"Ribbit", an animated film from Malaysia about a frog with an identity crisis, finally hits cinemas this 4 September 2014. The film is the first ever animated attempt from KRU Studios and its Executive President Norman Abdul Halim has high hopes for the film to pioneer the new era of animation films in the country.
Cinema Online had the chance to talk to Norman at his open house in Cyberjaya recently and have got some scoop on the studios' upcoming projects as well as Norman's thoughts on "Ribbit".
Q: Since "Ribbit" is finally releasing in cinemas, what's your expectations for it?
Norman: Well, to be honest, this is our very first animation. We're releasing it in two languages, Malay and English. Originally it was dubbed in English. I feel that this is something new in terms of how we position in the market. We also have a 3D version. There's a lot of good feedback from overseas so far. We won the Best Family Film in Niagara Integrated Film Festival. The film will be released in 250 screens in Germany this October, far more than in Malaysia. We're releasing it in about 70 screens in Malaysia. My expectation, honestly, I really don't know what to expect. But the thing is I'm very hopeful that this will open a new era for us, especially in terms of producing more quality animation and to be exported globally.
Is there going to be any sequel for "Ribbit"?
We have no sequel planned, but what we plan to do right now is a TV series. Look at Dreamworks or Disney for example, we feel it is the right move for us to go into TV series. So we're developing that. Hopefully we'll be able to screen the TV series as soon as next year.
Is KRU Studios going to try out any other genres?
We have different kind of animation genres. This (Ribbit) is very much for children. So the plan is to come up with multiple genres. Even with animation, there are different demographics. Also the age is another factor. So what we plan to do is to offer more animation content for different types of age group. For example, the one that we're working on now is called "KL Taxi". It's actually the next feature film that we're producing. It's pretty much automotive, vehicles but in the city – in KL. So that's another project we're walking with right now. It's very fast paced. There are a lot of chase scenes, different than "Ribbit". "Ribbit" is a bit more scenic in terms of presentation. Basically we've established the Amazon, whereas now we want to highlight the KL city.
What is the update on "Cicakman 3"?
Well, right now we're in the final stages of visual effects. We're about to complete it toward end of September. We're targeting to release it in January next year. It's looking great, it's looking good, and I'm quite excited about it. And then there's also another film we're doing right now, co-production with Les' Copaque Production. It's an Upin Ipin movie. It's called "Upin Ipin Jeng Jeng Jeng". So it's Upin Ipin coming to a live-action film, just like "The Smurfs". It's going to be another event film, just like "Cicakman 3".
What about your goal for the future?
My biggest target is to venture into animation. Especially in terms of exporting our films internationally, our animated feature films. Locally, we'll offer a different kind of content for different kind of market segments. But internationally, our primary focus and sole focus is animation. So even though we did "Vikingdom" and live action visual effects but we think we have a stronger position in terms of doing animation compared to live action – simply because of the budget. Because when it comes to live-action, normally we would have to take A-list actors from the U.S. to get a bigger box office collection. A-list actors will cost you five million U.S. dollar in minimum and it ranges from 5 to 20 million U.S. dollars. We don't have that kind of money. Whereas for animation, even for 500 U.S. dollars, you can have a complete production and at the same time you can still attract big names. Because when you go to Los Angeles to record their voices, it only takes them about 3 to 4 days to record their voices. The amount we need to pay to actually acquire their services is much lesser than live-action. So that's how it works. I think because of our funding issues, we have to take this one step at a time and I think animation is the right way to go.
So we'll be definitely seeing more animations from you?
Okay, thank you so much for the interview.