Animation Magazine

Made in Malaysia

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


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
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Buck and Buddy

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