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Exclusive Interview: The Journey of a Digital Animation Entrepreneur, Atac  

Following the last interview with Toshitaka Youno in the Exclusive Interview series, we have invited Atac as this week’s special guest. Let’s discover together his journey to owning a small animation business in Malaysia.

ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST, ATAC

Tan Guan Tack, better known as Atac, was born and raised in Malaysia. Atac currently runs his own studio specialized in designing online animation commercials. He studied graphic design, and landed a job in a new, digital publisher for children’s books, thus started his career in the animation industry. Atac’s work has always been cheerful, educational, and creative. Some of his famous animation work include Learning Mardarine Idioms with Animation (哥妹俩动画成语) and AhHart White Coffee (亞發白咖啡). As an Animation Desk user on Windows, his favorite app features are the Cloud services and coloring palette.

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Could you start off by telling us more about your first job in the animation industry?

About 10 years ago, digital content was at its peak in Malaysia. I happened to catch this trend when I was looking for a job, and I was offered an opportunity to work at a local, children’s books publisher, which was opening its new division in producing digital learning material. Back then there weren’t any computer tablets so we all used a mouse to draw on the computer. Of course, this came with a lot of limitations as we could only draw even simple shapes.

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What is the animation industry in Malaysia like? What are the challenges?

The market in Malaysia is still somewhat small. The most popular forms are still children animations and western cartoons. Most of the sizable animation companies in Malaysia are affiliated with a bigger, foreign firm. There is also little support for the animation businesses from the government; animators often get rejected for their government funding application. Local investors are not so keen on putting money in this industry as they are skeptical of the return on investment. So in general, it is extremely difficult to produce an animated TV series or film in Malaysia.

What role do social media play in the Malaysian animation industry?

The rising popularity of apps, Facebook and YouTube has a positive impact on the animation industry. Businesses are more willing to spend money to make short videos then to share on social media or at events as commercials, event opening videos, etc. As the creation time for animated videos is often shorter, the production cost is also lower. The business founded by my friends and I are specialized in creating these short, animated videos.

The opening animation of Astro 10th Anniversary Special. Source: Atac’s Animation

What do you like and dislike about the animation creation process?

My favorite part is the creative process of coming up with an idea for my animation. I find designing the storyboard very exciting because your imagination can go wild! I would sometimes be so excited about an idea that I wouldn’t be able to sleep! The most frustrating things are when I can’t think of a good idea and when I am cleaning up the outline and coloring animation. That is very time consuming and tiring.

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What characteristics and skills do you think are important for an animator?

I believe an animator must be very detail-minded. Even if it is just for one frame, they should try their best to draw out all the details. Having good observational skills, patience and pace consciousness would be very useful when drawing. Being a good team player is also important. Animation creation is often a team effort that requires collaboration with different members, unless you are working on your own, individual project.

Last but not least, they shouldn’t be arrogant but have a mentality to always want to learn and be able to take criticisms, so that they can continuously develop themselves.

Do you have any tips for students in the animation and design field?

Persistence! That’s the keyword! Be brave with your ideas. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Expand your friendship circle and you will meet many like-minded people, with whom you can share ideas and support each other. Don’t give up!

See Atac’s work on AniZone and his blog.

Keep an eye out for the third piece of Exclusive Interviews coming out soon!

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About the author

Charmaine Cheung

As a graduate in languages from the University of Bristol, England, Charmaine is currently working in Hong Kong, specialised in marketing and corporate communications. She has a strong international background, is fluent in English, Chinese and German, and has lived and work in the UK, Germany, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

She has been doing some projects and blogging for Kdan Mobile since 2015.

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