Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Geng.. Upin & Ipin

Tadi baca an articel pasal movieUpin n Ipin nih (yeahh.. I know..baru nak baca? biasalah...aku sorg yg tak up to date..)

So..bila baca artikel pasal citer nih... teringin plak nak g tgk... ada lagi tak ek citer ni kat cinema? Nak kena check nih...

Daring adventures
Stories by YAM PHUI YEE

Things are going to get busy for a group of young adults, now that they have released the country’s first 3D animated feature film.

THE newly released local movie Geng: Pengembaraan Bermula appears to have all the ingredients for success: the storyline is completely Malaysian, was created solely by local talent and is the country’s first 3D animated feature film.

Granted, the movie is no Pixar film – Geng’s RM4.7mil budget is a far cry from Pixar’s regular RM90mil – but the passion, effort and creativity that went into it is something to be proud of.
Add to the creative talent a strong marketing strategy that goes back as far as two years before the premier of the movie last week, and you have a show that is destined for success.
(From left): Upin, Rajoo and Ipin go on a thrilling adventure in the woods in Geng: Pengembaraan Bermula.

Dreaming big

Les’ Copaque, the company behind Geng, was established three years ago when Multimedia University graduates Mohd Nizam Abd Razak, Muhammad Usamah Zaid and Mohd Safwan Ab Karim were introduced to an investor by a friend.

This person was Burhanuddin Md Radzi, 53, now Managing Director of Les’ Copaque, who had at that time just quit from his job as managing director of an oil and gas maintenance company. Burhanuddin did not initially plan on producing an animation film but so convincing was the trio’s pitch that he agreed to the idea.

“It was hard to digest. Someone we don’t know came in and put all the money there. It was a huge leap of faith,” says Zaid, 26.

The trio then left their jobs to work on Geng. Along the way, the initial story of Geng evolved. From a story about rubber tappers fighting for their survival, the movie became about the adventures of a bunch of friends in Kampung Durian Runtuh, where a mysterious case of disappearing durian unfolds.

In the movie, city kids Badrol and Lim, twin boys Upin and Ipin, their pretty sister Ros as well as Rajoo – the boy who communicates with animals – befriend a cute creature named Oopet and are chased by menacing monsters and giant glow-in-the-dark leeches.
“We went into the jungle to do research on the kind of trees in our forest, record the sounds of forest and rain,” says Safwan, 26, who is responsible for creating the characters Upin and Ipin, among others.

Soon, they discovered that there was much more work to be done, and as such, the company hired more people, all of whom are local graduates.
Malaysia’s first 3D animated feature film Geng: Pengembaraan Bermula features a host of characters such as this scary ‘monster’.

The company was of the opinion that they should mould and train fresh graduates instead of importing talents from overseas or hiring experienced people.
Then there was also the fact that the people at Les’ Copaque had their own way of doing things, which were not always in sync with conventional filmmaking methods.
“We do things our own way and when we hired experienced people, it was hard for them to cope with the way we work,” Zaid explains.

While there were some detractors who didn’t like the idea of a 3D animation film set in a kampung, others like young graduates Kee Yong Pin, were fascinated.
“I’ve dreamt of being an animator since Form One. I didn’t want to take the typical route to work in foreign countries.

“If I can, I want something made by Malaysians for Malaysians, it can be in any language,” the 25-year-old Yong Ping, who was Nizam’s junior at university, says.
“I was chatting with Nizam online one night and he told me about the film. I had many offers at that time but I asked him immediately, ‘Can I come for interview tomorrow?’.”

Strategic moves

Just a few months into the making of Geng, managing director Burhanuddin came up with the idea to use a “spin-off” TV mini series to set the stage for its cinematic release. Using the five-year-old identical twins as heroes, Upin & Ipin debuted on TV9 in 2007. The move was a success.

When the show returned for a second season about the boys’ experience during fasting month in 2008, it received a rating of 1.5 million viewers and was screened in Indonesia and Turkey as well.

