Shin Dong-hun Animation Collection [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - South Korea - Korean Film Archive/Blue Kino
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (12th January 2024).
The Film

“Shin Dong-hun Animation Collection”

In 2016, the Korean Film Archive’s released a DVD set of two cell animated feature films directed by Shin Dong-hun. At the end of 2023, they upgraded the set to Blu-ray with new 4K restorations and additional extras.

“A Story of Hong Gil-dong” <홍길동> (1967)

The powerful politician minister Hong (voiced by Lee Chun-sa) is having a birthday celebration when he is visited by a fortune teller who tells him in secret that the Hong family has a distressing future. Minister Hong is told that his illegitimate son Gil-dong (voiced by Kim Su-il) will cause calamity if kept as part of the family. As the minister decides that the future of his entire family is more important than that of one who could bring everything down, he heartbreakingly tells Gil-dong that he is no longer part of the family and must leave the following day. The teenaged Gil-dong is devastated by the news, and even worse is that he finds out the fortune is a lie - as it was due to his father’s wife Lady Choran, who paid a fortune teller to give the news so the illegitimate son would be disowned. Rather than fight back, he decides to journey out into the world where he first encounters a young bandit who tries to rob him.

The young bandit is Chadol Bawi (voiced by Kim Sun-won) who started robbing after the death of his father, who was killed by the evil local magistrate Um Ga-jin (voiced by Yeom Seok-ju). The magistrate is a money hungry man who taxes the locals at high rates and gives severe beatings to those who cannot comply. After hearing the story, Hong-gil decides to help Chadol Bawi by getting revenge on the magistrate. With his strong martial arts background, Hong-gil is able to take down the magistrate’s guards singlehandedly and also embarrassingly beats the magistrate easily. With the riches and property distributed back to the local people, Hong-gil becomes a bandit hero for the people, but this does not bode well for the beaten magistrate who will do whatever it takes to get his own revenge…

The character of Hong Gil-dong is one of the most well known characters in Korean literature as a hero for the common people. The original novel, the first to be written in the currently adopted Hangul Korean letters, was written in the 16th or 17th century with a very similar tone to Robin Hood - of robbing the rich to help the poor and with “Journey to the West” - a tale of adventures and misadventures filled with mysticism and the unknown. It seems fitting that the very first animated feature length production for South Korea would be about one of their most beloved characters.

Shin Dong-hun worked as an illustrator and cartoonist and later as an animator starting in 1960. The Se Ki Company was a theatrical distributor who made huge profits with Disney animated films in South Korea, and they approached Shin Dong-hun after seeing his production company’s animated work for commercial advertisements. Shin chose to make a film about Hong Gil-dong, as the character is very well known and also because his brother Shin Dong-u illustrated an original series of Hong Gil-dong comics in a weekly newspaper with new adventures and new characters. In 1965 tests for production started but it was a grueling effort of trial and error. Celluloid film was not available in South Korea at the time, but they were able to obtain alternative vinyl material from the US military for a cheap price. A staff of thirty inexperienced people worked on the film for nearly two years, using equipment and materials that they had never used before, working on a script with constant revisions, and constantly working under tiring conditions. The finished film was completed and screened in theaters on January 21st 1967 and was a huge success. Children flocked to the theaters as well as adults, seeing for the first time a full cell animated feature film made by Koreans for Koreans with a Korean story.

Shin said that the very first animated feature he had ever watched was Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” after World War II and it shows that early Disney animation had been a significant influence on “A Story of Hong Gil-dong”. The animals like the baby tiger scene and the pig wearing the guard’s clothing are reminiscent of Disney animals in the features as well as the short subjects, with slight anthropomorphic elements - though no singing or talking. The scene of the skeletons dancing and the bats flying in the mysterious cave is similar to that of the landmark Disney short “The Skeleton Dance” (1929), although in this film, the skeletons dance to a surf-guitar based 60s instrumental. The fight scenes are like the early sound cartoons of Disney and Warner shorts, with lots of repeated animation for the hundreds of bandits and guards running and battling. The technique seems extremely outdated in terms of worldwide 1960s animation, with Disney leading the way in America and Toei leading theatrical animation in Japan. The characters are fully expressed with body language from eyes popping out, necks moving back and forth, and constant movement, rather than still performances seen in many cheaper television animation works with only mouths being replaced.

