Taking in positive criticism can open a whole new world if a company chooses to listen.
Sometimes, a spoonful of humble pie is good in helping a business reach greater heights.
It definitely helped Addeen Multimedia Sdn Bhd market its series, Dunia Eicak (Eicak’s World), to a global audience.
Dunia Eicak is about a boy called Eicak who discovers a portal to a fantasy world whose inhabitants include a surfer goat, a gentle giant armadillo, a wisecracking cool cat and a wise village head.
The show aims to teach children moral values like caring for the environment, cooperation and friendship.
“One of the series’ objectives is to tell children that they can be good and still be cool,” Addeen animation director Dean Sham explained.
The team thought they had a wonderful product with exciting characters, a great storyline and was prepared to wow animators from digital content think tank, XMediaLab.
That was until their bubble was unceremoniously burst with very honest criticism from people who were known to not mince their words.
The panel of experienced animators thought some characters were too dark, while others were totally unrelatable to children and the series would never make it big if they kept the original characters.
The panel even picked on the bare chested Eicak, who was originally a mudskipper-like character instead of the cute boy in the show.
“We spent a lot of time completing the production bible only to be told that we had to take everything back and start again because many of the elements were not kid-friendly,” recalls Dean.
Head of operations and CG supervisor Sam Lei Wong recalls how the team were initially upset but they managed to get it out of their system and focused on some of the comments given.
He admitted that many artists are sensitive about criticism because they feel that someone was poking fun at something they had passionately worked on.
But feedback is vital and the team continued to be professionals and work on tweaking Dunia Eicak.
If there was any time to stay focused on something, this was it.
“First we had to determine our vision and direction. This helped us decide which criticism to take in and this helped in keeping the Eicak ours instead of it morphing into something totally different,” Wong said.
This positive attitude reaped results and Addeen managed to sell the first season of Dunia Eicak to Media Prima, with debut ratings of about 1.2 million viewers, ranking it second only to BoboiBoy, a series produced by Animonsta Studios.
It has also been bought by popular children’s channel Nickelodeon Asia and shown in many countries in Asia Pacific.
Dean and Wong were proud to say that there was minimal promotion of the show.
Staying true to its roots
Addeen did not come up with these lovable characters overnight. After being on the receiving end of harsh criticisms, the team went back to the drawing board three times to get the formula right.
They had to dispose of all 26 completed episodes for the show’s debut and start again from scratch.
“Dunia Eicak was delayed by four months and of course, we incurred a lot of cost making these changes,” Wong said.
During development, the team made sure to incorporate the recommended tweaks but still maintained a bit of the local touch in the show because it was important for them to retain the Malaysian feel.
“Though we listened to the comments, we had to be selective or the show would lose that Malaysian touch. That’s also why we decided against translating the title original title,” Dean explained.
The team applied for a RM2mil fund from the Multimedia Development Corp (MDeC) to produce Dunia Eicak and the custodian of the MSC-Malaysia initiative is keeping a close eye on developments.
MDeC vice-president of creative industry strategy and policy, Kamil Othman, said he is proud of Addeen’s progress, adding that not many local content developers have the vision to bring their materials to a larger global stage.
“Some local companies only cook for local tastes and exportability of the content wasn’t on their minds. But I’m glad some have begun to understand that we can export Malaysian culture through creative content,” he said.
Now preparing for its second season, Addeen is broadening its horizons and looking forward to penetrating the North American market. It is also planning to go into merchandising with toys and apps for children.
According to Wong, the company needs to think up of ways to continue to make Eicak’s World interesting to kids.
He observed that kids today do not consume content the way he did as a kid and the company will have to learn to adapt to its customers preferences, which means bringing Eicak and his friends to different platforms — from TV to mobile device screens.
“If we don’t change, we will lose out,” he said.