Kre8tif! 2020: 'Tell stories that are authentic.' How Malaysia and SEA’s animation industry can grow beyond the region
By Tan Jee Yee September 9, 2020
- Netflix is open to working with existing SEA animation studios on original content
- Initiatives like Kre8tif! important to connect the industry in a post-Covid-19 world
Edward Barnieh (pic, below), Netflix’s manager for International Originals, Kids & Family, APAC, has good things to say about Malaysia’s animation industry. “The Malaysian animation industry is definitely heading in the right direction, and leads the way in SEA,” he tells Digital News Asia.
“There are many great studios developing their own IP (intellectual property), and a global hit is not far away,” he predicts.
It certainly doesn’t seem that far away. 2019 has been one of the best years for the Malaysian animation industry, which saw three theatrical feature releases that were all box office hits both locally and regionally.
Upin & Ipin: Keris Siaman Tunggal, Boboiboy The Movie 2 and Ejen Ali: The Movie collectively earned US$20.60 million (RM85.81 million) at the box office – a feat that showcased not just a capability to capture hearts at the cinema, but also the rising talent of a nascent, yet passionate, animation industry.
Staking a claim at the international animation market might sound daunting, but the changing ways in which films are viewed and distributed might prove to be an opportunity for Malaysia’s – and Southeast Asia’s – animation as a whole.
The inclusion of streaming services like Netflix can allow local and regional animation to reach a wider international audience where traditional theatre distribution may prove more difficult. Already we’re seeing something at hand – the Boboiboy movies by Animonsta are currently available exclusively on Netflix, while two seasons of the Ejen Ali series is on the platform as well.
It helps that Netflix itself is hungry for more animated content. The streaming giant has been investing heavily in animation in the last few years, obtaining – among others – international rights to stream the films of renowned Studio Ghibli, plus a strong slate of animated series and features from Japan and China.
Netflix has also taken to releasing their own original animated features, including the Academy Award nominated Klaus and, more recently, The Willoughbys. Later this year, the platform is set to release Over the Moon, an animated musical produced by China-based Pearl Studio and directed by animation legend Glen Keane.
A chance with Netflix
This is, in fact, something Edward Barnieh will be sharing in his Thursday speaking session at Kre8tif! 2020 Conference, happening now until 10 September. In “Creating a Netflix Originals: Finding Your Way”, Barnieh will be talking about the ways in which studios and creators can come together to make original shows – in his words, it will be about what “we [Netflix] are looking for, and how best to work with us.”
Barnieh believes that for Southeast Asia’s animation industry to improve and make their mark, they need to tell their own stories. “The best way to improve is to tell stories that are authentic to the region,” he says. “Nobody else in the world can offer that.” (Though, it would seem that nothing is stopping larger animation entities elsewhere from attempting to tell one).
Netflix, Barnieh says, is open to taking in more SEA original series and features. This includes working with regional studios. “Netflix is definitely open to working with existing studios – it's part of our strategy when it comes to animated originals, to keep a vibrant independent studio scene thriving,” he notes.
The streaming platform is currently working with a SEA studio on an animated original. “What we can offer is our point of view on whether we feel the show will work on our service, but our main focus is to give creators the tools and resources to tell the best possible version of their story,” he elaborates.
Barnieh adds that initiatives like Kre8tif! are important in allowing industry to develop. “I think initiatives like Krea8if are more important than ever in a post-Covid world, giving everyone new ways to connect.”
He feels that government and industry should continue to work together to promote authentic Malaysian stories, and, “find the best creators and storytellers in Malaysia.”
Readers who wish to join Barnieh's talk or the wider Kre8tif! conference can sign up here.
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