination that goes in all directions. He could make anything into art.”
The busy young man has gathered awards from many different organizations such as: the Excellent Writer Award from “We Chinese in America,” Cox Communications 2010 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Honoree, Vic Kops Children’s Challenge Award in the arts category, and most recently two art awards at the 2010 San Diego County Fair.
Chen and his parents make school his first priority. He excels at reading, writing, speaking, math, and sciences. Screenings and events that he is invited to don’t usually interfere with his school schedule.
As a film critic Chen has managed to grow in an enormous way from his first piece. In the third grade his teacher Joli Harris told his mother that he was decoding words at a high school level and needed to be challenged. His mother thought writing reviews would be a great way to challenge him. He began reviewing books and then his mother decided, “why not movie reviews?”
It all began with the movie “Charlottes’ Web,” and ever since he has been expanding his insight and critiquing has allowed his level of writing to really flourish. Chen and Shen have created a kid-friendly way of ranking the movies he reviews, by starfish. So what constitutes a high ranking on the 1-5 starfish scale?
“I look for colorful visuals, rich characters, interesting story lines, and powerful moral,” Chen said.
Some of his favorite movies being: The Princess & the Frog, Azur & Asmar, Charlotte’s Web, The Perfect Game, Up, The Fan & the Flower, How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3, and The Secret of Kells.
Being at such a young age, Chen is able to reach an audience adults simply cannot. He has become a spokesperson for kids his age. His reviews actively engage the audience and help other kids understand the moral lessons within movies while also discussing and learning valuable lessons in life.
Chen is “very adamant about his opinion” said Shen. He never takes notes while watching a movie and is able to pick up on specific details that many adults would have missed. After a movie, Chen and his mother go over all the scenes and important details. As Chen grows as a critic, he is able to relate the material from the movie to his own life experiences, bettering his understanding.
With all the attention he has been getting, Chen doesn’t let it go to his head, and it doesn’t seem to bother his friends either.
“I give special press screening tickets to my friends for movies they might like,” Chen said as he explained a lot of times he makes new friends at the junkets and festivals he goes to and many of his friends visit his website.
What’s in store for the witty critic? “I see myself as a director or an animator,” Chen said.
Chen just came back from the annual Los Angeles Film Festival in June 2010 as the youngest credentialed journalist, where he charmed directors, stars, adult critics, and audience alike on the red carpet and post-screening Q&A, with his unique starfish rating and thought-provoking questions. To the Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim (who directed “An Inconvenient Truth”) on his new documentary “Waiting for Superman,” about the broken public educational system in America, after proclaiming the film is as good as “Up,” Chen asked, “Since the U.S. is lagging far behind in children’s education, what can the students do to catch up?” Director Guggenheim responded in good-natured humor: “First of all, you’re very impressive. I always thought it’s important to be nice to the critics. Can I get you a drink?” Guggenheim said that students can do a lot by demanding great schools, great teachers and great principals. Chen was invited by Jonah Hill, the star of Cyrus, to join him and the cast & crew of Cyrus on stage during the film’s premiere where Perry gave his 4 starfish rating to a cheering crowd.
Chen asked the last question after the world premiere of “One Lucky Elephant,” a moving documentary about the life of the circus elephant Flora and her owner who tried to find a good “home” for her to retire to. “Why are humans so ignorant of animals’ feelings and emotions?” Chen became instant friends with director Lisa Leeman and producer Cristina Colissimo with whom he had one-on-one interviews. They hope that through Chen’s interviews and reviews, children can take actions to protect elephants and other animals in their wild habitat.
The San Diego Entertainer is featuring Chen’s reviews monthly, starting in July, including movies, restaurants, and family-friendly entertainment. During Comic-Con on Saturday, July 24, 2010, the first four episodes of “Perry’s Previews Webseries” will be officially launched at the ICON event held at the Horton Plaza Event Center (show time 11:30 am and 3:30 pm, followed by a panel discussion where Chen and his mother Zhu Shen and other filmmakers are invited to speak at 4:25 pm). The webseries feature Perry’s “How to Train Your Dragon” press junket interviews with directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, and voice talents Jay Baruchel (Hiccup), America Ferrera (Astrid), and Craig Ferguson (Gobber). Viewers can watch the Webseries on YouTube, Perry’s Previews Facebook fan page, and Perry’s website after the launch. Also, fans can sign up to receive the latest information about Perry Chen including his movie reviews, guest appearences, interviews and animation releases. By signing up you will also be entered for special promotions and a chance to win prizes and passes to special film screenings.
Chen also plans on spending summer break working on the animations for “Beyond the Forest” and looks forward to meeting Bill Plympton and director Kevin Sean Michaels at Comic-Con July 22-25. He is invited to be a judge at the San Diego International Children’s Film Festival (www.sdchildrensfilm.org, July 25 – August 15) to vote for winning films after his popular debut there last year when he welcomed a Chinese children’s film delegation and spoke to the audience about his journey as a young film critic.
Chen will interview biotech CEO and entrepreneur John Crowley at the July 29 TiE event (www.sandiego.tie.org) where Crowley will speak about his inspirational journey to find treatment for his children’s rare genetic disorder (The 2010 movie “Extraordinary Measures” starring Brendon Fraser and Harrison Ford was based on his story). Chen is also invited to speak to high school students on August 3, 2010 at the University of San Diego’s “Blazing My Trail” summer program that teaches students to create their own opportunities and build personal success and independence.
Also in the works is a non-profit organization focusing on education through movies and entertainment for kids, where Chen will help other children learn to write movie reviews and develop analytical and critical thinking skills.
The opportunities Chen has been offered and plans for the future seem to be just getting started. He has been able to introduce a new world to kids his age and inspire them to take on journeys of their own by using imagination and creativity doing what they love.