Four Seasons Of Love

No, it’s not some 5-star hotel chain spinoff for couples. It’s one of the prettiest animated shows on television (in selected countries) right now.

Guess How Much I Love You – The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare is a co-production between Scrawl Studios and Australia’s SLR Productions. Based On the best-selling picture book that for over 15 years has enchanted children and adults the world over, this beautiful new series tell stories of a father and son’s efforts to measure how much they love each other. The 52-episode series is divided into 4 seasons of stories.

Here’s a peak at each season in this wonderful new pre-school show. Happy Father’s Day!


Character Mascots for Singapore Flyer

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Series of Singapore flyer’s mascot in various poses we were comissioned by client


Animation for Yamaha Motors

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We were comissioned by Yamaha Motors to do a series of animation. The aim of the animation is to promote the various motor parts like spark plug, fuel filter to their clients. We conceptualise and develop a fun way of creating more awareness for the products through the use of “anime” style and exaggeration to capture the essence of why Yamaha’s motors products.


Picture book for MOE

Ministry of Education commissioned a series of children’s picture books for preschoolers and Scrawl was selected to do one of the picture books-“I can do it!” . As the picture book was meant for pre schoolers, we use more vibrant colors and the composition of the illustration was taken into consideration to enhance the experiences of the children reading it.


Keeping It In The Family

I can’t remember how this happened, but I’m working with my Dad’s company – and him – on a new Scrawl project.

Basically, my old man’s really, really , really good at Chinese. In fact he’s been teaching it for 30 years. And he has his own school. And somehow he got into the iPad (even though he still hasn’t got one) and thought why couldn’t he teach Chinese AND look tech savvy?

So we’re working with him to develop a new iPad application that could bring his transformative powers in Chinese education to the Apple generation.

I have to admit I tried to distance myself from the project at the beginning. It’d just feel weird, I thought. But who was I kidding. The boss soon threw me on the project like a patty on a grill.

There have been family dinners where I had to tell Dad he’s kinda late on the next draft of the lesson plan, or he should really be thinking about what his royalty percentage should be, and how much he should be budgeting for himself as investment in return for equity…you know, just in case me and my unscrupulous colleagues rip him off.

But nah, to be honest there’s less conflict of interest than I expected – mostly because Dad isn’t too big on the commercail details. At times it’s almost like he’s in it for the fun and is just curious to see how students react to his lessons on an iPad.

Speaking of which, there is a borderline unscrupulous thing I’m trying to do – sell Dad my generation one iPad.

I need a new one.

Suddenly it struck Sewling where Ervin got his good looks from.


Life, Love and the Animation Industry

I’m perhaps what you could call a late starter to the animation industry.  It’s been about seven years since I took my first step into this wonderfully strange and dysfunctional world that is the animation and kids entertainment business.

Prior to that, I was an office suit holed up in a cubicle surrounded by diagrams of Internet protocol virtual private networks that I had to sell to corporations. It’s sad that the first job out of university is the one that kills your soul. But of course I found out later that your first job is not meant to be perfect, but to get you that membership card into the club known as ‘working life’.

And the key to ‘working life’ is not about making a living per se, at least not unless you have a family to support, in which case it is rightfully your priority. Everyone’s got a short window of opportunity to find out what is it he or she wants to do, and preferably it’s something they’re good at or have a passion for.

Jobs are like relationships. Each one is a rehearsal for the next one that comes along, and you do better and better each time, until finally you hope to settle on one that will carry you through the rest  of what is a very short time on this earth.

Sometimes people don’t always find what is it they want to do, or are good at. Just like some people may never find true love, sad as that may seem. The difference is that looking for the right job probably relies more on will and determination, whereas matters of the heart, I think, come down to fate much more than to will.  Still, both require a good amount of self-discovery, growth, and maybe maturity. Luck plays a part of course, but I do believe one makes his own luck.

It’s been said that love is like a butterfly – the more you pursue it the more it eludes you, but if you are calm and still it will land on you shoulder. Needless to say, that won’t apply to looking for a job (sorry to kill that romantic imagery). It’s interesting to draw the parallels if only because our work and relationships define largely who we are, how we live and why we are here.

While my early years in animation were largely focused on learning about the business and discovering how cartoons actually get made,  the remaining four years or so also saw me tackling creative development, and sometimes walking that harrowing fine line between art and commerce.

At the suitably balanced age of 36 (whatever that means),  I’m wary enough – maybe even cynical – of the entrapment of naivety or creativity as a self-indulgent enterprise.

But the business of telling stories is really like no other. It’s laborious, frustrating, excruciating, physically and emotionally sapping, confidence shattering, soul crushing, sometimes humiliating, and that could be even before a single frame has been animated. Take it from a development executive. It’s true.

