Made in Malaysia

A snap­shot of the an­i­ma­tion and dig­i­tal con­tent in the re­gion shows an in­dus­try that is thriv­ing de­spite a chal­leng­ing year.

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A snap­shot of the an­i­ma­tion and dig­i­tal con­tent in the re­gion shows an in­dus­try that is thriv­ing de­spite a chal­leng­ing year.

With 60 an­i­ma­tion stu­dios op­er­at­ing as both IP cre­ators and pro­duc­ing world­class ser­vice work for a global mar­ket, Malaysia boasts a strong pipe­line of do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional projects that have helped the in­dus­try weather a tough pe­riod.

“The to­tal dig­i­tal con­tent in­dus­try in Malaysia stands at RM 7 bil­lion ($1.68 bil­lion) with ex­ports dou­bling since 2014 to RM 1 bil­lion ($240 mil­lion),” says Has­nul Hadi Sam­sudin, the VP of Dig­i­tal Cre­ative Con­tent at Malaysia Dig­i­tal Econ­omy Cor­po­ra­tion (MDEC). “This stel­lar growth has been sup­ported by a strong work­force, av­er­ag­ing over 10,000 jobs. Our home­grown an­i­ma­tion stu­dios that have pro­duced more than 65 orig­i­nal IPs and seen their work travel to 120-plus coun­tries, with an ex­port value of RM 170 mil­lion ($40 mil­lion).”

Ac­cord­ing to Sam­sudin, most an­i­ma­tion stu­dios in the coun­try have main­tained their work­force through­out the ear­li­est months of the pan­demic, through dis­trib­uted work and man­age­ment of the pipe­line. “Through 1H2020, the in­dus­try is con­sol­i­dat­ing its mo­men­tum by keep­ing most the op­er­a­tions still ac­tive while nav­i­gat­ing the Move­ment Con­trol Or­der (MCO) en­acted by the govern­ment, ini­tially as a pure work-from-home model and later, with the lat­est ver­sion of the MCO en­ter­ing a re­cov­ery phase since the end of June, stu­dios re­sum­ing nor­mal op­er­a­tions and ready to scale up their pipe­line once again.”

He notes that the re­sponse of Malaysian stu­dios has stayed very pos­i­tive since the MCO pe­riod, with stu­dios con­tribut­ing dozens of Pub­lic Ser­vice An­nounce­ments based on their well-known IPs, run­ning Dig­i­tal VS COVID do­na­tions to as­sist health­care work­ers and other front-lin­ers and mo­bi­liz­ing their artists, engi­neers and staff with ma­chines to be home based.

The Govern­ment has al­lo­cated RM 225 mil­lion to spur the growth of the cre­ative in­dus­try through pro­grams and soft loans un­der the Na­tional Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery Plan (PEN­JANA). “These mea­sures will be im­ple­mented through pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship,” says Sam­sudin. “Specif­i­cally for MDEC, we have re­ceived RM 35 mil­lion of fund­ing un­der the Dig­i­tal Con­tent Grant with fo­cus on an­i­ma­tion and vis­ual ef­fects projects. The grant can cover a broad range of ac­tiv­i­ties such as de­vel­op­ment, pro­duc­tion / co-pro­duc­tion and IP mar­ket­ing & li­cens­ing.”

MDEC is also of­fer­ing mul­ti­ple pro­grams to boost the lo­cal and re­gional ecosys­tem. As Sam­sudin men­tions, “In ad­di­tion, MDEC drives IP de­vel­op­ment through the DC3 and DCG; up­skilling the tal­ent pool thus en­sur­ing a fun­nel for the stu­dios to grow via grass­root pro­grams such as Kre8tif!@schools, DICE UP and re­lated de­vel­op­ment pro­grams; and build­ing scale in the in­dus­try through struc­tured in­cu­ba­tion pro­gram to cat­alyze start-ups.”

The Govern­ment of Malaysia through MDEC has also been run­ning a Vir­tual Buyer Fly-In Pro­gram where buy­ers get the op­por­tu­nity to speak to the re­gion’s top an­i­ma­tion com­pa­nies about a va­ri­ety of so­lu­tions, in­clud­ing IP de­vel­op­ment and ser­vices.

“The up­com­ing Kre8tif! Vir­tual Con­fer­ence plays a uni­fy­ing role in the Malaysian ecosys­tem growth, gath­er­ing the best of the in­dus­try within the re­gion to fa­cil­i­tate busi­ness and net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties,” says the VP. “Founded in 2009, this small gath­er­ing of in­dus­try, tal­ent and part­ners has grown to be an ex­cit­ing and vi­brant part of the South­east Asian an­i­ma­tion and VFX scene.”

