No matter what age you are at now, there would definitely have been a time when you imagined you were a superhero – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman.
“When children watch Spider-Man, they end up wanting to be like Spider-Man,” animation creator Nizam Razak shared. “That’s what came to my mind when I created BoBoiBoy – I wanted a Malaysian superhero character so that children here would say ‘I want to be like BoBoiBoy’.”
“A Malaysian superhero would foster the idea of embracing your own identity ... you could be proud of yourself, your nation,” explained Nizam about how the animated character came to life.
The 34-year-old Nizam has today established himself and his animation content provider company – Animonsta Studios – as a force to be reckoned with in the Malaysian animation industry.
Born in Muar, Johor in 1983 and raised in Melaka, the creator of BoBoiBoy is also the CEO of Animonsta, co-creator of Upin & Ipin and a father of three children – two boys and a girl aged between three and nine.
His interest in graphics and web design harkens back to his secondary school days, when he decided to seek out opportunities to invest in this interest. Nizam pursued a degree at the Multimedia University (MMU), majoring in Film And Animation. He graduated with first class honours; his seven minute-final year project even bagged a number of accolades along the way.
Before Animonsta came about, Nizam worked for Les’ Copaque Production in 2005, a 3D animation company where he learned the ropes. But Nizam had his own dreams to pursue, and so after three years, he ventured out with a little help from his friends.
Nizam and his partners – Safwan Abdul Karim, Anas Abdul Aziz and Kee Yong Pin – had formed a team of sorts since their university days. They did almost everything together – studied, did their internships and final year projects and then eventually went out to work all at the same time. But the icing on the cake was when their dreams of establishing their own company –Animonsta – finally came true.
“I always said to them, ‘If you do not believe in yourself, who else will? If we do not believe in our group, who else will?’,” said Nizam.
The animator emphasises the importance of unity and friendship repeatedly during the interview.
“Unity is very important to me. As a Malaysian, it might be cliche because people always talk about unity and being united. But I often travel to many other countries as a businessman. And this really matters because a lot of people from other countries look to Malaysia because we are a culturally-rich nation and yet we still remain united,” he said.
Mingling around with people from different races during his schooling days definitely influenced his career and he wanted to continue championing that idea.
“For me, it is a very natural process. It’s not like I purposely take my experiences and put them into the animation stories that I create. But we create based on our own experiences, right?”
And so began BoBoiBoy.
The animated series focuses on the character of BoBoiBoy, a kid superhero with a superpower that enables him to transform to up to seven versions of himself – each with unique abilities. BoBoiBoy works hand-in-hand with his buddies defending the Earth from invading aliens.
BoBoiBoy is specifically designed as a children’s character. As compared with adult superheroes who appear strong and seem untouchable, BoBoiBoy resonates with younger audiences. “At a young age, children still do not know how to choose friends,” he said.
According to Nizam, children are exploring the meaning of friendship in their early years. If you lecture them directly about the meaning of friendship, they would probably not grasp it. But with a character like BoBoiBoy, they are able to pick up more. He said: “He’s more than just a cartoon character. He educates, promotes unity and fosters friendship. He is a two-in-one – he entertains and educates in a more natural way... he’s not so preachy.”
When asked about what character resembles him most from his body of work – BoBoiBoy, Yaya, Gopal, Papa Zola, Fang – he laughed and said “Papa Zola” – a funny, weird, superhero wannabe, who is also a teacher and a spaceship captain. He feels this character resonates with him as he holds different positions in real life as well – after all, he doesn’t just take care of the daily operations, he also writes for the series, and he is a full-time dad as well.
In the process of creating BoBoiBoy, there were several challenges. Nizam shared that these included gaining support for a local brand of cartoon, sourcing and training talent and also marketing the animated series.
The studio did not specifically develop its own technology. What it did was develop a “pipeline” for combining different technologies, end-to-end. Currently, they use rendering software such as Mental Ray and Redshift.
Apart from the technology, however, Nizam believes that the skill of storytelling in animation is the most important element that many studios (even international ones) overlook.
How did he overcome the challenges?
Nizam said that it was through the ratings, the likes, the comments and the shares that the show received. With this data, he was able to convince potential partners to support the project.
Being chosen as an icon in the nation’s “Ikon-Ikon Negaraku” campaign is a grand honour, he readily admits. This is because it is a sign of recognition that his work has impacted people’s lives. He hopes that this sort of recognition would inspire aspiring animators to create new stories that will help us champion our national identity.
But when it comes to him and his team, recognition from viewers is more important.
“Over a million people watched BoBoiBoy: The Movie. Audiences were able to enjoy the movie as families and as friends, and they shared quality time together. For me, that was an important achievement,” he said. BoBoiBoy 2 is expected to premiere at the end of 2018.
Recently, Animonsta earned the “Gold Play Button” Award from YouTube for reaching one million subscribers.
With BoBoiBoy’s growing popularity, Nizam is eager to feature the show on streaming platforms, and is working on deals which he hopes to clinch by 2019.
Nizam will always appreciate the support from Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and the efforts of the government in encouraging creativity. He believes that because of this support, and the infrastructure that the Multimedia Super Corridor has afforded, the local animation industry is blooming.
He said: “There is demand for stories set in a Malaysian context. Now, the Malaysian animation industry is no longer a servicing platform; instead local animators are also able to construct their own brand and content.”
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