KUALA LUMPUR: The statement by National Art Gallery chairman Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah that characters from Japanese anime Doraemon be used to promote Visit Malaysia 2020 was just a personal view, says Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi.
"I never approved any promotional materials involving animated characters from Japan, and they have never been part of our promotion campaign," he said in a statement on Wednesday (April 24), after local animators criticised the idea.
Mohamaddin said this was just Rashidi's suggestion, which was made when he attended a function at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA 2) in March.
"Even if that suggestion was brought to me, I would not have approved it," he said.
He added if indeed Doraemon was part of the promotional campaign, he would have made it clear at the press conference on the ministry's performance on Monday (April 22).
Mohamaddin said Malaysian animated characters would have been his first pick, if the ministry wanted to use cartoon characters in the campaign.
"I hope my explanation will put a stop to all the confusion," he said.
The Doraemon suggestion drew flak from local animators, as well as the admin of the Facebook fan page of renowned cartoonist Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid, better known as “Lat”, and Les' Copaque Production, which makes the Upin & Ipin animated series.
Lat’s fan page admin said he was baffled and disappointed by what Rashidi said, as there were many popular local cartoon characters that could be used.
Rashidi reportedly made the suggestion on March 11 that the National Art Gallery hold an exhibition featuring characters from Doraemon, as part of Visit Malaysia Year 2020, whilst delivering a speech at a ceremony to launch the first Doraemon pop-up store at KLIA 2.
"We'll see how Malaysia and Japan can collaborate on this.
There are Doraemon fans of every age and we know that the cartoon inserts positive values and lessons in every episode," he said.
Created by the Fujio F. Fujiko, Doraemon is a robotic cat who produces amazing gadgets to help his friend Nobita out of trouble.
Popular among Malaysians, the cartoon features other characters such as bully Giant, rich kid Suneo and Nobita's love interest, Sizuka.