Animation in Malaysia (known as Animasi in Malay) has origins in the puppetry style of wayang kulit, wherein the characters are controlled by the puppeteer, or Tok Dalang. Chinese shadow play inspired German filmmaker Lotte Reiniger to create the animated The Adventures of Prince Achmed in 1926 that was based on one of the stories in the 1001 Nights stories. Many of the world's animators have credited Prince Achmed`s recognizable style for generating their initial interest in animation as well as in their works.
Filem Negara Malaysia (Malayan Film Unit)
The Malayan Film Unit was created by the British colonialists in 1946 with the intent to produce documentaries and public service announcements of the government and later renamed Filem Negara Malaysia. A set designer working for the Unit named Anandam Xavier was asked to handle an animation project in 1961. Xavier set to work on the first in-country animation short subject "Hikayat Sang Kancil" until 1978, although the short would not see a release until 1983.
The coming years would see additional hand-drawn animated shorts: 1985`s Sang Kancil dan Monyet and a 1987 follow-up, Sang Kancil dan Buaya; 1985`s Gagak Yang Bijak; and Arnab Yang Sombong and Singa Yang Haloba both released in 1986, all written and directed by Hassan Abd. Muthalib. Live action films produced in Malaysia in the 1980s and 1990s began to feature animated sequences, particularly in the opening credit sequence of films like Mekanik, Mat Gelap and Yes, Tuan, all made by Hassan Abd. Muthalib.
The surge in Malaysian animation products resulted in the founding of two animation studios: FilmArt, established in 1984 and Lensamation, which opened its doors in 1987. Having these production companies in the country led to the legitimization of animation as an art form and career path, and training schools and programs were instituted. The year 1995 saw the debut of the first animated television series, Usop Sontorian.
Modernization and Globalization
The animation industry in Malaysia received some attention from Tun Mahathir bin Mohamad, the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia with plans for rapidly modernizing the country. This extended to the use of digital technology in production houses, predominantly the direct-to-system method of drawing into the computer pioneered by Kamn Ismail. The first computer-animated animation efforts in Malaysia were the 2000 film "Nien Resurrection" and an episode of the series "Skyland" conceived and produce by Young Jump Animation Sdn. Bhd. However, in the late 1990s, Kamn Ismail had already included 3D elements in his Keluang Man animation series.
This era also saw an increase in efforts to aggressively promote locally produced animation efforts. Since 2000, the Malaysian animation industry has gone far globally when Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) produced Saladin: The Animated Series for Al Jazeera Children's Channel. Since then, many Malaysian animation companies marketed their works to globally. Their animation has succeeded in promoting Malaysia globally by creating content that was based on Malaysian culture but having universal values.
Several Malaysian animation films and series that have hit global market are:
- Geng: The Adventure Begins animated film
- Upin & Ipin animated series
- Bola Kampung animated series
- BoBoiBoy animated series
The Role of Government
The Government of Malaysia, through its agencies, Multimedia Development Corporation and Malaysia Animation Creative Content Center (MAC3) supports the industry by giving funding through grant scheme and providing world-class facilities to some key-players. The grants include Start-up Funds, Intellectual Property Grant Scheme and MAC3 Co-Production Fund.
MAC3 Co-Production Fund
This grant was launched in 2009 to support the creation and development or co-development of Intellectual Properties under the Animation, Games & Computer Graphics sectors of the creative cluster.
The grant is designed to help innovative and progressive local companies to co-produce animation and game development projects with reputable partners that will contribute to the overall development of the industry in Malaysia.
Foreign Influence on Malaysian Animation
Some of local animation has a tendency to copy foreign elements, especially anime. This can be seen in the design of TV animation series such as Anak-anak Sidek, Edi & Cici and Sang Wira. This is because, most of the animators were once trained by Japanese animators.
However, Kampung Boy, based on the characters of international-known cartoonist, Lat has its own identity. It is seen as the best animation that portrays Malaysian cultures in the eyes of its own creator. In the making of Kampung Boy, Lat was actively involved on the project.
Persatuan Animasi Malaysia (Animation Society of Malaysia)
Animation Society of Malaysia, ANIMAS is a non-profit government organization that promotes animation in Malaysia.
The idea towards the foundation of ANIMAS was first discussed at the Hiroshima Animation Film Festival in 1997. Hassan Abd Muthalib, the director of Silat Legenda, the first feature animation film in Malaysia in 1998; Hisham Harun Hashim, producer and executive producer of the first Malaysian animated film, Silat Legenda and Kamn Ismail, director of Usop Sontorian, agreed to form ANIMAS.
The idea was later discussed in 2001 during a meeting with Hassan Abd Muthalib, James Ooi and Richard Ung Kok Kee at the office of James Ooi. A series of meetings to form ANIMAS began in April 2001 and the 1st pro-tem committee met at Cempaka Sari Room, FINAS (the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia), Ampang, Selangor on 17 May 2001.
