Hot on the heels of Singapore's first 3D animated film, Zodiac, the Race Begins, which screened during Chinese New Year, comes a 3D animated series from Malaysia, called Saladin, based on the life of Salah al-Din Yusuf bin Ayyub. Saladin was one of Islam’s most legendary figures, who united and led Muslim factions in the past.
Funded with a couple million bucks of financial support from the Media Development Authority, Singapore's Zodiac received less-than-stellar reviews, and having seen it at the DVD stores, I am not exactly surprised. But then I read that besides us, some lucky folk from China, Thailand and Eastern Europe will also get to see enjoy it, because Zodiac has been sold to these countries wor.
If you go over to the Saladin site and watch the rather generously long trailer (6 whole minutes!) for the Malaysian series, you cannot help but feel that Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) is putting its funding in the right places (more news coverage here and here).
From the trailer, this looks like a series that will rock. Creatively, I have some problems with it, like why does Saladin look like something out of Disney or Dreamworks (kind of a Prince-of-Egypt white-guy version of the man, I feel)? And why does he have to speak English with an "Arabic" accent? I mean, Chinese characters in English cartoons don't speak with a "Chinese" accent, so why should this renowned 12th century Kurdish Muslim warrior speak with that "Middle-Eastern" accent?
My creative misgivings aside, the technical work of this animated series is stunning. Fire and water are rendered with CGI beautifully. Wood flies across the screen as ship meets floating fire bombs. You can feel the weight of the Crusaders' armour pulling them down into the waters as their ships sink from the explosions. It made me mutter, "Wah lau eh, Malaysia really BOLEH, man!"
I wonder, why we can't produce work of this calibre? Is it for the lack of talent? I don't think so, because I have seen some stunning 3D animation work by a local dude done for his polytechnic's final year project. I kid you not. And if I have a chance to, one day I will share it his video clip with you.
Meanwhile, I cannot wait to see the 13-parter series from our northern neighbours. Go Malaysia!