As for the story, with a short runtime of only 67 minutes, it’s amazing how much story is crammed into the finished film. This is a slightly negative point as it moves from one plot point to another so quickly that it barely gives time for characterization and environment. But people were already familiar with Gil-dong, and modern audiences who read the comics knew of Chadol Bawi - who was not in the original story but was an addition to the comic version created by Shin Dong-u.

“A Story of Hong Gil-dong” was an important part of South Korean cinema history but unfortunately was forgotten for a 40 year period as the original Korean film prints were lost and only soundtrack elements survived. It was in 2008 that two film prints were discovered in Japan - one in Kobe and one in Tokyo. They were both 16mm prints that were dubbed in Japanese and added Japanese credit sequences. The Japanese print was resynched to the Korean language soundtrack and a new 35mm element was created. The new master was restored in 2K and now has been given new life by the Korean Film Archive for future generations to see the long lost film.

”Hopi and Chadol Bawi” <호피와 차돌바위> (1967)

Chadol Bawi is on his own again after Hong Gil-dong is off to study, which leaves him eager to learn swordfighting to be as great as Hong Gil-dong was. While trying to sleep in the forest, a band of wolves try to attack him. Only armed with his little axe, he does not have a fighting chance of survival. Though he gets knocked out, a mysterious man takes down all the wolves and saves the unconscious Chadol Bawi. In town, Chadol Bawi learns that there is a powerful swordsman as fast as lightning named Hopi, who is a wanted man by the local government. As he is certain that Hopi was the one that saved him from the wolves, he sets off on a journey to find the wanted man and to learn swordfighting from him.

Along the way, he meets a fat bandit named Gomsoe who becomes a very useful ally, they meet the men who are trying to capture Hopi dead or alive, and the lovely Goeun - a woman who believes in the two boys rather than the men of power. Why is Hopi a wanted man? And what do the men in power want from him?

Following the massive success of ”A Story of Hong Gil-dong”, Shin Dong-hun productions was under pressure to make a follow-up film. But due to arguments and turmoil with Se Ki Productions, director Shin Dong-hun decided to produce a sequel elsewhere - this time with Hapong Films. As the animators learned what to do and what not to do, the process was much smoother but was still under heavy pressure from the film company to make a feature as fast as possible. Since the follow-up film was to be produced by a differing company, Shin avoided copyright issues by NOT including the main character of Hong Gil-dong in the sequel, but this time using the characters solely created by Shin Dong-u - Hopi the wanted swordsman, Gomsoe the fat bandit were new additions while Chadol Bawi from the first film would be the only recurring character from the first.

The film was more fine-tuned compared to the first. The pacing of the story was much better with time given to each of the characters and scenarios - the editing was much better and there are better character connections. Like the first film, there is good vs. evil, an adventure filled with magic and swordsplay, and fun characters throughout. As most of the animators were the same as on the first film, the artwork was still in the same world, with beautiful colors, great backgrounds, and character movements. Nothing in the sequel is particularly upgraded in terms of technology, but one particular point that is amazing to think is that “Hopi and Chadol Bawi” was completed and released theatrically only 5 months after the first film. The film premiered in August 1967 and was a hit just like its predecessor. Unfortunately for Shin, the pressures of film distributors overseeing the productions and time constraints made things extremely difficult. The number of staff involved along with the production costs were overwhelming. After only two feature length films, Shin stepped down from directing features and concentrated on animated shorts, television work, and other work. Shin’s production company’s early animators would go on to further work in the future in the west, notably Kim Dae-jung who worked on shows such as ”The Real Ghost Busters” and Nelson Shin who directed the 1986 “Transformers Movie” and supervised animation on “The Simpsons”.