ANIMAS was finally officially registered only on 29 May 2007. However, even before registration, ANIMAS began to play an active role in the industry. ANIMAS was part of the main committee organizing the Malaysia Film Festival and many other events. Hassan Abd Muthalib has been invited to Japan and China to present papers on the Malaysian animation industry a number of times.
In 2004, a seminar was organized with the collaboration of the French Embassy, Goethe-Institute Malaysia and FINAS at Balai Senilukis Negara (National Visual Arts Gallery). This seminar - Animation Industry in Malaysia: Current Situation & New Challenges - brought together for the first time most of the animation companies and training institutions in Malaysia. Among the foreign speakers were Ms Tiziana Loschi, Director of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival (France); Gilbert Hus, a producer and Regis Ghezalbash, a producer/director (both from France); Georges LaCroix, the director of the animation series, Insektors (France) and Ulrich Wegenast, an animation academic and director (Germany).
In 2008, ANIMAS collaborated with The One Academy of Communication Design in Sunway to present Animation Veteran awards to two pioneers of animation in Malaysia – Goh Meng Huat (the first animator in Malaysia who had been with Filem Negara Malaysia) and also to actor/director, Mat Sentol (the first feature film animator). The presentation was part of the Digital Art Competition & Convention held at Mid Valley Megamall. Hassan also gave a Powerpoint presentation of the history and development of the Malaysian animation industry during the event.
Malaysian Animation Chronology
|1946||Filem Negara Malaysia formed by Mervyn cff Sheperd|
|1947||First Malaysian animator - Goh Meng Huat|
|1978||First short animation film - Hikayat Sang Kancil||Anandam Xavier|
|1982||First Animation studio - FilmArt|
|1983||Mekanik (feature film) - first longest animated title sequence||Hassan Muthalib|
|1985||Second short animation film - Sang Kancil & Monyet||Hassan Muthalib|
|1985||Second Animation studio - Lensamation|
|1987||Production of Epit and Din Teksi, the first cartoon characters to be animated for TV based on cartoonists Lat and Nan's characters|
|1990||First cartoonist in hybrid live action-animated film, Imuda for Mat Gelap||Production: ZHA Production|
|1992||First student animation film, Bunga Karang by Zhang Kong Wah||Malaysia Film Academy|
|1995||First animated series - Usop Sontorian||Production: Kharisma Pictures. Director: Kamn Ismail. Character design: Ujang.|
|1997||First animation academy - The One Academy|
|1998||First animated film (also first cel-shaded computer graphics in animated film) - Silat Legenda||Production: Peninsula Pictures|
|2000||First computer animated animation film on VCD - Nien Resurrection||Production: Young Jump Animation|
|2001||Second animated film - Cheritera||Production: Matahari Animation and Production|
|2001||Third aniamted film - Putih||Production: Fine Animation Sdn Bhd from Eurofine|
|2004||Kacang - First hybrid computer-animated/cel-animated||Production: Lensa Film Sdn Bhd|
|2005||Saladin: The Animated Series||Production: Silver Ant and Young Jump Animation|
|2006||First clay-animated television series - Ranggi||Production: Lensa Film Sdn Bhd|
|2007||First cel-animated television series aired globally - Bola Kampung||Production: Animasia Studio Sdn Bhd|
|2007||Production of Upin & Ipin, first computer-animated television series aired globally||Production: Les' Copaque Production|
|2009||First 3D computer-animated film for film theathres - Geng: Pengembaraan Bermula (English: Geng: The Adventure Begins)||Production: Les' Copaque Production|
|2011||Production of BoBoiBoy, second computer-animated television animation series aired globally||Production: Animonsta Studio Sdn Bhd|
|2011||Pada Zaman Dahulu (English: Once Upon A Time)||Production: Les' Copaque Production|
|2012||computer-animated feature film in English for film theathres (also second computer-animated feature film in Malaysia) - SeeFood||Production: Silver Ant and Young Jump Animation|
|2012||Production of War of the Worlds: Goliath, first 3D computer-animated film with cel shading for digital 3D film theathres.||Production: Tripod Entertainment Sdn Bhd|
|2013||3D computer-animated feature film in Malay language for 3D theatres - Bola Kampung: The Movie.||Production: Animasia Studio Sdn Bhd and Young Jump Animation|
- MAC3 Co-Pro Fund, Background, MSC Malaysia Official Website.
- From Mousedeer to Mouse: Malaysian Animation at the Crossroads, Hassan (2004).
- Animation Society of Malaysia, About Us.
- Kronologi Sejarah Animasi Malaysia, Hassan Abd Muthalib