RM8m animation contract breakthrough for Flare Studios


BY YAP LIH HUEY

FLARE Studios Sdn Bhd, the company behind the production of TYCO (Malaysia's first virtual 3D artist), Fresh Friends and Adventures of Mr Ice animation series, will close an RM8mil contract to produce six episodes of 3D animation for a British channel at the end of this month.  

Its chief executive officer Miza Mohamad said work was expected to start next month and last for 18 months. The move will potentially see Flare Studios' work exposed to 24 European Union channels and the rare opportunity for the Flare Studios crew to work with the who's who from DreamWorks SKG, The Walt Disney Company and Hanna-Barbera.  

In an interview with StarBiz, Miza said once the deal was sealed, it would raise Flare Studios company valuation to RM20mil.  

Miza Mohamad

In addition, Flare Studios will receive a confirmed minimum amount of US$4mil annually for an indefinite time from the British channel for the usage of Flare Studios' works, which does not include licensing and distribution of merchandises.  

The storyboard and voices will be done in Britain while Flare Studios is commissioned to supply the animation works.  

Based on a friendly tip-off from Indian company Compact Disc India Ltd and Infowave Ltd, Flare Studios entered a competitive battleground with South Korean and Indian animation companies who were also eyeing for the deal. It managed to clinch the deal based on its quality and pricing.  

Miza said he would need about 40 people on this project and he would tap talents from local art schools.  

He believes that there are a lot of local talents out there waiting to be tapped.  

By the massive size of the project and the opportunity to work with world-class animators, he foresees that his crew will be exposed to valuable training and knowledge, which in return will enable them to move up into specialised fields in the animation industry.  

Miza said that as the media industry was the second biggest in the world in terms of business value, he was optimistic of his business prospects. “There will always be Flash (an animation format gaining in popularity).” 

On that account, Flare Studios is at the same time sourcing for works from the Middle East, especially the Saudi government. It had finalised details of a deal about two weeks ago with a local company responsible to bring in contents from the Middle East.  

The project is to produce an animated adaptation of an epic, with translations in English and Malay, for the local company.  

The project is slated to showcase local talent and capabilities on the big screen in August. Production work for the project is already under way.  

The deal landed Flare Studios with the theatrical, VCD, DVD and merchandising rights in Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia and the opportunity to be up close working with Richard Rich, best known for his work on Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too.  

The story about Flare Studios came about in 1995 when Miza and Mohd Rafa'e Abdullah were moonlighting on video jobs for production houses. After two years, work started to flow in consistently and in one good month the two-man team was able to rake in RM8,000.  

“At that time, we thought we should expand on this further, not expanding on just this idea of doing typical production work but more in-depth like animation,” Miza explained.  

At that time, both were quick to seize the opportunities on cheaper computers and platforms to give it a strong base to move up the value chain on the concept of media convergence that incorporates a synergistic and complementary blend of a stand-alone studio – audio video, interactive programming and 2D and 3D animation.  

“We were jack of all trades then and we realised we need to get in the technical and creative experts to jumpstart Flare Studios,” he said. 

Miza roped in his cousin Azmer Shazly Norazhar, a technical wizard, and Johan Ashraf Lucas, who was the creative director for popular local band KRU.  

With zero funding, it is only natural to go for an incubator status, thus they root up at the Multimedia University in Cyberjaya, which has cushioned them from initial start-up business risks. They take in interns from the university to work for them.  

Miza commented that his only concerns were intellectual property (IP) pirates and coping with projects flowing in.  

“At the moment, we can still manage but once we kickstart the British project, I expect we will be faced with talent issues,” he added. 

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