South Korean animation has not had a very large success on film screens compared to that of Japan or America, but many Japanese and American animation productions have their animation work outsourced to South Korea with a large number of production companies currently based there. Ironically most of the Korean animators working these days could not watch and experience the earliest Korean animation features because there was no way to see them. With this DVD release from the Korean Film Archive, future generations will finally be able to see this important turning point in Korean film history with Shin Dong-hun’s animated features. 1967 was a turning point for Korean animation, which was previously only seen in the likes of educational shorts and commercials, etc. Within one year, there were two full length cell animated features, as well as the stop-motion animated feature "Heungbu and Nolbu" from director Gang Tae-ung, as well as the short film "Korean Alphabet" by director Kim In-tae for the National Film Board of Canada. Unfortunately the films have been difficult to see for many years, especially in the case of "A Stoy of Hong-gil Dong" which was a lost film for nearly 40 years in its native country. It's thankful that the Korean Film Archive were able to reconstruct the film for a restoration and eventual DVD release in 2016, and was during the lifetime of Shin Dong-hun, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 90 years old. Now with both of his features receiving 4K restorations and a Blu-ray release, it's time for future generations to experience two very important works in Korean film history.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray set


The Korean Film Archive / Blue Kino presents both features in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in 1080p AVC MPEG-4.

"A Story of Hong Gil-dong" as stated earlier was a lost film for nearly 40 years with the original Korean film prints missing in its home country. Only the 17.5mm sound negative survived. Nearly four decades after the film was first screened in South Korea, two 16mm film prints were discovered at the Planet Biblioteque archives in Kobe and at Digital Meme in Tokyo respectively, which were film prints that were screened in schools for educational purposes. The Japanese version had all the dialogue dubbed into Japanese, as well as including new opening credits in Japanese with a text prologue, plus a "The End" card at the end of the film in Japanese. Those were the only changes made from the original film. Not long after the discovery of the two prints, a 16mm dupe negative of the Japanese version discovered by Minoru Oshida of the Nitto Film Company, a leading distributor of 16mm film in Japan during the 1960s and 1970s. As the element was closer in generation to the original Korean version, it was in better condition than the two film prints. The collected elements were the basis of the 2K restoration, which was then released on DVD in 2016. For its 4K restoration, the Korean Film Archive went further with its restoration. First was reconstructing the title cards. The originals were missing so the text was recreated using the font from the posters. The background was recreated using the Japanese maroon colored background, with newly created Korean credits overlayed. This was also the case for the end credit of "The End" being newly recreated in Korean. The opening text prologue, which was seemingly added to the Japanese print was removed entirely. A slight layer of film grain was added to the credits to make sure the image was consistent with the rest of the film. There was little information that was received from the original film's staff, as most had passed away or were elderly and didn't remember what the credits looked like, so the restorers had to do some guesswork for creating the credits. In addition, the 4K restoration which was completed in 2021 by KOFA and Image Power Station was a laborious one as the cell animated film had defects and issues that were different from a standard feature film. Digital tools would sometimes remove parts of the animation as there would be frame by frame inconsistencies due to the hand printed methods, so manual techniques had to be applied to make sure that scratches and other damage from the film itself would be removed, and original errors such as dust within the cells would be left alone. In comparison to the previous 2K restoration on DVD, the Blu-ray's restoration looks even better, with generally bolder colors, a much more stable image, and less damage marks being present. Like a few other KOFA transfers in the 1.33:1 ratio, the image is slightly windowboxed, with slight black bars on the top and bottom.

The runtime for ”A Story of Hong Gil-dong” is 66:48, which includes restoration text in Korean and English at the start, which has some grammar errors ("the original film was missed") and spelling errors ("Japaness"). It also states the sound restoration was from the 35mm negative and print, which is incorrect as the original 17.5mm sound negative was the element used. There are also discrepancies with the year, as the booklet states the prints were found in 2007, the Blu-ray restoration text states 2008, and the DVD restoration text states 2009.

"Hopi and Chadol Bawi" was not a lost film and the original negative elements were stored at the Korean Film Archive. The 4K restoration by KOFA and Image Power Station was completed in 2021. As the restoration came from the original 35mm negative, the quality between the first film and this film is like night and day, The image looks incredibly sharp, colors are very vibrant, and image stability is excellent throughout. Like the first film, the restoration techniques were a combination of digital and analog, making sure that original flaws in the animation were kept intact, which film damage was removed. It is also a major step up from the DVD release, with a much better looking restoration and is absolutely pleasing from start to finish. One unfortunate point is that the original negative of the film did not include the original credits. The opening where the text was to be overlayed is missing, so the film’s first minute is a static shot with music only. If the subtitle key is turned on, the credits will appear in subtitle form. Unlike the first film, the opening credits were not reconstructed for the 4K restoration. Due to the credits being missing, it is also unfortunate that the voice cast listing is unknown. While there are records of the animation staff, the names of the actors who lent their talents have been lost to time.

