Thursday, 21 August 2014 | MYT 5:00 PM

Made in Batam: Garfield gets TV makeover in Indonesia

The Garfield Show: The animated TV series of America's most loveable cat is now made in Batam.

The Garfield Show: The animated TV series of America's most loveable cat is now made in Batam.

The famous feline may be an American creation but its TV series is being made on the Indonesian resort island of Batam.

Southeast Asia has been emerging as a film production centre, with an expanding local workforce and growing exports to the region or even to the traditional creative powerhouses like the US and Europe. 

Infinite Studios, the animation studio behind The Garfield Show, started in 1997 as a film post-production company with a staff of 13. But thanks to success of The Garfield Show, it has diversified into creating its own content production as well as animation and visual effects, with facilities that employ 200 people in Indonesia and Singapore.

Above, a view of Infinite Studios, on the island of Batam, Indonesia. Below, chief executive Mike Wiluan.

“The Southeast Asian region is very new to the media game. I think we’ve been in the business for about a decade or just over a decade, whereas the rest of the world has had a lot of time developing their creative economy,” says Infinite Chief Executive Mike Wiluan. “I think it’s a great opportunity. When we go out to the world, we come out as a region as opposed to just coming out as a singular country and trying to compete within such a small region.”

The film industry in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam is worth a total of US$1.15bil in 2014 through box office ticket sales and cinema advertising, and is projected to jump nearly 17% to US$1.34bil by 2018, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates.

Britain’s Pinewood Studios Group, famous for its James Bond film franchise, partnered the Malaysian government’s investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd to open Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in June. 

American studio The Weinstein Company will use the US$170mil complex in the southern Malaysian state of Johor as the shooting site for Marco Polo, a series about the Italian merchant traveller from Venice, media reported. It will be shown on US video streaming service Netflix.

In Singapore, Star Wars creator Lucasfilm launched a visual effects and animation hub in January to work on Hollywood blockbusters and bolster its marketing efforts in Asia.

Animating an icon

The learning curve to animate Garfield, which started as a comic strip by Davis in 1978, is not too steep for Infinite’s team of animators who are mostly Indonesians, Wiluan said. France’s Dargaud Media, which owns the rights to The Garfield Show, has come up with a "creation bible" which is followed by the subcontractors in the production process.

“It basically enables anyone to follow the instructions of how this character would look, feel and act,” Wiluan said. “I guess why Garfield has been so successful all over the world is because it’s the adventure of a really cute cat and everyone understands it.”

On top of bringing to life characters originating in the West, Southeast Asian filmmakers are increasingly tapping local culture to create unique content that appeals to both domestic and international markets. The Raid 2, an action movie co-produced by Indonesia’s PT Merantau Films about a police officer using the traditional silat martial arts to fight thugs, was shown at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year to several positive reviews.

Malaysian animation studio Les’ Copaque Production Sdn Bhd produces the popular Upin and Ipin television show about a pair of five-year-old twins experiencing their first-ever fast in the Muslim month of Ramadan. The show is broadcast by the Disney Channel, Turkey’s Hilal TV, as well as television stations in Malaysia and Indonesia. – Reuters

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Entertainment , Entertainment , TV , Animation , Cartoon , animation studio , Garfield , The Garfield Show , Infinite Studios , Batam , Indonesia , Singapore , Malaysia , Mike Wiluan


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