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[Herald Interview] Meet Big Hit’s creatives behind BTS-inspired TinyTAN

Sept. 4, 2020 - 17:16 By Kwon Yae-rim
A sketch made during the editing process of the “Mic Drop” performance (Big Hit Entertainment)
Ever since Big Hit Entertainment launched the BTS-inspired animated characters called TinyTAN about a month ago, the characters seem like they haven’t had a day of rest.

With their looks, behaviors and good-hearted influence modeled after the septet, the characters were recently featured in an advertisement for the fabric softener product Downy.

They also released a music video called “Magic Door,” where they sang and danced to “Mic Drop,” as well as launched an official Twitter account and made a surprise appearance in “Bang Bang Con: The Live” back in June.

Behind the scenes lies the Big Hit IP team, an independent subsidiary of Big Hit Entertainment that is in charge of planning and developing IP-related content.

The Korea Herald had the rare opportunity to speak with four creatives from Big Hit IP’s R&D studio – Ha Se-jung (chief producer), Ko Yoon-a (R&D planning team leader), Kim Ki-bin (art team leader) and Lee Min-kyu (CG team leader) – to discuss their motivations and processes behind the creation of TinyTAN.

Q. Big Hit has introduced various BTS-inspired animated characters since their debut including hip-hop monsters. What was the motivation behind creating them?

Ha: There were two big reasons for starting those projects. First, we wanted to provide more ways for fans to enjoy BTS music through characters and animation. Characters are freer and can express various things. We wanted to take advantage of that and create content that was only possible via imagination.

The second reason is that we wanted to expand our business models so that artists who need to focus on creative activities could focus on producing better music and preparing better performances. TinyTAN has been launched as various products and filmed a commercial recently. Revenue from these projects will be reinvested in artists to help them create better music and content.

Q. The characters’ appearances have continuously changed over each projects. Could you explain why you prefer variances over consistency?

Ha: Generally, in the animation market, it is important to maintain a single character. But this case is a bit different because the source of these characters is BTS members – the original IP – and BTS characters are extended IPs. Thus, we thought changing and upgrading characters’ appearances would be more entertaining.

Kim: While maintaining the original IP, we tried to express the characters in various ways to better convey the message and highlight the characters. In the recent video of TinyTAN, there is a narrative so the characters essentially need to act like actors but since they don’t say any lines, we developed their eyes, mouth and hair in 3D to convey sophisticated emotional expressions. On the other hand, in the “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal” MV or “Bang Bang Con: The Live” performance etiquette videos, the characters don’t deliver any narrative or dialogue, and because of the purpose of the video, they shouldn’t stand out too much. Depending on the situation, the character changes to be more suited to deliver the message.

An early sketch of BTS video calling with AR effects (Big Hit Entertainment)
Q. Where did you get the inspiration for stories in “Magic Door” and “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal”?

Ko: The inspiration mostly comes from BTS’ music, career and their interaction with fans. We try to capture how the band’s sincere messages touch their fans and what energy the band receives from their fans in return. The story of “Magic Door” tells us that the magic we need in our time is not anything brilliant, but rather empathy and comfort.

Q. What are the details of each member that you tried to capture in TinyTAN characters?

Kim: We wanted the members’ signature expressions to be reflected in the characters. In “Magic Door,” we focused on delivering J-hope’s mischievous look, Suga’s chic-ness, V’s signature V pose and smile, Jin’s signature ending pose, RM’s charisma, Jungkook who draws really well even with chocolate syrup and Jimin’s cute scene of sitting on dough.

Lee: We tried improving the quality of “Magic Door/Mic Drop” compared to our previous video “IDOL.” Though released via YouTube, the video was delivered with the quality of an animated film. We tried making even the strands of each member‘s hair look natural, and incorporated each member’s characteristic movements or personalities. Because of the character‘s short limbs, it was difficult to produce natural movements but we tried to make them look as cute as possible. Also, we added some interesting touches such as smoke coming out of the coffee machine or AR effects when making video calls.

Q. Why did you choose “Mic Drop” as the track for TinyTAN’s MV “Magic Door”?

Ha: Last year, after we released TinyTAN’s music video for “IDOL,” we saw a lot of comments from fans to produce videos for other songs. We saw many requests for “Mic Drop.” We also considered several other songs but ultimately chose “Mic Drop” this time because there was a consensus that if we make these characters dance to “Mic Drop” very seriously, it would be very cute. Also, we considered the fact that many fans liked the “Mic Drop” version of previously released IP products the most. 

An early sketch of the protagonist’s room in the “Magic Door” MV (Big Hit Entertainment)
Q. What were the members’ reactions to the characters?

Ha: I showed it to the members before their first release last year, and they loved it. TinyTAN seems to mean something different than BT21. If BT21 is a child created with the members’ imagination, TinyTAN is like the alter ego of the members. They also came to the “BTS Pop-up: House of BTS” held in Seoul last year, and took pictures with TinyTAN. However, we haven‘t had a chance to hear about their reactions to the “Mic Drop” video yet.

Q. What other projects are in the works currently?

Ko: Using the dual meanings of a “dream,” we are planning other stories of a “Magic Door” and TinyTAN that appear in our dreams. TinyTAN is cheering our dreams in their own way; through the “dreams” we have at night, the magic doors are opened, and through that passageway, they are going to give us the energy, comfort and support to achieve that “dream.” With the hope that “TinyTAN will also come into my life through the magic door,” you can expect some exciting projects from us in the future.

By Kwon Yae-rim (