HE is only 34, but Usamah Zaid Yasin already has a list of accolades to his name. The co-founder and managing director of Wau Animation is the man behind Ejen Ali, a Malaysian animated series that just finished airing on TV3 last month.
Prior to starting Wau, Zaid was also a founding member of Les’ Copaque Productions in 2005. The company is behind the successful Upin dan Ipin series and the movie, Geng: Pengembaraan Bermula.
Zaid says he stumbled into animation by chance as he was unsure of what he wanted to do after Form Five.
“I was interested in games and comics, and after my SPM, I saw a Multimedia University (MMU) course poster that had a 3D-rendered image of Final Fantasy. I was playing the game, so I thought of just trying it out.”
He enrolled in the MMU creative multimedia course and was soon engrossed in animation. From that unplanned start, his passion for the field grew. And Zaid believes that is one of the things people need if they want to pursue a career in animation.
“Animation is a labour of love. It is not going to get you rich or famous, so what keeps you going is your passion for creating characters and showing your artwork to the world, then seeing the reaction of your audience,” he said.
Zaid added that this is a challenging industry to be in, especially if you seek stability, good pay and a good work-life balance.
“With animation programmes that don’t make it big, chances are, you won’t be able to cover your costs because a lot of it relies on licensing and merchandising. The money will come if you do it right, but you have to be in the industry for the right reason,” he advised.
Goh Chee Seng, on the other hand, has always wanted to go into the arts industry. The turning point came when The One Academy principal and founder, Tatsun Hoi, came to his school, Chung Hwa Independent High School in Kuala Lumpur, to give a talk.
“That’s when I found out about animation and wanted to study at that academy,” said Goh, who was in Form Two then.
But as his family was not well off, he knew he had to get a full scholarship to study there. So, he started joining art competitions, hoping to get noticed. But for four years, he didn’t win anything – “not even a consolation prize!”
Then, when Goh was in Form Six, he was declared champion of the New Media Award organised by The One Academy, winning a full scholarship to study digital animation at the academy.
Now, the 34-year-old is the co-founder of Illusionist Animation Studio in Petaling Jaya.
His company recently collaborated with Square Enix Company on Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, which was released last year. His team helped create the magical kingdom in which the movie is set in.
“It was very tricky because everything had to be very detailed,” Goh said.
“Square Enix provided us the design, but we had to translate it to 3D and make it realistic. It was very challenging.”
But Goh is used to facing challenges. From the get-go, everyone he met would say: “Can survive meh? Drawing and art cannot feed you.” Even his parents asked him to be an accountant, instead.
“No one gave me encouragement, but I kept going because if you don’t hold on to your dreams and if you don’t know what you want, then you won’t make it,” said Goh, who carries with him to this day what Hoi said at the talk: “If you change your mind, your fate will change.”