Job Demand for Talented & Qualified Animation & Virtual Effects Graduates Rises with Malaysia’s Growth in Animation
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According to a report by World Bank Group’s Global Knowledge and Research Hub in Malaysia, the local creative content industry raked in revenue of RM7.9 billion from 2013 to 2017 while the animation sector for export reached RM132 million. Comparatively, the Asian animation industry was valued at US$52 billion in 2017 with most segments growing at up to 3% year on year. The report said there are more than 372 studios in Malaysia that are directly involved in various stages of development and production and are creating 11,150 jobs.
Some of the best known animation brands including Boboiboy, Ejen Ali and Didi & Friends are located in Cyberjaya. Furthermore, large corporations such as Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd and Media Prima Bhd are involved with some of the studios in Cyberjaya goes a long way to show that the local market has more than warmed up to local animation brands.
Malaysia’s rapid growth in animation spells good news for creative students who are interested in animation, virtual effects (VFX), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and game design. The industry will need qualified and industry ready graduates.
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Covid-19 has Shown that Animators, Game Designers and Comic Artists Remain Resilient in their Jobs with Increasing Demand
What can content producers –animators, game designers and even comic artist – do while they’re stuck at home? Besides carrying on with their work and part-time hobbies, it is a great time to really flex their creative muscles as digital content is experiencing a huge growth surge.
In fact, the same App Annie report revealed in February 2020 how weekly game downloads in China went up by 80% compared to the average weekly download for the whole of 2019. This is certainly a good opportunity for the creative industry as the demand for content is now experiencing explosive growths.
As videogames and animated shows are the cornerstones for the Malaysia creative content industry, they are set to become next-gen business drivers in this expansive digital era. Right now, thanks to this massive spike in user demand, the content industry is at the forefront of change. Even Hollywood had to change their age-old strategy and pushed forward the digital release of new movies. NBC Universal made the first move as it announced plans to take its latest movies straight to digital on the same day as the theatrical release.
According to The Star, Tencent picked up millions of new users for its mobile games and WeChat platform when COVID-19 global pandemic first struck China. This growing trend is set to continue at a global scale. Similarly, App Annie reported how citizens of both China and Italy are now spending more time on their smart devices after these countries respective lockdown began.
For Malaysia, there are plenty of locally made games and animated shows that have taken off to become global icons. This includes Thor: War of Tapnorok, Bake ‘n Switch, WarPods, King’s League II, BoiBoiBoy, Ejen Ali, Chuck Chicken and so many more. All of them will certainly experience a higher surge of user download and interactivity. After all, with the Restricted Movement Order in force, all family activities must now be indoors.
According to Hasnul Hadi Samsudin, the VP of Digital Creative Content at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), most animation studios in the country have maintained their workforce throughout the earliest months of the pandemic, through distributed work and management of the pipeline. “Through 1H2020, the industry is consolidating its momentum by keeping most the operations still active while navigating the Movement Control Order (MCO) enacted by the government, initially as a pure work-from-home model and later, with the latest version of the MCO entering a recovery phase since the end of June, studios resuming normal operations and ready to scale up their pipeline once again.”
He notes that the response of Malaysian studios has stayed very positive since the MCO period, with studios contributing dozens of Public Service Announcements based on their well-known IPs, running Digital VS COVID donations to assist healthcare workers and other front-liners and mobilizing their artists, engineers and staff with machines to be home based.
The Government has allocated RM 225 million to spur the growth of the creative industry through programs and soft loans under the National Economic Recovery Plan (PENJANA). “These measures will be implemented through public-private partnership,” says Samsudin. “Specifically for MDEC, we have received RM 35 million of funding under the Digital Content Grant with focus on animation and visual effects projects. The grant can cover a broad range of activities such as development, production / co-production and IP marketing & licensing.”
MDEC is also offering multiple programs to boost the local and regional ecosystem. As Samsudin mentions, “In addition, MDEC drives IP development through the DC3 and DCG; upskilling the talent pool thus ensuring a funnel for the studios to grow via grassroot programs such as Kre8tif!@schools, DICE UP and related development programs; and building scale in the industry through structured incubation program to catalyze start-ups.”
The Government of Malaysia through MDEC has also been running a Virtual Buyer Fly-In Program where buyers get the opportunity to speak to the region’s top animation companies about a variety of solutions, including IP development and services. “The upcoming Kre8tif! Virtual Conference plays a unifying role in the Malaysian ecosystem growth, gathering the best of the industry within the region to facilitate business and networking opportunities,” says the VP. “Founded in 2009, this small gathering of industry, talent and partners has grown to be an exciting and vibrant part of the Southeast Asian animation and VFX scene.”
