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Tuesday December 8, 2009

Monstas on the loose

By JO TIMBUONG


intech@thestar.com.my

After giving Malaysians the adorable duo, Upin and Ipin, the boys from Les Copaque are out to make a name of their own.

HELPING OTHERS: (l-r) Animonsta team members Kee, Anas, Mohd Safwan Ab Karim and Nizam at their new home in MAC3, Cyberjaya.

THEY are known as the ­creators of the popular Upin dan Ipin series, but the ­original boys of Les Copaque have since left the outfit to set up one of their own, called Animosta Studios.

Realising that there was a bigger world waiting for them, Animonsta Studios managing director Mohd Nizam Abdul Razak and his team, comprising creative director Muhammad Anas Abdul Aziz, ­executive director Mohd Safwan Ab Karim and operations director, Kee Yong Pin decided to detach from Les Copaque’s apron strings.

While the immediate thought for the breakaway was a conflict of interest, Nizam said that the ­decision was mainly driven by business and career interests.

According to Nizam, they wanted to further the industry explore but they haven’t forgotten those who’ve helped them.

“Les Copaque and its managing director, Burhanuddin Md Radzi presented us with a platform and we felt it was time for us to spread our wings,” he said in an interview with In.Tech.

Despite them leaving Les Copaque, they maintain a professional ­relationship with their former colleagues and Burhanuddin, who is known to them as “Tuan Haji.”

“We will be forever grateful for his help because without him, Upin dan Ipin and Geng would never have taken off.”

Although some may think that the boys are starting over from scratch, they have a more positive perspective towards this change.

They may have limited funding but they have a bankful of industry experience under their belt which is more precious to them.

With this experience, Animonsta is charged to create content for the world, Nizam said.

Global content

But even with experience on their side, Nizam and his team are prepared to shed blood, sweat and tears in order to bring Animonsta from a small startup to a force to be reckoned with.

Ultimately, Nizam said, Animonsta would like to join the stars of the content industry such as Disney and LucasArts.

All it takes to get things running will be a change of mindset.

“We used to believe in creating local products for the world market but now we’ve changed to creating universal content with a local touch,” Nizam said.

The way the guys see it, if one is happy with being known as a local company, it will only come up with products that will make the local market happy. But as the saying goes, the world is one’s oyster and Animonsta is after its pearl.

Using the World Wide Web and their own experience, Nizam said Animonsta and any other content industry player for that matter will be able to bring something new to the world’s content table while catering to local tastebuds.

Even Web 2.0 applications like video-sharing site Youtube.com can be a research tool to gauge how the world will accept a locally created icon.

“We have to understand what the global market wants and this requires research and trial and error,” he said.

Enter Boboiboy

But whatever their dreams may be, the guys already have something up their sleeves and it involves a little boy and his group of friends. Oh, and also a couple of aliens and coffee.

YUMMY: The titular character from Animonsta's first production Boboiboy enjoying a cup of milk (since he's too young for coffee) at his grandfather's coffee shop.

It is currently working on Boboiboy, the studio’s first ­superhero which they intend to enchant the global market with.

“The character, Boboiboy, is ­actually a play on the moniker usually given to sons — Boboi,” Nizam explained.

Banking on their storytelling talent, Animonsta believes that Boboiboy will be a hit the same way Upin dan Ipin and Geng are.

Boboiboy is billed as a typical boy from the suburbs who has acquired superpowers that can be used to protect the world against ­­coffee-addicted aliens.

Helping hand

While they mull over aliens and coffee, Nizam said Animonsta wants to share their knowledge with other players in the animation industry, especially those who have just started to dip their toes in it.

Nizam said that Animonsta, despite being a new startup itself, has a lot of experience to share — from tips on how to make a series to selling their products to an audience.

It has also chosen to set up shop in MAC3 — the Multimedia Development Corp’s incubation facility for content developers in Cyberjaya.

“Over here we can offer our knowledge and experience to other startups,” he said.

Having already experienced the initiation rituals of the industry, Nizam feels that Animonsta is able to guide newcomers on what to do and what to look out for in order to be successful.

“At the end of the day, the more successful content development companies there are, the healthier the local industry will be,” Nizam said.

SUPERHEROES: Animonsta's Boboiboy will feature Boboiboy (centre), the friendly alien Adu du and Boboiboy's friend Yaya.

Creative director, Anas, added that the guys went through the same difficulties when coming up with Geng and Upin dan Ipin when they were with Les Copaque.

“We understand how it is, so we’d like to prepare others for the challenges,” he said.

To a certain extent, Animonsta sees itself as an enabler for the local content industry.

According to Anas, a number of people approached them to get their advice on how to make it in the industry.

“And all this despite us being kopek (broke) again,” he quipped.

Working out a plan

The Animonsta team has yet to work out how to extend their help to the industry while making a profit.

“Perhaps we’ll strike a profit sharing deal with these companies if we help them come up with a character. Of course, this will depend on how involved we are with the project,” he said.

One of the plans Animonsta has in mind is to offer a production crew for hire.

For example, if a company does not have enough people to produce a series, Animonsta will step in to hand a helping hand and perhaps charge a fee but not have any claim to the finished work.

Another way Animonsta plans to help other companies is by bringing them along to meet buyers.

This, Nizam said, could give a leg up to smaller companies who may not be able to afford their ­production fees.

“If they are eager to show off their intellectual properties, we’ll advise them on how to go about marketing it and we’ll also bring them along to our pitching sessions,” he explained.

Animonsta wants to walk the talk and has already agreed to help a few small companies with their production work.

“We believe in this strategy so we hope this idea of ours will work,” Nizam said.

Animonsta also has plans to commercialise elements found in their gallery such as sound clips and the texture library.

“We want to make available the original resources we used in our productions so others like university graphics students can benefit from it,” said operations director Kee.

Animonsta views this “help-thy-neighbour” strategy as a way of giving back to the industry and indirectly to the people that have helped them make it.

Moving ahead

Despite them breaking away from Les Copaque, the boys are obviously indebted to Burhanuddin who helped them launch their career and gave them the experience and skills of managing a content ­development firm.

“Our reputation in the industry and this experience that we share would not be there without Tuan Haji’s help,” he said.

But this time, the boys will be able to run things their way utilising the management skills they learnt from their time at Les Copaque.

Animonsta doesn’t plan to do everything they have planned simultaneously. Instead they are taking it step by step.

In the first three months, the guys will be working hard in ­securing sponsorships and working on the Animonsta brand.

“If we can do this, I believe we’ll survive our first three years in ­business. Only then we can enable all our other plans,” Nizam said.

But like any other task, the first step is always the most difficult.

“This is a risk we’re willing to take,” he said, adding that if they made it the first time, they can do it again.

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