A long term vision will keep us reaching for the stars
By Walid Omar September 6, 2019
- Encourage global growth by supporting Malaysian studios in the international market
- Creating content for the world is a long game, so be bold, be committed and believe
A FEW weeks back I attended the premier of BoBoiboy Movie 2, an action-packed driven spectacle that is sure to excite its fans and audiences. I gained a newfound appreciation for the property, I marveled at how one intellectual property (IP) can be lovingly nurtured and grown (for almost 10 years) to the successes it has reached regionally and hopefully further.
One constant supporter of the IP has been MDEC and, as the governments catalyst for driving the Malaysian animation industry, MDEC has been pivotal to many of us. When I look around at my peers it is clear that MDEC has been the instrumental body in assisting dreamer’s like Mohd Nizam Abdul Razak (of Animonsta), myself and countless others, in helping us towards achieving our aspirations.
Lil Critter moves into its sixth year of operation and we have certainly benefited from the holistic roadmap of funding and market access that the Malaysian government has provided through its various agencies.
Lil Critter Workshop has benefitted from Cradle, MDEC and My Creative initiatives and their various funding, marketing, mentoring and support programs. Our aspirations are global as we strive to create widely accessible content that is relatable to international audiences.
One event that MDEC championed from inception is the Asian Animation Summit (AAS), which has been pivotal in our development as a creator driven studio.
This inaugural event was launched in Kuala Lumpur in 2012 and has been the primary platform for Malaysian content to reach out to the regional and global animation industry. In my opinion the AAS is the one event that the Malaysian Government should continue to support without hesitation.
Which brings me to the deeper question, what next for Malaysian Animation?
Companies such as Animasia have led the way in creating original content, and Inspidea, Lemon Sky and Silver Ant have paved the way in providing production services internationally, all achieving so much for Malaysian animation, being respected studios that set the bar for the rest of us to achieve.
MDEC has been supporting the industry for over 10 years with significant regional success for Upin and Ipin, BoBoi Boy and more recently Didi and Friends and Agent Ali as a result.
These shows are hugely relatable with regional markets, but what about the creators who wish to tell stories that cross boundaries and resonate with audiences across the globe?
Recently I read an article in the NST where Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo expressed the importance of the ongoing development of the Digital economy. In particular he referenced games and animation with MDEC leading the charge to spearhead bringing Malaysian content to the world and bringing valuable revenues to Malaysia.
This is positive news considering that in recent years we have seen a challenging downward path in funding from the government.
I hope that the minister will continue to support existing programmes and ensure the rejuvenation of previously established initiatives that were crucial to the development of our studio’s KPI.
Commonly agreed policies from the perspective of the animation industry for moving forward in continuing a long term sustained plan with a vision for creating a globally recognised animation industry are:
- Establish co-production treaties – partnerships with western markets will enable Malaysian content to get a stronger foothold in these otherwise hard to break industry regions. Make it easy for us to sell our IP’s in other countries and create treaties like many other countries have done before us.
- Sustain seed funding for content creator companies. Production houses may create jobs, but creator studios generate IP’s with long term, potential high growth. New talent, new ideas and new animation needs new funding.
- Encourage global growth – support Malaysian studios in the international market (Kidscreen, Annecy, AAS, Mipcom, new markets) and invest further in bringing the animation industry to Malaysia (ventures such as kre8tif, AAS etc). Malaysia needs to have a strong presence in the world and these platforms provide an opportunity to mix with industry professionals. From personal experience, it takes at least five years (and strong determination) before you make solid working relationships.
- Support the long game – the funding of the past ten years has set a strong foundation for a great animation industry. But that does not mean we simply stop supporting it now. We have great advantages over our South East Asia competitors: our excellent communication skills and proficiency in English set us up over our peers in Indonesia, Thailand, which is valued more by international producer and broadcasters over cost competitiveness. We are positioned to be a major player in the Asia region and can continue to retain this industry advantage if we continue the support established over the past ten years.
Lil Critter and other Malaysian animation studios has worked really hard over the past five years to establish strong ties with global players in the animation field, all with the support of MDEC.
Whilst we may be striving to move forward as independent players, the animation industry in Malaysia as a whole is still in its infancy and if we are to compete with the established players from the region and the West we will still need full support as content creators for the global audience. Malaysia’s Digital Economy strategy is fundamental to the long term growth of our Nation and the policies and decisions made today will dictate whether Malaysia can be the digital content hub for the region or merely a presence, that will be overtaken by the determination our neighbours are showing. Creating content for the world is a long game, much like building our nation, so be bold, be committed and believe.
Walid Omar is the executive producer of Lil Critter Workshop.