The runtime of "Hopi and Chadol Bawi" is 74:27 which includes restoration text in Korean and English at the start, which doesn't have any spelling issues, but the grammar could have been better in one sentence ("Most of the sound was used the sound film negative").


Korean LPCM 1.0
Both films feature the original Korean audio in uncompressed mono. Both films had their soundtracks restored from the original negative, with some portions coming from secondary elements. In comparison to the previous audio restorations on the DVD release, a lot has been improved. Damage such as hiss, pops, crackle have been removed, voices are much clearer, and music has more depth than it had before. Another major step up compared to the previous restoration.

There are optional English, Japanese, Korean subtitles in a white font for both features. They are well timed and easy to read. There was one point in the original film in which Chadol Bawi's name was misspelled, though the rest seemed to be fine with spelling and grammar.


This is a two disc set with "A Story of Hong Gil-dong" on the first disc (25GB) and "Hopi and Chadol Bawi" on the second disc (50GB).


Audio commentary by Noh Gyeong-mu (film director) and Huh Nam-woong (film critic)

Presented here is a newly recorded commentary by animator Noh Gyeong-mu with film critic Huh Nam-woong. Unfortunately it has not been subtitled for non-Korean speakers.
in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Audio commentary by Yeon Sang-ho (film director) and Na Ho-won (animation critic)
Yeon Sang-ho, the director of animated features such as “The King of Pigs” (2011) and “Seoul Station” (2016) talks with critic Na Ho-won about the landmark film. The two discuss about the rediscovery of the Japanese prints, the differences between the original comic and the film, and the varying animation styles used. Note this was previously released on the 2016 DVD set.
in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English, Korean subtitles

"The General's Mustache" (1968) animation sequence directed by Shin Dong-hun (3:04)
"The General's Mustache" was a live action film directed by Lee Seong-gu in 1968. One narrated sequence of the film was animated by Shin Dong-hun and is presented here in full. The sequence is slightly blurry in shots, but colors look good, and there are minimal dust and specs. Compared with the transfer of the full length film in the Lee Seong-gu Collection DVD set, it looks identical.
in 480i MPEG-2, in 2.35:1, in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English, Korean subtitles

Jinro Soju 1962 commercial (1:02)
In 1960 and 1963, Shin Dong-hun was commissioned by the Jinro drink company to create two animated commercials. Presented here is the 1962 commercial, which is in black and white featuring singing and dancing sailors while drinking soju. The source is quite poor, with a blurry picture with numerous scratches, and having crackly and muffled audio.
in 480i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Let's Catch the Rat" 1959 short by Kim Yeong-gweon (1:18)
Produced for the Public Information Bureau, this animated short features a man dealing with a rat problem, as the rodent is eating all his food and growing into an immense size. The solution is rat poison and making sure they don't spread to surrounding areas. The image is in black and white which is in fairly good shape, though the audio is a bit on the crackly side.
in 1080i60 AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, Music Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"A Nice Country to Live In, My One Vote" 1960 short by Shin Dong-hun (3:14)
Again produced by the Public Information Bureau, this animated short by Shin is about voting, which warns of voter intimidation and also remembering to get to the polls on time. The black and white image is fairly sharp and stable, though some damage is visible and there is a notable hiss in the audio.
in 1080i60 AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Hong Gil-dong Opening Credits Restoration Comparison" featurette (2:04)
A side by side comparison of the opening film credits and end credits of the Japanese version that survives with the newly created Korean credits for the film is presented here.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Digital Restoration: Before & After" featurette (3:16)
Presented here are side by side comparisons of clips before and after restoration. Color correction was already applied, and so these demonstrations are focusing on eliminating dust, scratches, and debris as well as image stability. This only focuses on the image quality so the clips are presented in silent form.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, with English & Korean text

Image Gallery
Presented are eight stills that include storyboards, conceptual art, an unused poster design (with a very different looking Hong Gil-dong), a theatrical poster, a still of the film crew, and a still of the director.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4


Audio commentary by Kim Bo-sol (film director) and Huh Nam-woong (film critic)

