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Spices of the Cinema


By Hassan Abdul Mutalib Anime (Japanese animation) has had a very large following in Malaysia, especially so among students of design, animation and multimedia. If at one time, children and teenagers only knew of American cartoon characters and stories, now they are reacting to something closer to home and culture. Malaysian audiences first taste of anime on the big screen came with the release of Hayao Miyazakis Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, and Osamu Tezukas Metropolis. Other films like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, My Neighbour Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies became available on VCD or DVD. Every week on Malaysian TV, about 300 foreign animation programs are screened. Out of this, about 25 are anime. Doraemon is the biggest hit. Watched by young and old alike, it has crossed cultural boundaries like no other series. A Brief History of Malaysian Animation The first example of animation in the world is the wayang kulit. With its shape and articulating arms, it is the figures used in cutout animation. Lotte Reiniger, the German animator, was inspired to do her film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), based on the wayang kulit form. Animation in Malaysia began in 1946 with the setting up of the Malayan Film Unit (now called Filem Negara). The first short animation film was, Hikayat Sang Kancil (Anandam Xavier),1978), screened in 1983. Other short films appeared between 1984 and 1987: Sang Kancil & Monyet, Sang Kancil & Buaya, Gagak Yang Bijak, Arnab Yang Sombong, and Singa Yang Haloba. The governments push for the use of digital technology in the early 1980s resulted in the private sector producing the first TV series, Usop Sontorian (Kamn Ismail,1995). The first feature film, Silat Lagenda (Hassan Abd Muthalib), appeared in 1998. To date, 31 TV series, 4 telemovie nd 3 feature films have Usop Sontorian 1995 - The 1st TV been made (quite a few have been sold to series other countries). A number of cartoonist have had their characters turned into animation. Among them: Lat (Kampong Boy developed in the US and animated in the Philippines); Imuda (Mat Gelap, the first local film to have animated characters); Nan (Din Teksi), and Ujang (Usop Sontorian). The Appeal of Anime Students concur that:

Anime is first of all different from Western animation in its visual imagery and that it seems to be more real to them than Western animation. Anime narratives are not the predictable, reccled stories of Hollywood that hardly vary. Anime offers new stories different from episode to episode and series to series. Characters in American animation are mostly based on animals (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny), where as anime characters are mosttly human or robots. Genderwise, anime females appear to be at par with males, and behave with confidence and maturity. Even though anime uses limited animation, the quality of the artwork with the use of

shadows and highlight is a great attraction. Anime is also dubbed into Bahasa Malaysia, whereas no other American TV series is. Manga is of highly visual nature, with calligraphy becoming part of the visuals (a Japanese neuro-psychologist noted that the combination of language and picture in comics stimulates both right and left hemispheres of the brain, contributing to improved design capability and pattern recognition).

Anime Influence on Malaysian Animation It all began when some Japanese animation studios farmed out their ink and paint work to Lensafilm, a Malaysian commercial film studio araound 1985. Initially only ink and paint work was done. Japanese personnel trained the locals and some of them were sent to Japan to be trained at Toei Studios in the anime style. They were then trusted to do in-betweening for films like Transformers, Sailormoon and Silat Lagenda 1998 - The 1st Dragoonball. With the advent of local animation TV series, some moved into this new area, Animated Feature bringing with them the anime style (clearly seen in the look of the tiger in Sang Wira , the cat in Edi & Cici, and the human characters in Mann Spider and Silat Legenda). The anime influence can also be seen in the depictions of explosions and smoke, mounth movements, walk and run cycles and scenes of characters crying. As these animators moved to other studios, they maintained the anime style. They didnt try to develop their own style because none of them had any training in art and design nor were they exposed to the various styles of animation of other countries. The first series to have anime-inspired background was Sang Wira. Its back grounds were inpired by scenes of the village and countryside in Miyazakis films as were the backgrounds in Silat Legenda. The latter films deep blue skies and billowing clouds reflected what the director felt about the countryside peace, serenity and spirituality.Reasons for the Acceptance of Anime The art and cultural expressions of Malaysia , like many Asian countries, are quite similar. Asians like a lot of detail, rich colours and textures. Floral motifs appear to be most popular. Plays, dances and musical perfomances usually included depictions of gods and goddessess or spiritual beings. To express their feelings for these celestial beings, they clothed their actors with costumes and other adornments, bordering on the fantastic and mythical. The Japanese, too, have a rich tradition of theatre, music and dance that makes use of gorgeous costumes that glorify the form of the actor, dancer or musician. Anime and manga artists appear to have drawn their design inspirations from costumes in the traditions of Noh and Kabuki theatre, Kyogen drama, Gagaku and Nukui-Bayashi music and dance, Bunraku puppet theatre Ryukyu traditional dance, to name a few. In Malaysia, some animation films went to the roots of Malaysias traditional art and design. Singapura Dilanggar Todak (Alan Aziz, 2000) made strong use of wayang kulit, batik and Malaysian textile elements in its character design and backgrounds. Silay Legendas costumes, props and backgrounds referred to Malaysias rich cultural heritage and portrayed its countryside, forest & hills, as did the 3D short, A Malaysian Friday (Tajino, 2000).

Conclusion Formal training of animation only began in Malaysia in 2000. Today we have many qualified animators who will ane day create a distinctive animation artform, as anime has done for Japan. Just as pioneer Japanese animator, Osamu Tezuka, was first inspired by American animation, contemporary Malaysian animation filmmakers have been inspired by anime, leading them to explore their own roots. More and more anime films areflooding the Malaysian market, competing with Western product. The monopoly of American animation (especially Disney), is being broken, giving viewers an alternative. An animator friend of mine who had worked at Disney and Dreamworks told me that after seeing Princess Mononoke, some animators at Disney exclaimed: Thats the kind of thing we really want to do!

Mat Gelap 1990 - Malaysia's Animated Character on the Big Screen & the 1st Animation and Live action had been combined.

This is an edited version of a paper presented at the International Anime and Manga Forum, Tokyo, Japan, organized by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan on March 2003 in the symposium WILL THE JAPANESE STYLE ANIME BE AVAILABLE FOR CREATIVE ANIMATION IN ASIA.