Among the many ben­e­fits of work­ing with Malaysian stu­dios:

Malaysian an­i­ma­tion stu­dios are com­mit­ted to world-class pro­duc­tion pipe­lines. Over the years the tal­ent pool and stu­dios have grown ex­po­nen­tially, which will even­tu­ally lead to many new IPs be­ing cre­ated. They can han­dle mul­ti­ple col­lab­o­ra­tion and co-pro­duc­tion projects with in­ter­na­tional stu­dios and broad­cast­ers.

Lan­guage is not a bar­rier, as English is widely spo­ken.“We are proud of our strong and di­verse mul­ti­cul­tural and mul­tira­cial her­itage which also pro­motes good work ethic,” says Sam­sudin. “They can un­der­stand and blend var­i­ous dif­fer­ent cul­tures and lan­guages across the re­gion. On top of that, Malaysia of­fers a vast ar­ray of flora and fauna which inspire new sto­ries that can travel the world!”

Suc­cess Sto­ries

In 2019, three well-crafted an­i­mated fea­tures were re­leased on the big screen: Upin & Ipin: Keris Sia­mang Tung­gal (Les Copaque), BoBoiBoy Movie 2 (An­i­mon­sta) and Ejen Ali: The Movie (WAU An­i­ma­tion). Upin & Ipin won the Best Fea­ture Film at the Mon­treal In­ter­na­tional An­i­mated Film Fes­ti­val 2019 and was the first Malaysian an­i­ma­tion to be short­listed for nom­i­na­tion at the Os­cars in 2020. BoBoiBoy re­ceived the Best Poster/Best

Teaser Trailer at the Lau­rus Film Fes­ti­val and was a fi­nal­ist at the Florence Film Awards and New York An­i­ma­tion Film Awards.

Com­edy web se­ries AstroLOL­ogy (Lemon Sky Stu­dios) has also been re­ceiv­ing ac­claim world­wide. Another in­ter­est­ing IP which is a pos­i­tive re­flec­tion of Malaysian cul­ture is Batik Girl (The R&D Stu­dio) — this an­i­mated short has picked up a num­ber of nom­i­na­tions and five awards.

Fu­ture At­trac­tions

Among the nu­mer­ous an­i­mated projects in the pipe­line for 2020 and 2021 are:

Lil Crit­ter Work­shop, a 2D an­i­ma­tion stu­dio in Malaysia, is cur­rently work­ing on pro­duc­tions for Aus­tralia, the U.K. and the U.S. One orig­i­nal IP in par­tic­u­lar, slap­stick non-di­a­logue se­ries Buck and Buddy, has been gain­ing sales mo­men­tum since its launch in Fe­bru­ary on CITV in the U.K. Buck and Buddy has se­cured mul­ti­ple broad­caster acquisitio­ns, in­clud­ing Dis­cov­ery Kids MENA.

The R&D Stu­dio is cur­rently work­ing with its part­ner Robot Play­ground Me­dia (Sin­ga­pore) to come out with sev­eral Asian sto­ries through a Malaysian lens. Spec­trum is an an­i­mated an­thol­ogy film fea­tur­ing seven shorts that cel­e­brate fam­ily val­ues and the shared cul­ture and her­itage. The R&D Stu­dio is also be­hind the crit­i­cally ac­claimed short Batik Girl.

Vi­sion An­i­ma­tion is work­ing on pro­duc­tions for Aus­tralia, Canada and South Korea. It is an es­tab­lished Malaysian stu­dio and cur­rently work­ing on mul­ti­ple IPs, one of which is The Curious World of Linda, a co-pro­duc­tion be­tween Vi­sion An­i­ma­tion and Tak Toon En­ter­prise (Korea).

Giggle Garage has mul­ti­ple pro­duc­tions span­ning six dif­fer­ent coun­tries. The stu­dio be­hind Frid­gies is ex­pand­ing its pro­duc­tion through 2020, and is busy work­ing on ti­tles such as Space Nova, Time Trav­eller Luke, Dr. Panda and Ka­zoops.

An­i­mon­sta Stu­dios is work­ing on sev­eral orig­i­nal IP ex­pan­sions, in­clud­ing a Mecham­ato fea­ture film.

As Sam­sudin puts it, the coun­try’s thriv­ing an­i­ma­tion scene has come a long way in the past few decades. “Malaysia’s an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try be­gan its hum­ble roots as early as 1985 with our first an­i­mated se­ries, known as Sang Kan­cil & Buaya. Fast for­ward to to­day, and we can see that Malaysian com­pa­nies are play­ing an ac­tive role in markets all over the world,” he con­cludes. “They are able to un­der­stand in­dus­try trends that al­low them to ful­fill the de­mands of to­day’s view­ers. With a mixed cul­ture and dif­fer­ent lan­guages, the Malaysian an­i­ma­tion scene will al­ways re­main friendly — to both buy­ers and au­di­ences ev­ery­where.”◆

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Has­nul Hadi Sam­sudin

Buck and Buddy

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