This newly recorded commentary features animator Kim Bo-sol, director of the animated short films "Home" (2019) and the "Hopi and Chadol Bawi" remake short found in the extras on this disc is joined by film critic Huh Nam-woong here, but again it is unfortunate that it hasn't been subtitled for non-Korean speakers.
in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Interview with director Shin Dong-hun (72:15)
This feature length interview film was made over the course of four meetings between May 20th and June 16th 2008 with the director by the Korean Film Archive. The director talks about his family life such as being the 5th brother in a family of 7 brothers, his father being a calligrapher, and being interested in illustration. He happened to be classmates with influential film director Shin Sang-ok in middle school and he has many interesting stories about Shin Sang-ok as a troubling student. He also gets into his life as an illustrator, artist, and eventually animator working on advertisements and then on the features. He shares a lot of information on the animation process, the troubles in production, and how he became disillusioned with the feature film business altogether. A very fascinating talk. Note this was previously released on the 2016 DVD release.
in 480i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in Korean with optional English, Korean subtitles

"Hopi and Chadol Bawi (director Kim Bo-sol): A Reinterpretation of Classic Animation" short (4:01)
This computer animated 2D short from Kim Bo-sol is more or less a reimagined prologue to "Hopi and Chadol Bawi, featuring an intense fight training sequence with Hopi and his master.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"The Ant and the Grasshopper" 1961 short by Park Yeong-il (4:58)
Produced by the National Film Production Center, this color short is a short adaptation of the classic Aesop fable with little dialogue. The transfer here is a bit dark and has some scratches, speckles, and wobble. The sound is in better condition though.
in 1080i60 AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Live within Your Means" 1964 short by Nelson Shin (2:25)
Produced by the National Film Production Center, this short features the misadventure of two frogs flowing down a river. The short is in black and white and has some damage marks as well as some hiss and pops in the audio.
in 1080i60 AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Digital Restoration: Before & After" featurette (3:08)
Presented here are side by side comparisons of clips before and after restoration. Like the first film’s comparison, color correction was already applied, and so these demonstrations are focusing on eliminating dust, scratches, and debris as well as image stability. And again, this only focuses on the image quality so the clips are presented in silent form.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, with English & Korean text

Image Gallery
Presented are 5 stills of storyboards from the film.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

A 96 page biligual Korean and English book is included. There are film credits for both features with a synopsis for each, followed by a director's biography and filmography. The first essay is "The Six Footprints Left by Shin Dong-hun" by animation researcher Na Ho-won which looks at the director's two film and the state of Korean animation in its infancy. Next there are lengthy notes on the Blu-ray restoration of "A Story of Hong Gil-dong" by KOFA's Kim Kiho along with useful diagrams on the elements used. There are also contemporary newspaper writings regarding the two films and there are notes on the animated shorts found in the extras in this set. Finally, there are stills such as storyboards, concept images, posters, and more, which was also found in the photo galleries on the discs themselves.

While the booklet is thicker and has a lot more content than the DVD release's booklet (which has some different essays), the translation quality seems to be poorer than usual. They are intelligible, but could have had better translation done. In comparison to previous booklet entries from KOFA, it is a step down in quality.

The set ports over all the extras from the 2016 DVD release and adds a lot more. One extra that was missing from the DVD and also missing from the Blu-ray set is the animated opening sequence of the film "Horse Year Bride" from 1966, which was animated by Shin Dong-hun. The film is available on KOFA's "Kim Kee-duk Collection" DVD boxset, so it's odd that it has been omitted from this new set.


The discs are packaged in a foldout Digipack case which also holds two postcards, featuring poster art for the two films. The case along with the book are housed in a slipcase, labeled as #32 on the spine. The packaging mistakenly claims the sound is Dolby Digital for both films and the aspect ratios for the films being 16:9.


"Shin Don-hun Animation Collection" on Blu-ray is a major upgrade from the 2016 DVD release with new 4K restoration transfers of both the director's features plus additional extras being included. It is unfortunate again that the new extras are not English friendly and that the booklet (and restoration text screens) have some not-so-good English translations, though the quality of the films and the restorations are top notch here, including the subtitles for the film themselves being near perfect. The set still comes as highly recommended.

Note both films in restored form are available to watch for free (with optional English subtitles) on KOFA's Animation YouTube channel:
- "The Story of Hong Gil-dong"
- "Hopi and Chadol Bawi"

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: A- Overall: A-


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