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Malaysia’s Animation: Niche but Promising
Updated 2017-11-20

As the head office for the 19th DigiCon6 Asia contest headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) held a regional short film and animation contest to decide the exceptional winners who will be representing Malaysia in the final round. Two groups from The One Academy emerged as the champions by securing the two top spots recently.

The contest is organised and held by Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings, Inc. for the purpose of seeking and recognizing talented video creators and awarding them for their outstanding works besides being an active platform to show quality and originality in content development. To meet its high standards, industry professionals such as acclaimed directors, producers and those from the entertainment industry evaluated works at the finals.

The Malaysia Gold Winner award went to the short ‘Undying Love’, a 3-minute animation about a perverted and goofy slave who mummified himself so that he could be one with the love of his life in the afterlife. RM 5000 prize were awarded to Gerald Yong, Too Chai Kim, Leong Joon Xian, Rufus Januar, Khaidir Semail, Kimberly Ng, Ben Lee Kah Lim, Jan Teo Jia Xian, Regan Tang and Hawley Chiung.

The creators of the animation wanted it to be enjoyable to audience of all ages, like a momentary escape from a hectic day. “Their minds are tired and may not have much energy left for deep thoughts when watching certain contents. We just wanted to offer a bit of relief from the stressful life, a bit of quick and easy entertainment,” said director Gerald Yong who represented Malaysia for the final round in Tokyo.

Clinching the Silver Award is ‘Illamar’. The team consisting of Loh Xun Yee, Yeap Shau Jun, Yong Kah Hui, Kaveen Raj, Ong Chun Li, Harry Yong, Kevin Woon, Au Kok Wei, Lim Hong Shen, Amy Ling, Andrew Cho and Chong Wei Lun received RM 3000 award.

Meaning “friend” in Inuit language Inuktitut, Illamar shows an unlikely friendship between an Inuit boy and a walrus that developed as they scuffled for food. Although it seems heartwarming, the short highlights the reality of how global warming is drastically affecting the ecosystem – the Inuit boy fishing alone shows the extremely diminished community and the walrus stealing his catch an indication of food shortage.

The light-hearted style might have masked the serious issue of global warming, but its main message is still powerfully relevant. “The fight between the walrus and the boy shows how tough survival can be out there, but there are still a glimmer of hope for them if only we acknowledge this threat and help preserve their culture and life,” Illamar’s line producer Amy Ling on what inspired the short animation.

Besides its important theme, the team also excelled in character design. “We decided to design our characters as toys and we're inspired by traditional Inuit dolls and masks, so we tried applying their design and proportions into our characters to bring a richer sense of ethnicity to our film,” she explained.

The storyline can either make or break a project. But coming up with a great idea is usually only half the battle. The rest of it lies in the execution that can effortlessly relay the story to the audience.

In the case of ‘Undying Love’, the smoothness of animation, its quirkiness and transitions were convincing and appealing. To get the comedy across successfully, they believed that character performance is key, and that aspect sets their film apart from the others.

“You can have a great story but audience would not like it if the camera work is bad,” Gerald Yong on his stance that story is secondary to execution. “At the end of the day, I believe it’s all about taking the audience on a journey and allowing them to enjoy the whole experience, whatever the subject may be.”

For ‘Illamar’, the color and mood used could are quite distinctive. The creators agree that those two aspects play huge roles in delivering the emotions of its scenes and explains the situation much better than words, connecting the viewers to the film.

At its 19th year, DigiCon6 Asia is a contest organised for short film and animation creators across twelve countries in Asia including Japan, Cambodia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

In Asia and specifically Malaysia, animation studios are mushrooming with opportunities in games, advertising and also feature film animations, but Gerald Yong feels that the local animations have yet to capture the Malaysian identity because of a relatively young industry.

Perhaps more festivals, competitions and events will be able to expose young artists in Malaysia to this field, creating much needed awareness about the lucrative industry. Then, more opportunities to participate and grow with the industry will also follow through.

[The One Academy of Communication Design was established in 1991 with the aim of promoting the region as the world’s center of creative reference. Strategically located in the thriving creative hub of Bandar Sunway, Selangor, with a branch in Georgetown, Penang, The One Academy is today a top notch leading international institute in art, design and creative multimedia, renowned with graduates who steer successful careers in creative capitals worldwide. The courses offered are Multimedia Design with Digital Media and Interactive Design, Digital Animation with Game Development, Film Visual Effects, Illustration, Movie & Game Art, Advertising & Graphic Design, Interior Design, Paris Fashion Design & Pattern Making and Fine Arts.]

The One Academy students receiving their prizes at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

‘Undying Love’ is a comedy about a mummified slave trying to reunite with his love.

Illamar tells a heartwarming story with a hidden message about global warming.