The su­per stuff

BoBoiBoy cre­ator Nizam Razak talks dreams, friends and unity on the road to be­com­ing CEO of his own an­i­ma­tion com­pany.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - BoBoiBoy By TEH OOI SHERENE star2@thes­tar.com.my

NO MAT­TER what age you are at now, there would def­i­nitely have been a time when you imag­ined you were a su­per­hero – Su­per­man, Bat­man, Won­der Woman.

“When chil­dren watch SpiderMan, they end up want­ing to be like Spi­der-Man,” an­i­ma­tion cre­ator Nizam Razak shared. “That’s what came to my mind when I cre­ated BoBoiBoy – I wanted a Malaysian su­per­hero char­ac­ter so that chil­dren here would say ‘I want to be like BoBoiBoy’.”

“A Malaysian su­per­hero would foster the idea of em­brac­ing your own iden­tity ... you could be proud of your­self, your na­tion,” ex­plained Nizam about how the an­i­mated char­ac­ter came to life.

The 34-year-old has to­day es­tab­lished him­self and his an­i­ma­tion con­tent provider com­pany – An­i­mon­sta Stu­dios – as a force to be reck­oned with in the Malaysian an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try.

Born in Muar, Johor in 1983 and raised in Melaka, the cre­ator of BoBoiBoy is also the CEO of An­i­mon­sta, co-cre­ator of Upin & Ipin and a fa­ther of three chil­dren – two boys and a girl aged be­tween three and nine.

His in­ter­est in graph­ics and web de­sign harkens back to his sec­ondary school days, when he de­cided to seek out op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­vest in this in­ter­est. Nizam pur­sued a de­gree at the Mul­ti­me­dia Univer­sity (MMU), ma­jor­ing in Film and An­i­ma­tion. He grad­u­ated with first class hon­ours; and his seven minute-fi­nal year project even bagged a num­ber of ac­co­lades along the way.

Be­fore An­i­mon­sta came about, Nizam worked for Les’ Copaque Pro­duc­tion in 2005, a 3D an­i­ma­tion com­pany where he learned the ropes. But Nizam had his own dreams to pur­sue, and so af­ter three years, he ven­tured out with a lit­tle help from his friends.

Nizam and his part­ners – Safwan Ab­dul Karim, Anas Ab­dul Aziz and Kee Yong Pin – had formed a team of sorts since their uni days. They did al­most ev­ery­thing to­gether – stud­ied, did their in­tern­ships and fi­nal year projects and then even­tu­ally went out to work all at the same time. But the ic­ing on the cake was when their dreams of es­tab­lish­ing their own com­pany – An­i­mon­sta – fi­nally came true.

“I al­ways said to them, ‘If you do not be­lieve in your­self, who else TV se­ries BoBoiBoy has be­come so well-loved that its char­ac­ters, BoBoiBoy and Yaya Yah, were even fea­tured dur­ing the Na­tional Day cel­e­bra­tions at Dataran Merdeka last year. — AZ­MAN GHANI/The Star

will? If we do not be­lieve in our group, who else will?’,” said Nizam.

The an­i­ma­tor em­pha­sises the im­por­tance of unity and friend­ship re­peat­edly dur­ing the in­ter­view.

“Unity is very im­por­tant to me. As a Malaysian, it might be cliche be­cause peo­ple al­ways talk about unity and be­ing united. But I of­ten travel to many other coun­tries as a busi­ness­man. And this re­ally mat­ters be­cause a lot of peo­ple from other coun­tries look to Malaysia be­cause we are a cul­tur­ally-rich na­tion and yet we still re­main united,” he said.

Min­gling around with peo­ple from dif­fer­ent races dur­ing his school­ing days def­i­nitely in­flu­enced his ca­reer and he wanted to con­tinue cham­pi­oning that idea.

“For me, it is a very nat­u­ral process. It’s not like I pur­posely take my ex­pe­ri­ences and put them into the an­i­ma­tion sto­ries that I cre­ate. But we cre­ate based on our own ex­pe­ri­ences, right?”

And so be­gan BoBoiBoy.

The an­i­mated se­ries fo­cuses on the char­ac­ter of BoBoiBoy, a kid

su­per­hero with a su­per­power that en­ables him to trans­form to up to seven ver­sions of him­self – each with unique abil­i­ties. BoBoiBoy works hand-in-hand with his bud­dies de­fend­ing the Earth from in­vad­ing aliens.

