There is only a handful of local animation companies that can boast of having teamed up with major international players in the industry when they were relatively new in the business. Animasia Studio Sdn Bhd is one such company as it had the opportunity to work with Cartoon Network (CN) to co-produce a new animation series after it gained much success at home with Bola Kampung.
Last October, Cartoon Network Asia announced a strategic content partnership with Animasia to produce a cricket-based show about a group of local Indian children who aspire to play in the biggest inter-school cricket championship. The show is slated to premiere on Cartoon Network in India in the second half of this year.
“Bola Kampung was launched in 2006 during the World Cup. It was a success as it was one of the top rated local animation shows. Some 52 episodes of the show were broadcast by RTM and Disney Channel, which acquired the licence to broadcast in 2007. This year will be another World Cup year.
We will be launching Season 5 of the show,” Animasia managing director Edmund Chan tells [email protected] “The spin-off from Bola Kampung will be Balla Bowl, which we will be doing with CN. This will be a totally new show. However, the format will be similar to Bola Kampung. Instead of football, they will play cricket, which is the number one game in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. There are not many animated concepts being produced on the game of cricket,” he says.
Chan says he first met CN executives at MIPCOM 2008, where he was initially scheduled for a half-hour meeting which then stretched to three hours. MIPCOM is a global content event for co-producing, buying, selling, financing and distributing entertainment content across all platforms. “We talked about how we could work together. We have been talking for the last nine months, trying to get the right direction for Balla Bowl. We have almost finalised the script,” Chan adds.
He recalls that getting the first appointment with CN was the most difficult step. “But soon, after we had got to know each other (Animasia’s track record), the entire process was very good. We never had any major difficulties negotiating with CN though it is a major network and has vast production experience. In fact, it is always there to help us.”
“We foresee Balla Bowl being well accepted by Asian and Indian children. Similarly, the show will have no problem going to the Middle East and South Africa. The intellectual property for the show will be co-owned. CN will be responsible for securing rights for its own satellite feed, while Animasia will be distributing the show,” Chan says.
After Balla Bowl is completed, he says, the company plans to launch merchandise to support the series. He adds that sales from merchandising Bola Kampung, which was launched in December 2008, contributed about 10% to revenue.
Trigger pointAccording to Chan, the Balla Bowl project was the trigger point for Animasia. “We have received many enquiries and production pitches from the US, China, South Korea, France, Germany and India where the international community (animation industry) is gaining confidence in Malaysian talent. We are in discussion on a few other projects and I would say it is very likely that we will kick off another co-produced series by the third quarter of this year with a Chinese studio.”
While Balla Bowl is expected to bring in more co-production work for Animasia, it is Bola Kampung that serves as a showcase for the company. Bola Kampung was co-created by Animasia Studio (storyline, directing, character designs) and Susunan Kreatif Sdn Bhd (executive producer, story line). Susunan Kreatif funded Animasia’s first few projects — Cerita Rakyat and Bola Kampung.
According to Chan, Susunan Kreatif is a bumiputera company involved in the creative content industry for many years with a solid track record with local government stations, and has a dedicated team of producers.
“We have been working together since 2005 and our relationship is still ongoing on many projects, and one of them is Bola Kampung, where we have worked together since day one and have to date produced up to 78 episodes,” he says.
Besides Bola Kampung, Animasia has also been in the limelight with another series, ABC Monster, which was the 29th most-requested screening at MIPCOM Junior trade show in 2007. ABC Monster was the only Asian work in the top 30 at the children’s programming conference and exhibition. ABC Monster was one of the few successful animation projects funded by the e-content fund.Incidentally, Chan was a programme buyer (content for TV stations) for three years before he switched to produce content.
“As a programme buyer previously, I understood what buyers wanted. We felt that local animations could do much better (back in 2005) as we knew there were many talented Malaysians in the market, only that these talents were not given opportunities. We came into the market with one main objective — to develop quality animated contents which can serve the domestic market and also be exported to other territories, like Bola Kampung, our success story,” he explains.
Animasia, founded by Chan, Wong Kuan Loong and Raye Lee, plans to produce 3D content next. Chan says the company is now testing and setting up new 3D facilities. “We are excited to roll out our 3D services this year.” Animasia’s success clearly shows that more animation companies are gaining recognition and securing co-production work with some of the best international players in the space. Its experience shows that there is nothing like working with the best to produce an excellent product.