Award winning Batik Girl director says good pool of local talent in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/ANN) - The nine-minute video, now available on YouTube, is a collaborative effort between The R&D Studio, writer Heidi Shamsuddin, Tudidut Studio and Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Faculty of Music.

You might have heard about Batik Girl by now, or chanced upon the beautifully rendered 2D animated short film on social media.

The nine-minute video, now available on YouTube, is a collaborative effort between The R&D Studio, writer Heidi Shamsuddin, Tudidut Studio and Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Faculty of Music.

It has been making its presence felt at film festivals around the world for the last year or so, and gaining a long list of accolades in the process.

Batik Girl features a simple but poignant storyline about family, love and loss, while promoting Malaysia’s traditional art of batik.

Produced by The R&D Studio (an MSC Status company based in Malaysia which describes itself as made up of storytellers and worldbuilders), Batik Girl is just one of over 100 properties belonging to it.

According to Irwan Junaidy, senior partner at The R&D studio, co-creator and director of Batik Girl, this effort is R&D’s first short film, and the idea was born in 2017 while co-writers Irwan and Heidi were attending a book festival in Bologna, Italy.

He said: “We saw a couple who was really interested in a table cloth made out of batik, and we thought to ourselves that there hasn’t been an animation that utilises batik before. We wanted to tell a story that was about something local and we felt batik would be an excellent starting point.”

Irwan shared that much time was devoted to the preproduction process of Batik Girl.

It took a whole year to make Batik Girl – eight months on story development and another four on animation production.

The R&D Studio team, for instance, researched traditional Terengganu architecture – you’ll note evidence of this in examples like the beautiful latticed windows and the ‘kayu tunjuk langit’ rooftops of the Batik Girl’s home.

They also watched batik craftsmen closely to perfect the art which permeates both the story and look of the film.

While the story revolves around batik, Irwan says the “emotional core of it is about relationships”, and that has struck a chord with audiences all over the globe.

Batik Girl has already won the best short animated film at Festival de Largos y Cortos de Santiago in Chile, the Gold Medal in the Regional category at the 20th Digicon6 Asia, Japan, and Honorable Mention in Audience Favorites award from the Florida Animation Festival, as well as in the official selection of numerous other festivals in the United States, India, Greece, Iran, Canada, South Korea, Slovenia and Italy.

It is also being shared by local Netizens, who only have praise for the tremendous effort.

While he is thrilled at the attention the film is receiving, Irwan feels that in terms of technology, we need to improve ourselves because the bar is very high.

“For a young nation like Malaysia, compared to more established nations with a longer history in animation, we have done good animation IPs that work really well for the region. But we’re still far behind if you look at it from a global point of view.

“We still don’t have homegrown IPs with a global reach or with the success and longevity of brands such as Mickey Mouse, Doraemon or Spongebob,” he shared.

Irwan also feels that we need proper business savvy, financial muscle and some degree of luck to make it big.

“But there are some Malaysian animation IPs that are steadily trying to make inroads to a more global audience, and I believe it will happen soon.

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