The serious side of cartoons
THE characters from Upin & Ipin, BoBoiBoy, Bola Kampung and Johan the Young Scientist could be funny but behind the scene, they are all serious enterprises raking in millions of ringgit as aspired by Malaysia Digital Economy Corp (MDEC).
From 2D to 3D, the fast-paced animation industry has not only evolved in terms of technology, but in content with relatable local characters and settings fast attracting the public’s attention.
Realising this demand, MDEC provides assistance in all areas of the animation industry eco-system from talent, market access, IP development to creating awareness. MDEC had also established its Malaysia Animation and Creative Content Centre (MAC3) in 2009 to provide a support infrastructure to the industry. MAC3 houses rendering facilities, an audio-video post production facility and an R&D centre.
To date MDEC has played its part in nurturing four prominent local animation production houses to develop their animation brands and these companies are on track to further bank on their products’ popularity to expand beyond local shores.
MDEC, via its globalisation programme called GAIN (Global Acceleration and Innovation Network), is the platform to produce more MDEC global icons such as four globally-competitive companies: Les’ Copaque Production Sdn Bhd, Animasia Studio Sdn Bhd, Inspidea Sdn Bhd and Animonsta Studios Sdn Bhd.
Les’ Copaque Production Sdn Bhd
THE company behind the famous animation series Upin & Ipin, is looking forward to penetrate one of the world’s largest market, China, after having successfully entered other major markets including Asean, the United States and South America. Les’ Copaque (LCP) has more than 900,000 subscribers on its official YouTube channel with 718 million views. LCP’s Upin & Ipin – Sedia Menyelamat has over 28 million views on its YouTube channel.
“We are working to penetrate the China market and hopefully there will be some announcements soon which involve big projects in China and Malaysia.
“Most of the oversea exposure that we have is via non-traditional platforms such as YouTube and Disney channel. And we have set foot in Indonesia,” said Les’ Copaque managing director Burhanuddin Md Radzi.
As one of MDEC tech companies, Burhanuddin said it had received assistance from MDEC including visibility, talent, grant to produce and access to international markets.
“For the release of our next film, a full 3D animation next year, we will be working closely with MDEC and other relevant agencies to find ways for an international release,” he said.
Besides Upin & Ipin, Les’ Copaque other IPs include Pada Zaman Dahulu, Da Du Di Do and Puteri.
“We have also successfully rolled out merchandise, licensing, thematic restaurants, carnivals, mobile game and apps, academy and many other business which revolved around our successful IP.”
The The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) have appointed Upin & Ipin as its national ambassador for children for Malaysia and has selected Upin & Ipin to appear in Unicef’s music video during the UN General Assembly last month.”
Animasia Studio Sdn Bhd
ANIMASIA which owns and distributes various animated brands such as Bola Kampung, ABC Monsters, Chuck Chicken, Harry & Bunnie and soccer series Supa Strikas through its partnership with Strika Entertainment (South Africa), is also going global.
“A new Harry & Bunnie project will be release next year across cable or satellite channels within Asia-Pacific.
“Also, we have a new animated feature film which is currently in pre-production stage where it targets to hit China cinemas in third quarter of 2018.
“We have two other new IPs that are in development.
“We are hopeful to announce that at Kidscreen Miami 2017,” said group managing director Edmund Chan.
Although the current economic climate is tough, Chan said Animasia’s prospects are still quite rosy due to its strong commitment and good track record.
“Our production pipelines are almost fully booked till the first quarter of 2018.
“We anticipate more growth in North America and China where positive outcomes are budding for some of our on-going projects.
“We have to expand aboard as local market is small to fully recoup our investment,” he said.
Chan also pointed out that the MAC3 co-production funds were helpful for Animasia to co-produce and co-fund animated contents with regional or international producers leading to the establishment of global IPs.
“MDEC’s trade missions have also supported Animasia to widen its foothold globally,” he said.
To date, Animasia has participated in key exhibition festivals such as MIPCOM (France), Hong Kong Filmart, Asia TV Forum (Singapore), Licensing Show (Las Vegas, US), World Animation & VFX Summit (Los Angeles, US), Annecy (France) and Hong Kong ToyFair.
On challenges, Chan said fund raising for new IP (animated concept) development, production and expanding production team were the key constraints.
“On our part, we hope to be able to train or re-train skilled workers to move them to the next level,” he said.
To date, Animasia’s key customer is Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific Inc (a Time Warner Company) that owns and manages global channels Cartoon Network, CNN and HBO.
Its customer Disney Channel, which Animasia has clinched a multi terrritory deal (Asia-Pacific) to license non-dialogue, comedy-driven animated series Harry & Bunnie, premiered on the channel in May.
Inspidea Sdn Bhd
INSPIDEA co-founder Andrew Ooi believed that the animation market is still on a positive trajectory despite the sluggish global economy,
“The demand for animated contents is still pretty high moving forward. Inspidea has been actively involved in animation services for the last three years. We are on a positive trajectory.
“At present we are producing shows for major companies in Europe and America.
“We are developing our original IP too, but that will take a while.
“In Malaysia, we have participated in events that MDEC hosted,” he said.
Inspidea, an MDEC tech company, is a leading 2D animation studio in South-East Asia with 14 years’ experience.
It had created original properties such as Mustang Mama, co-produced a Bafta-nominated series Pet Squad as well as producing shows and TV movies for Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Warner Bros Animation.
Although the outlook is good, Ooi said funding for local production is currently limited.
Animonsta Studios Sdn Bhd
WITH the success of Boboiboy’s first feature film in March, Animonsta Studios (Monsta) is looking forward to the series’ new season, merchandising as well as a theme park.
“We are preparing to launch the next season of BoBoiBoy which will be renamed ‘BoBoiBoy Galaxy’ that will start airing on Nov 25. We are also developing a pre-school animation project with a Japanese toys manufacturer, Takara Tomy.
“If everything goes well, a sequel of the film BoBoiBoy may be launched in 2018.” said Safwan Karim, one of the co-founders of Monsta.
BoBoiBoy’s first theme park is being developed by Movie Animation Park Studios, Perak where it is slated to be open by end of the year.
This is to take advantage of the current Boboiboy mania, which has just ended its third season of 52 episodes.
They have been sold to 45 countries including the Middle East, North Africa and Kazakhstan.
BoBoiBoy’s first feature film entitled BoBoiBoy: The Movie received positive response from movie goers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Brunei. The movie attracted 1.65 million viewers and achieved RM18mil in sales.
Its success over the years has prompted the company, with a humble beginning of only seven employees in 2009, to expand its workforce to 70 people and move into a bigger studio called CoPlace3 in Cyberjaya.
“Our first product BoBoiBoy was developed in MAC3 and got its first season broadcast by TV3 in 2011.
“Being instant hit, it sparked interest from MNCTV Indonesia and Disney Channel SEA,” recalled Safwan.
“Among the market events that we have attended were the Hong Kong Licensing Fair, Tokyo Game Show and many other trade missions to specific countries like Japan and Indonesia,” he said.