Last we've heard from Les Copaque's head honcho, the esteemed Tuan Haji Burhanuddin that our intrepid animation industry pioneer was hard at work with other stuff; other than the movie that we were expecting this year.
Zanimated! was privileged enough to have gotten that nice morsel of information and there's still some more that we got from the proverbial horses mouth. It tells of a tale which paints the picture a little bleaker than most people would think. So if you think you are talented and want to go into animation, maybe there are more things to consider than just your grades and whether you can find a job in Malaysia (or Singapore for that matter).
"Actually, after we released our film and started to make the 42 episodes of Upin & Ipin in 2009, we were planning to start making another movie. The main reason was because the revenue stream from selling the TV series in Malaysia is not lucrative and the revenue from the movie is not enough to recover my investment. So were hoping that our seconnd film will bring enough revenue to recover my investments," Burhanuddin shares.
The small episodic morsels of Upin & Ipin made for the TV series were actually a Godsend reprieve. By August 2009, the series made its enterance into Indonesia under a revenue sharing arrangement.
"Due to revenue sharing, we could not see the revenue stream until 4 months later. Since June 2009, we started developing the storyline and decided to produce the Angkasawan (movie) because we were trying to get TM to sponsor the production cost," says Burhanuddin.
Burhanuddin claims that the original second Geng movie's storyline was about Upin & Ipin going to outerspace and, get this, they are attacked by the aliens who are looking for coffee beans to sustain their power. This idea was scrapped after some major shifts within Les Copaque and some of the creative team leaving for greener pastures back in October 2009.
Being left in a lurch and with no finalised script to work on, Les Copaque had no other viable options but to regorganise and deal with management issues. According to Burhanuddin, there were voices saying that Les Copaque would collapse within 6 months after the leaving of some key personnel.
"We managed to honour our obligations for 2009 and by January 2010 we started new productions of the Upin & Ipin TV series. Due to limited resources, we had no time to start film production (for the second movie). By June 2010, we started to see huge revenues come from Indonesia due to the success of Upin & Ipin and the slots moved to prime time," Burhanuddin highlights to Zanimated!.
Due to the encouraging revenue, Les Copaque has expanded and developed new businesses from Upin & Ipin.
"We continued recruiting staff and now have already reached 140 people, with plans to hit 200 by end of the year. Now, we are capable of making the movie while producing the TV series as we have enough resources. As the boys do not want to use the old footprint (for the second movie) and taking in the commercial considerations, we changed the title to 'Laksamana Upin and Ipin.' It is easier to include story from the other side and attract big sponsors who are ready to commit," explains Burhanuddin.
So there you have it. There are always commercial considerations that you need to make when you're making a movie. Passion sadly enough, is not enough. You have to make it, on a balance, sellable in the first place. Lofty as the ambitions may sound, it isn't too stretching the possibilities. Indonesia is such a vast and interesting market to a lot of people in a lot of industries.
Burhanuddin also tells Zanimated! that he has asked TV3 (under the threat of legal action) to stop crediting others as the creators of Upin & Ipin. TV3 has complied of course.
No matter how the storm looks like in the teacup of the Malaysian animation industry, Burhanuddin seems positive in saying that he feels proud to have helped inspire the next. Proud as well to have contributed to the growth of the industry.
Still want to enter the animation industry? Well, this quote will sum it up from Les Copaque's head honcho:
"I believe you must realise that this business is 'indah khabar dari rupa' (sounds better than how it actually seems)." Pretty apt. Pretty short. But we sure as heck hope that things will get better for everyone.