According to the Research and Markets report of 2020, the total value of the global animation, VFX & video games industry reached $264 billion USD in 2019. Los Angeles, Tokyo and Paris have always been among the top established animation hubs, but animation tech in Southeast Asia is ready to take on the giants. Southeast Asia is now home to many production powerhouse centres, such as Cyberjaya, Malaysia, which is part of the country’s Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC). 

According to Malaysia’s Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), the animation industry in Malaysia employed over 3,000 people and was worth $187.7 million USD in 2016. One reason for its success is the emergence of new technology such as over-the-top (OTT) media service, increased internet penetration, smartphone usage and accessibility to world-class animation software. 

How Malaysian companies can accelerate beyond basic digitalisation

The role of OTT platforms 

Over-the-top (OTT) media services bypass the conventional movie theatre or media distributors via cable and send their content directly over the internet, which gives them quick and relatively cheap access to a broad audience. Examples of OTT are Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Southeast Asia’s iFlix

The rise of OTT platforms makes it possible for the animation industry in Malaysia to enter a global market with fewer restrictions. Furthermore, the successful Boboiboy movie by Animonsta has exclusively been available on Netflix, as are two seasons of the Ejen Ali series increasing the popularity of the industry in Malaysia.

Internet penetration and smartphone usage

Viewership depends a lot on the number of screens available in a country; simply put: more screens equals more viewership. Internet access is high and inexpensive, and more and more Malaysians now have access to mobile devices. On top of that, there is an increase in targeted broadcasting hours by cable and satellite TV and video streaming is growing in popularity. All this combined gives rise to a substantial expansion in demand for animation, VFX and gaming. This demand will only rise in the coming years providing the animation tech industry lots of opportunities to explore this new market. 

Animation tech/software 

Launched in 1996, MDEC aims to empower Malaysians with digital skills and enable digitally-powered businesses. This government agency has ambitions both within Malaysia’s borders and abroad, and the corporation can aid in securing government funding or persuade foreign companies to invest in local productions. They have formed partnerships with many Malaysian companies to support them in offering their services and content internationally, while simultaneously building up domestic broadcasters. They also help with connecting productions to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) grants and various other government benefits. 

One of these initiatives, funding everything from development to marketing, is the Film In Malaysia Incentive (FIMI) that offers a 30% cash reimbursement. By promoting education programmes and competitions, they help to meet the demand for trained talent in the animation tech sector. 

While the presence of talent is a crucial factor in building any industry, the talent pool also needs to have access to the best industry software. Toon Boom is one such product and considered the global standard for animation and storyboarding software. The best studio’s in the world, such as Universal Animation Studio, Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox Television are using Toon Boom’s award-winning software. With Storyboard Pro and Harmony, they provide the artistic freedom to create and publish to their needs. 

With the ambition to sell their stories abroad, more Malaysian creators are turning to Toon Booms digital solutions providing them with high quality and lower costs. Today, there are at least nine institutions in Malaysia teaching this animation software. 

Local success stories

One of the companies that partly owes its success to MDEC is Sead Studios. Their original intellectual property (IP), The Amazing Awang Khenit is a supernatural cartoon comedy based on Malaysian customs and produced using Toon Boom Harmony. The cartoon has a unique style of character designs, and Harmony provides the right features with more speed, innovative formation tools and unique camera effects. It is thanks to working with this industry-standard software that Sead studio’s experienced massive success. 

The animation industry in Malaysia has accelerated and is seeing success both regionally and internationally. The creation of their own IP gives people the confidence to choose animation as a career, enlarging the talent pool and strengthening the economic foundations of animation tech in Southeast Asia. 

With a local population becoming more and more digitalised, and the popularity of OTT services, the demand in the animation industry will rise even more in the coming years. The MDEC support, access to global quality software, competitive prices and diverse English-speaking staff give Malaysia the right tools to face international competition and make their mark in the international animation industry.