PETALING JAYA: There is no shortage when it comes to local popular cartoon and animated works to promote Malaysia on the global stage.
From Les’ Copaque Production Sdn Bhd’s famous twins Upin & Ipin, Animonsta Studios’ BoBoiBoy to Lat’s classic Kampung Boy comic series, there’s plenty to go around.
So many were disgruntled and unhappy when the National Art Gallery’s (NAG) chairman Datuk Rashidi Hasbullah was recently quoted by a local daily as saying that the gallery was planning to have a Doraemon-themed exhibition next year as it could indirectly promote the country in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VMY 2020).
Rashidi’s comment drew fierce criticism from local cartoonists and animators.
“This is a personal statement by the National Art Gallery’s chairman,” said Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, denying that the art exhibition featuring the famous Japanese animated character will be part of VMY 2020’s programme.
“I never approved any promotional move which involved the Japanese cartoon character and it was never part of our promotional agenda. It is purely his suggestion and if the matter was brought up to me, I would not have approved it,” said Mohamaddin.
Rashidi, the former chief secretary of Motac, made the statement when he attended the launch of the Doraemon Pop-Up store at KLIA2 in March.
He has since clarified that the NAG has no plans whatsoever to put up a Doraemon-themed exhibition in conjunction with VMY 2020
In the speech he made during the launch of the Doraemon Pop-Up store, what he mentioned was that “Doraemon is very popular and next year is Visit Malaysia Year 2020. Coincidentally, it also the year Japan plays host for the 2020 Olympics. If Doraemon is used to promote Japan during the Olympics next year, it could also promote Visit Malaysia Year 2020. If they have plans to have an exhibition, we can work together.”
However, Burhanuddin Radzi, the managing director of Les’ Copaque, said: “Only Malaysian products, be it animation, cartoons or even food, should be used and promoted when you want to welcome foreigners to visit Malaysia.
“Personally, I have no issue when you want to promote foreign cartoons and animations but don’t associate it with Visit Malaysia Year. That is strictly for Malaysian products.”
According to cartoonist Zunar (Zulkiflee Anwar Haque), this issue highlighted an underlying problem in the local arts indus-try.
“This shows a lack of understanding. Whenever anyone here talks about ‘visual arts’, they only talk about fine arts, they never talk about cartoons. They don’t understand or care about cartoons, it’s not part of their agenda,” said Zunar, 56.
Cartoonist Reggie Lee, who is known for his Apa Khabar series, said he was taken aback when he first heard about this.
“We have so many great local talents who can do the job. It’s a bit strange for them to adopt Doraemon when we have so many great local options,” said Lee, 62.