Cyberjaya – The Hub of Animation Growth in Malaysia
It’s common knowledge that Los Angeles, Tokyo and Paris are among the top established animation hubs. Yet as the $259 billion global industry becomes increasingly international, new cities are emerging as production powerhouses — and one of them is Cyberjaya, Malaysia. Situated just outside Kuala Lumpur, the Southeast Asian nation’s answer to Silicon Valley is part of its Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and is now home to the majority of its rapidly growing collection of animation studios.
The Malaysian animation industry was worth RM567.86 million ($187.7 million) and employed over 3,000 people in 2016, according to the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) — the government-sponsored agency central to the nation’s digital content success.
The total digital content industry in Malaysia now stands at RM 7 billion ($1.68 billion) with exports doubling since 2014 to RM 1 billion ($2.4 million)
It reports there are now over 100 homegrown studios that have produced more than 65 original IPs and seen their work travel to 120+ countries, with an export value of RM170 million (over $32.2 million).
The production and exportation of original IPs is a strong indication the Malaysian animation industry is maturing, along with the rest of the region. Asia has long been a service work hub for North American and European studios. The continent’s animation industry was worth $52 billion in 2018, with up-to 90 percent of American television toons being produced there.
Growth in Malaysia’s Animation Industry
In 2019, Malaysia’s animation industry became a sector to watch, taking the lion’s share of the Malaysian box office receipts among local movies.
The recent “Ejen Ali: The Movie” earned its stripes with a box-office haul surpassing RM25mil in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, within the first three weeks of screening.
Co-produced by Primeworks Studios and WAU Animation, the movie would make inroads to Indonesia on Jan 1 and would be available at CGV, Flix cinemas, Kota Cinema and Cinemax, said WAU Animation chief executive officer Usamah Zaid Yasin.
Earlier in 2019, two other computer-animated films also did very well at the local box office – “Upin & Ipin: Keris Siamang Tunggal” which collected RM26.2mil and “BoBoiBoy The Movie 2”, which raked in RM29.6mil. This dynamic duo left other Malaysian movies in the dust, grabbing more than half of the overall local film ticket collection in the first 11 months of this year.
Upin & Ipin won the Best Feature Film at the Montreal International Animated Film Festival 2019 and was the first Malaysian animation to be shortlisted for nomination at the Oscars in 2020. BoBoiBoy received the Best Poster/Best Teaser Trailer at the Laurus Film Festival and was a finalist at the Florence Film Awards and New York Animation Film Awards.
Comedy web series AstroLOLogy (Lemon Sky Studios) has also been receiving acclaim worldwide. Another interesting IP which is a positive reflection of Malaysian culture is Batik Girl (The R&D Studio) — this animated short has picked up a number of nominations and five awards.
In addition, the inclusion of streaming services like Netflix can allow local and regional animation to reach a wider international audience where traditional theatre distribution may prove more difficult. Already we’re seeing something at hand – the Boboiboy movies by Animonsta are currently available exclusively on Netflix, while two seasons of the Ejen Ali series is on the platform as well.
It helps that Netflix itself is hungry for more animated content. The streaming giant has been investing heavily in animation in the last few years, obtaining – among others – international rights to stream the films of renowned Studio Ghibli, plus a strong slate of animated series and features from Japan and China.
Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) South-East Asia Animation Report 2018
MDEC, in its South-East Asia Animation Report 2018, said the region’s animation industry was forecast to be US$404.8bil in 2023.
Based on the study by MDEC, the country’s creative content industry, which includes film and game developers, generated RM7.4bil in 2017, while in 2018, the animation export product value alone totalled RM146mil.
The industry has also created thousands of job opportunities. The report, released this year, said there were 100 animation companies in Malaysia while the whole national creative digital group totalled 350 companies. The country’s creative content works have been exported to 120 nations.
eGames Growth in Malaysia
On the eGames sphere, the lead government agency in technology, MDEC, in its South-East Asia Game Industry Initiative report, said Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam had game companies that were able to generate between US$5mil and US$10mil revenue per year.
Meanwhile, the Communications and Multimedia Ministry has partnered with Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios (SIE WWS) to establish the global games powerhouse’s very first South-East Asia studio in Malaysia next year. The partnership was a strong recognition of Malaysia as the heart of the games industry in this region.
With this establishment, Malaysia will be working closely with SIE WWS to create more opportunities for the local and regional games industry, uplift the talent pool in Malaysia and establish a partnership with local partners.
Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios Malaysia Sdn Bhd (SIE WWS Malaysia) will provide art and animation services as part of the SIE WWS activities, developing global exclusive titles for PlayStation platforms.
The MSC Malaysia Annual and Quarterly Industry Report reported that games exports grew by a compound annual growth rate of 118% to RM681mil between 2014 and 2018.
The domestic landscape features 53 game studios, many of which are developing local games and creating intellectual properties while also nurturing talent for both local and international projects.
All in all, be it ICT, e-commerce, eGames or animation, the years ahead would only see the Malaysian tech landscape becoming better, with fortified support from all quarters, including the lead government agencies, related associations and the general public.