The Animated Trailblazer
By Renuka Sena December 27, 2016
- Animation was the buzzword of the future
- Successful business is a long haul process, don’t give up.
IN the tough and competitive industry of creative content, one Malaysian woman has brought pride to our nation by pushing industry boundaries and achieving international recognition for her work. Her name is Evelyn Lee, and along with Low Keng Hwa, she founded Backbone Entertainment Sdn Bhd, a pioneer among animation and multimedia studios in Malaysia.
Backbone Entertainment was given its name because Lee had a dream for the company to be strong and central to the animation industry. She exudes these qualities herself and has been the backbone of her MSC status company, propelling it forward with her vision and hard work.
Backbone Entertainment’s path into animation began in 1994 when it took a bold step into the realm of digital production through a subsidiary called EL Videographics. During the early 90’s, 3D animation was still very new in Malaysia so it was a challenging period, as the company had to break through to customers and help them understand that animation and multimedia are important elements in trying to reach and engage an audience. Although it was a lot of hard work, Lee didn’t give up. Instead, she held firmly onto the belief that these were exciting times for the pioneering animation industry to grow and inspire lives.
“Animation was the buzzword of the future,” Lee (pic right) explains.
“And we aspired to touch the hearts and minds of millions of people through this medium.” Driven by this vision, Backbone Entertainment began producing animation for television commercials, sports and news, 3D graphics, 3D corporate videos, and even virtual architectural walkthroughs. Soon the company earned a strong reputation for providing innovative creative solutions and ‘out of this world’ impactful 3D visual graphics. Their quality animation services found appeal both locally and internationally to those in need of creative solutions and visual breakthroughs.
Challenges and growth
They may be a well-known name in the industry today but Backbone Entertainment has had to contend with a myriad of challenges since its inception. According to Lee, while they've had to overcome hurdles in marketing and finance, the biggest concern has always been finding new talent — including programmers, animators, and scriptwriters — to work on their productions.
Their solution to this is to work closely with local education institutions such as Segi, Taylor’s, Kolej Yayasan, and KDU University College to keep track of emerging talents. They also keep in touch with foreign talents by keeping in close contact with associations such as the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce.
Personal and business development support is also essential to the company's growth. Lee says that the Coach and Grow Programme (CGP) has helped the team learn the basics of management and business and find support among each other, as friends. The CGP also provided Lee with critical strategies and ideas to build a successful business that proved very valuable for the company’s growth.
Based in Kuala Lumpur, Backbone Entertainment has grown in tandem with the industry. To date, their content is distributed to over 22 countries and territories, including Vietnam, Singapore, Iran, the Middle East, and the US. They have also picked up a string of successes and accolades.
In 1998, Backbone Entertainment was appointed as the digital provider for the Commonwealth Games hosted in Kuala Lumpur. From the knowledge and experience gained, they moved on to secure more jobs including the 2001 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, and the 2003 SEA Games in Hanoi. In 2002, they ventured into television content for children with their first animated cartoon production, Beanos, made especially for RTM. Beanos went on to win an award, raising the bar, and setting a new standard for 3D animation in Malaysia.
Since then, their multi-talented and international team of producers, directors, designers, artists, and animators have created many other animation productions from concept to completion, including Garr, Planet Dino, Chi Chi, Jinggo, and Sugar Pals. This year, Backbone Entertainment began completing the requirements for the National Standard Compliance Programme to become certified as MS ISO 9001 by STD Malaysia.
On the international scene
Today, almost all of Backbone Entertainment’s products are targeted to help nurture a child’s creative mind. These products are also designed to strengthen young minds to help them be better equipped to face future challenges. The main reason behind this focus? To entertain and educate children, so the company plays a part in helping to shape the next generation. In line with this, Backbone Entertainment also produces game assets, educational tabs, and an educational and entertainment web portal called Sugar Pals, based on one of their biggest animation hits, which was picked up for international airing by Toon Goggles, a premiere 24/7 online destination for children’s entertainment.
In 2013, Backbone Entertainment signed a co-production deal with Korea and France to produce a 3D animation series for the international market. The production is still in progress and is anticipated to be ready for release in June 2016. As a result of her hard work and the company's high quality productions, Evelyn was awarded the Women Exporter Development Grant in 2014. In addition, Backbone Entertainment attends many international exhibitions under the umbrella of MDeC, MATRADE and FINAS. Most notably, the company has also participated in the internationally reputed Cannes Film Festival.
Words of wisdom
Lee believes entrepreneurship has made her a more well rounded person. With this viewpoint, she is driven not just by company profits, but also by the holistic picture of what entrepreneurship actually means. This includes taking responsibility for her team’s happiness and security, as well as her own state of wellbeing. She sees every challenge as motivation to work harder. “Successful business is a long haul process. Don’t give up. Giving up generally comes from an unstable mental state,” she says. When you start to analyse the challenges in deeper detail, there is always a solution. The only challenge is to find that solution.”
Evelyn further adds that physical fitness is just as important for an entrepreneur’s success. “You must also keep yourself mentally and physically fit. I’ve never seen an unfit, successful person.” She remains down-to-earth and sees every recognition as inducement to aim for greater heights. “Accept accolades for a job well done and take this as a springboard. Do not rest on your laurels.” These powerful principles are what makes Lee the formidable woman entrepreneur who has trailblazed her way through a formidable industry.
The above is an excerpt from the book Startups to Scaleups published in October 2015 by Cradle Fund and Proficeo Consultants, the programme manager for Cradle’s Coach and Grow Programme. DNA will be featuring every entrepreneurial story from the book in a special commercial arrangement.
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