TOKYOPOP Fam: Selamat petang!
I'm writing you having just returned from my first trip to Malaysia. While I've traveled to certain countries in Southeast Asia, I still have a few key places left on my list (Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar). Malaysia was my second predominantly Islamic country after Jordan, and I enjoyed the diversity (the population is 50% Malay, 22% Chinese, 7% Indian and the rest various).
We flew into Singapore, but only had time to stay for a brief dinner before crossing the border to Johor, Malaysia. We stayed there for 2 days, touring the brand-new Pinewood Iskandar studios and local area. Our goal during this part of the trip was to see these facilities and how the government is developing the Iskandar region into a new creative and lifestyle hub. New Netflix show Marco Polo was filmed in the studios, and a post-production facility owned by Japan's Imagica is almost complete.
While the development still has a long way to go (lots of areas remain jungle and vegetation - which actually is fine by me!), there is quite a lot of construction, as well as completed projects like the Traders Hotel mall area and Legoland. They have a Hello Kitty cafe and attraction, along with a "super heroes" store.
Malaysia has a fascinating combination of modern and traditional, with a tropical landscape and climate. The people are friendly - everyone greets you with a smile. And we quickly learned how much they love pop culture from around the world!
After Johor, we traveled by van for 4 hours up to Kuala Lumpur, the capital city. We only had 2 totals in KL (the entire trip was a lightning fast 4 days) - the first day visiting government agencies and learning about the country and our industrial sector; the second day we visited animation studios.
Animation production in Malaysia is quite advanced since the government began focusing on this sector 15 years ago, and Malaysia creators are big fans of anime and Japanese pop culture. K-Pop and K-Dramas are also quite hot.
The animation companies we visited - Inspidea, Animasia, and Giggle Garage, along with VFX studio Chain FX - were well-organized, professional and had fun elements for their staff (such as pool tables, toy collections and ping pong). Their quality of animation is impressive, with a lot of work being done for Cartoon Network, Nick, Disney and others over the years, along with original shows such as Inspidea's sushi show Kobushi! And the guys are Chain FX did some concept work for our upcoming film Knockouts.
After a whirlwind 4 days, I cannot claim to be an expert of Malaysia, but I learned quite a lot. The government is dedicated to supporting the creative industry, and there is a lot of talent, passion and commitment. Animation is ahead of live-action in terms of skill level but the live-action crews are increasing (we visited a new film school in Iskandar).
However, costs are a bit pricey in Malaysia, and since the crewbase is still small, even with a 30% rebate the pros of filming in Malaysia may not outweigh the cons. Animation is a different story, since the quality level is high enough to seriously consider partnering with or outsourcing to Malaysia. Over the next few years, if the government remains supportive, the live-action industry can achieve similar status.
I enjoyed Malaysia, especially the people, and look forward to visiting again - and hopefully working on a project there!
TOKYOPOP fam - if any of you are from Malaysia, let us know in the comments section!
Selamat Tinggal everyone!