BoBoiBoy is specif­i­cally de­signed as a chil­dren’s char­ac­ter. As com­pared with adult su­per­heroes who ap­pear strong and seem un­touch­able, BoBoiBoy res­onates with younger au­di­ences. “At a young age, chil­dren still do not know how to choose friends,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Nizam, chil­dren are ex­plor­ing the mean­ing of friend­ship in their early years. If you lec­ture them di­rectly about the mean­ing of friend­ship, they would prob­a­bly not grasp it. But with a char­ac­ter like BoBoiBoy, they are able to pick up more. He said: “He’s more than just a car­toon char­ac­ter. He ed­u­cates, pro­motes unity and fos­ters friend­ship. He is a two-in­one – he en­ter­tains and ed­u­cates in a more nat­u­ral way... he’s not so preachy.”

When asked about what char­ac­ter

re­sem­bles him most from his body of work – BoBoiBoy, Yaya, Gopal, Papa Zola, Fang he laughed and said “Papa Zola” – a funny, weird, su­per­hero wannabe, who is also a teacher and a space­ship cap­tain. He feels this char­ac­ter res­onates with him as he holds dif­fer­ent po­si­tions in real life as well – af­ter all, he doesn’t just take care of the daily oper­a­tions, he also writes for the se­ries, and he is a full-time dad as well.

In the process of cre­at­ing BoBoiBoy, there were sev­eral chal­lenges. Nizam shared that th­ese in­cluded gain­ing sup­port for a lo­cal brand of car­toon, sourc­ing and train­ing tal­ent and also mar­ket­ing the an­i­mated se­ries.

The stu­dio did not specif­i­cally de­velop its own tech­nol­ogy. What it did was de­velop a “pipe­line” for com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent tech­nolo­gies, end-to-end. Cur­rently, they use ren­der­ing soft­ware such as Men­tal Ray and Red­shift.

Apart from the tech­nol­ogy, how­ever, Nizam be­lieves that the skill of sto­ry­telling in an­i­ma­tion is

the most im­por­tant el­e­ment that many stu­dios (even in­ter­na­tional ones) over­look.

How did he over­come the chal­lenges?

Nizam said that it was through the rat­ings, the likes, the com­ments and the shares that the show re­ceived. With this data, he was able to con­vince po­ten­tial part­ners to sup­port the project.

Be­ing cho­sen as an icon in the na­tion’s “Ikon-Ikon Ne­garaku” cam­paign is a grand hon­our, he read­ily ad­mits. This is be­cause it is a sign of recog­ni­tion that his work has im­pacted peo­ple’s lives. He hopes that this sort of recog­ni­tion would in­spire as­pir­ing an­i­ma­tors to cre­ate new sto­ries that will help us cham­pion our na­tional iden­tity.

But when it comes to him and his team, recog­ni­tion from view­ers is more im­por­tant.

“Over a mil­lion peo­ple watched BoBoiBoy: The Movie. Au­di­ences were able to en­joy the movie as fam­i­lies and as friends, and they shared qual­ity time to­gether. For me, that was an im­por­tant achieve­ment,” he said. BoBoiBoy 2 is ex­pected to pre­miere at the end of 2018.

Re­cently, An­i­mon­sta earned the “Gold Play But­ton” Award from YouTube for reach­ing one mil­lion sub­scribers.

With BoBoiBoy’s grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity, Nizam is ea­ger to fea­ture the show on stream­ing plat­forms, and is work­ing on deals which he hopes to clinch by 2019.

Nizam will al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate the sup­port from Malaysia Dig­i­tal Econ­omy Cor­po­ra­tion (MDEC) and the ef­forts of the gov­ern­ment in en­cour­ag­ing cre­ativ­ity. He be­lieves that be­cause of this sup­port, and the in­fra­struc­ture that the Mul­ti­me­dia Su­per Cor­ri­dor has af­forded, the lo­cal an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try is bloom­ing.

He said: “There is de­mand for sto­ries set in a Malaysian con­text. Now, the Malaysian an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try is no longer a ser­vic­ing plat­form; in­stead lo­cal an­i­ma­tors are also able to con­struct their own brand and con­tent.” Go to www.ne­garaku.com for more sto­ries and videos on Ikon-ikon Ne­garaku.

cre­ator Nizam: ‘There is de­mand for sto­ries set in a Malaysian con­text.’ — MOHD SA­HAR MISNI/The Star

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