Ahead of their appearance at the Visual Arts Expo (VAX) this weekend 21-23 August at Mines International Exhibition and Convention Center (MIECC), we caught up with Malaysian Animation house Wau Animation Sdn Bhd, sitting down with one of its founders and executive director Usamah Zaid Bin Yasin, to find out a little more about their company and what they have in store this weekend.
The Hyped Geek: Before we talk about the Visual Arts Expo, can you tell me a little bit about Wau Animation , I believe that you started just over 2 years ago?
Usamah Zaid Bin Yasom: Yes, the company was established early in 2013 so we are about two years in now, however the team that founded the company were not exactly new in the industry. There was 8 of us who left from Les’ Copaque Production Sdn Bhd, in fact I was one of the founding members of Les’ Copaque, if you are familiar with the creators of Upin and Ipin. So after about 7, close to 8 years there I finally felt that the company was not exactly going towards the direction I was hoping for, So we decide to go out and carve our own path.
“Wau” animation is how you would spell “wow” using malay phonetics so it’s like “wow” in “wow factor”. Basically, what we aspire to do is bring out that awestruck reaction. In that sense [our name] is kind of a promise of quality that we hold ourselves accountable to. And of course Wau is the kite, in the sense … we want to make sure that what we do reflects who we are, and as Malaysian, because the Wau is one of the main icons of Malaysia.
Also because it’s a kite, it’s considered a toy, and animation is meant to be play, it’s meant to be fun. Plus it’s a kite, so it lies really high like we aspire in ourselves kind of thing. Last but not least Wau is also one of the main alphabet in Arabic … that letter represents that side of us, as all out founders are Muslim, because we find that there are no animation or media giants that are holding the core of being Islamic, not that we are going out and try to convert the world but we want to have a place for our stories out there amongst the other heroes and stories of the world.
THG: and Ejen Ali is your first IP?
USZBY: Ejen Ali is our first IP. For Ejen Ali we have received the MAC3 development grant from the government to develop Ejen Ali so we’ve also spent about 8 months doing up the preproduction, developing the IP, time for us to develop the world, the characters, things like that.
Just recently we’ve signed a contract with Primeworks, the content subsidiary of Media Prima, so we’re actually the first animation title that will be co-produced with Primeworks. So they are coming in and having a share of the IP, and they are putting in quite a lot of money for us to produce this season of Ali.
Ali is a story about a kid who is an underachiever, kind of a loser who one day stumbles upon a mystery device that happens to belong to an espionage agency and then he accidently binds the device to himself and from there the agency needs the device but the kid is stuck to the device, so in order for them to use the device they need the kid. So they make the kid an agent but this kid is the last person you would want to be an agent.
One thing we thought would be the main attraction for the show is the fact that we have these four pillars inside the agenty the four pillars of espionage, tentatively named:
- Intel Agents: these are the agents who do all the intelligence collection and those who plan the mission
- Combat Agents: basically the big ones who bash up people and stuff
- The Tech Agents: demolition experts, hackers, those who would handle all the intricate gadgets
- Stealth Agents: the ones who go undercover and carry out recon missions
We feel that every team that goes on a mission, a real mission, an important one would require these four components, and each component would have different disciplines. They would wear different outfit they would wield different devices. These are the things that we feel could be expanded to the audience experience whereby we plan for our fans, instead of just registering into a fan club we would want them coming in and recruiting them as agents. Currently we are developing apps and a database for them to create their own avatar and pick their faction, like Harry Potter sorting hat kind of thing.
THG: ..and when will Ali be broadcast?
USZBY: The show will start airing in December on TV3, the whole production will go on for 20 months. The last episode of the first season will be aired in April of 2016 and then the second series will start airing in October 2-16. By January 2017 the last episode of season 2 will air.
Usamah’s son voices the “Wau” at the beginning of their short films.
THG: So far you’ve released a number of shorts, how long does it take to put one of those together
USZBY: A couple of weeks, it’s not easy [laughs] because we’ve been juggling a lot of things but we want to make sure that we have a presence now and then.
THG: So at VAX on Saturday I believe you have a keynote at 4pm, will that be you giving that?
USZBY: Yeah [laughs] most of them (the team) are very shy when it comes to public speaking. I mean I’m still nerve wracked whenever I get on stage, but you have to be brave about it and if you don’t challenge yourself you’re not going to grow, so I’ll be giving the keynote. I’ll be talking about Wau, why we do what we do and I’ll be introducing Ejen Ali. We’ll actually have a new animation video , 3-4 minutes long that we have completed that we have yet to release. I’m thinking that it’s something we are going to share there.
THG: How do you feel about taking the stage right after Mr. Hiroyuki Yamaga, Studio Gainax’s CEO and founder (creators of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL & Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann)
USZBY: [laughs] You have no idea! Just being on the stage itself is nerve-wracking, after Gainax they want me to take the stage? Oh I just hope the crowd is going to be kind to me.
THG: Are you planning anything else for Vax?
USZBY: We’re planning to show case our works [at our booth], we’re going to mention some recruitment to see if we get any interest, create the awareness that we’re hiring
Also whoever comes to our booth, we’re just going to give them random missions. For these missions we’re actually producing whole sets of button badges (for the various espionage factions), so people who complete the missions will get to be recruited into the different factions.
THG: What would you say are your favourite current animated show/movie and favourite of all time?
USZBY: One of my favourite animation of all time is The Lion King, it stuck with me for a really long time, I memorized like the whole movie, I watched it over and over and over again. A lot of other things I liked such as comics, Dragonball, Slam Dunk and now…my favourite director, if you would like to know is Christopher Nolan. I loved his work on Memento, it was the first movie I watched that made me realise that films don’t have to be such a normal thing and it kind of like gave me a new hope in learning film, I realised that people actually do this. During my years at Uni I was also into a lot of Anime as well Samurai X/Rurouni Kenshin. Recently I watched Shingeki no Kyojin (Atttack on Titan) I loved that but the live action film.. awww it was horrendous, I saw like 15 minutes of it. When I watched it it got “Airbendered“, like what M. Night Shyamalan did with Avatar: The Last Airbender. That was also one of my favourites, but not so much Korra.
Obviously I love a lot of of Pixar movies, I love most of them I think my favourite pout of all the Pixar movies would be Incredibles and Up I think. From Disney I love how they are coming up again, I liked Frozen the first time I saw it, but when my son kept wanting to watch it over and over you start seeing all the flaws in the movie. On the flipside Big Hero 6, the first time I watch it I was more “Meh” but again because my son wants to watch it practically every day watching it over and over again, it kind of reveals to you the brilliance of it , because when you watch it once you ,miss how much Hiro Hamada became like this brother. Now I love Big Hero 6. Whenever I see a Baymax I have to get it for my son.
THG: thank you for your time and enjoy your VAX experience!
VAX is running all weekend, 21-23 August, at Mines International Exhibition and Convention Center (MIECC)
Tickets are priced at RM 25 for two day pass and RM 15 for a single day.
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