This year, season three comes with longer air time, more universal themes and 42 episodes.
In fact, the TV show has been so popular that it has been pirated, although not with totally negative effects.

“It (the piracy) has helped us made the series very successful. Our merchandise are very popular but now that they have pirated our merchandise as well we don’t know what to do next,” he says, breaking into a hearty laugh.

All this could only mean one thing: by the time Geng was to be released, the cheeky Upin and Ipin were already well-loved characters for some children and their parents. Its earlier five-minute episodes are witty, entertaining, educational and reveals the background and personality of each character which you don’t see in the film.

“We chose a local image and it creates an alternative to Disney. If you want to sell internationally, you need something that the moment you show it, people take notice. Then you can (secure) further enquiries and sales,” says Burhanuddin, who is expecting more production houses to venture into 3D animation after Geng’s release.

Makers of Geng: Pengembaraan Bermula went into the jungle to conduct research on the type of plants and sounds in the Malaysian forest to make the 3D animated film more realistic.


Not everything was smooth sailing however. The company also struggled with having limited resources, forcing the team to maximise whatever they had.

There were other challenges in terms of technical skills and storyline. Six months before the release date of the film, Geng had been revised numerous times, cut down and tweaked to improve the storytelling. They also had to experiment and improvise ways to create the desired effects and finally came up with a ‘pipeline’, a workflow for the production.

“We didn’t know how to do things like audio for cinema release. We out-sourced sound effects to Thailand but they didn’t meet our expectations. Mr Burhan asked if we could do it ourselves so we said ‘okay’.

“We researched on the Internet, set up a studio, recorded them and got advice from the Thais,” says creative director Muhammad Anas Abdul Aziz, 25.

Things weren’t all that bad, however. The movie was also made with the assistance of a RM1mil eContent grant from the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry. They also had access to the rendering facilities on supercomputers at Mimos for free, saving them RM2mil.
But it was still not enough. Some things had to be sacrificed, including effects. Watching the movie, one thing that stood out was the stiff hair and clothing on the characters. In reality, these effects require a longer time to be computed and the Autodesk Maya Unlimited software costs four to five times more than the limited version that was used to make the movie.

“Maybe after one or two more movies, we can do that if we have the money,” says Zaid.
Compositor Mohd Faiz Mohd Hanafiah (right) and creative director Muhammad Anas Abdul Aziz agree that people in Les’ Copaque Productions work together like a family.

Up next
While the story of Geng is local, its success may extend beyond the physical geographical boundaries. Requests have been pouring in from TV stations, foreign film distributors and production houses from as far as Argentina and South Korea to screen Geng or co-produce a new production.

The film will be submitted to Annecy Animation Festival in Paris this June and possibly at the Cannes Film Festival in November. For now, the team is working on Upin & Ipin season three and monitoring the ticket sales of Geng.

“We’re aiming for RM10mil. Already in forums people are rallying around and saying ‘let’s help them achieve it’,” Safwan says, smiling.

They are also getting the staff ready for bigger things, a live-action film on the life of singer Zaiton Sameon and hopefully a movie with CGI effects like The Chronicles of Narnia. Les’ Copaque runs monthly 3D animation trainings at its premise in Shah Alam under an MDec contract and is planning an a three-month programme to churn out more talents.

When Yong Pin joined the team, Nizam assigned him to lead a group of 15 interns on animation. Like other pioneers in the team, his career has developed vastly over the past three years.
“Now I am focusing on training new leaders. I don’t think we can cope with just 60 people. We plan to expand. We’ll have lots of projects coming in,” says Yong Pin.
The team at Les’ Copaque realise that more people, whether kids, their parents or industry players, will be watching them now and having higher expectations of them. But it is not to be feared.

“Like our title says, this is the beginning of our journey,” Anas concludes.
Find out more about Geng at and
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