But the reward – or the promise of a reward – if a story has a chance to be told, or a series has a chance to broadcast, or a film has a chance to be screened to an audience, could be so fulfilling that even if such an outcome occurs just once, that might be enough to make the years of hardship that came before worth it. That, in its essence, is what we yearn for in this business, I think.

I don’t think most creators do what they do because they think they’re creative or they know what others want. The best an artist can do is to tell a story that resonates with and moves him as a person, and if he does so with enough truth, empathy and understanding of relationships as only his life’s experiences could provide him, then he will find an audience, even if it’s just one person who might be moved or changed by his tale.

That could well be enough for some of us trying to leave this world a better place than it was when we found it.

“What makes a good story artist? Experience life. Travel. See the world. Learn about relationships. Fail. Have your heart broken. Talk to old people. Understand why people made big decisions that changed the course of their lives. Understand why people sacrifice.”

– Quote from a random Disney artist.

Image above from Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, my favourite animated film of all time.


Nat Geo @ Scrawl

From left: David Beal (President, Nat Geo Entertainment), Tim Kelly (President, Nat Geo Society), 4 random Asian males.

National Geographic dropped in for a visit this week. A couple of projects are in discussion but it’s a first visit for Tim Kelly, president of National Geographic Society, to meet the team and staff working on some of Scrawl’s current productions.

In fact, Scrawl happens to have several ‘animal shows’ in production and development, starring rabbits, hares (they’re different btw), bears, zebras, all sorts of endangered wildlife, extinct animals, Chinese Zodiac animals, and a werewolf!

We’ve even got a hermit crab as the studio pet – although I’ve never seen it. I guess that’s why they’re called hermit crabs :-/

Hopefully we’ve managed to make Nat Geo feel a little more at home with our love of animals 🙂


Illustration for a picture book pitch


Au Revoir Annecy!

After a week at Annecy, I will only say that if you’re an animator or work in animation and have a genuine love for all that it is, or even if you just like talking about it all day, then get a few friends, save up, and make it a point to go to Annecy at least once.

I recognise that I make these observations from the privileged position of being able to actually come to the Annecy festival, and there’s no saying that I will be here next year, for cost reasons among others. It’s expensive, and no doubt anyone in the industry – from the most junior of animators to a seasoned executive who just wishes to see what the fuss is all about – would love to come if time and money afford them to.

It’s like a kid who hears and reads about Disneyland all his or her life, but never got a chance to go. And we know there are millions of kids over the world who, sadly, will never experience Disneyland.

The memories that I treasure most would probably be the many conversations I had with strangers, new acquaintances and friends and possibly future business partners about life, love and animation (topic of a future post) – not the business of it, or how projects can be financed, or what territories of pre-sales is able to cover how many percent of a production budget etc. (there will be another time and place for all that).  Instead we talked about our favourite animated films, love of short films, our favourite scores, sound design, music, our inspirations, and what we hope to do in the near future.

The last time I had a similar feeling was at the San Diego Comic Con a few years back. But that was different. Comic Con was mostly a celebration of geek culture, and being at the centre of the show floor was pure, unadulterated joy – like a kid being in a candy store and parents and dentists don’t exist.

Annecy is different. Here, there is a sense that everyone not only loves animation and storytelling and cool art, but also aspires to achieve something quite specific – whether it’s to make a short film, a feature film, work in a great studio, publish a book, open an art exhibit, or even just be recognised for his or her talent.

For every filmmaker that went on stage to present his or her film with thunderous applause, hundreds of other aspiring artists and filmmakers are dreaming of his or her moment some day – maybe not on the Annecy stage, but in some other ways, small and big. It’s the same journey we’re all on, and each hopes to find his or her pot of gold at the end of different rainbows.

Friday came sooner than I had hoped. I spent a good part of my final night at the giant outdoor screening. That night’s movie was How To Train Your Dragon – one of my favourites from last year (including John Powell’s powerful score), which also holds bittersweet memories for me. Nevermind that it was in French.

After the movie it was back to Café Des Arts, where the crowd was the biggest I’ve seen yet (a fire hazard, really). But many of the same faces were there, and it wasn’t long when friends new and a few days old were seated around the usual spot again, beer in hands and chatting away. Some even bought their own beer (much cheaper).

Nearing 2am and it was time for me to hit that dark, eerie gravel road back to my hotel. My airport shuttle leaves in 4 hours and I had barely packed.

And so we said our goodbyes, not exchanging all our names but surely remembering each others’ faces, agreeing to meet at the same pub at next year’s festival. Whether that happens or not is anyone’s guess, but it was a good way for new friends to part, and for me to leave my first Annecy.

Jump here for more pics


Annecy Part 2

Mifa venue – Allée de l’Impérial. Ex-Nazi HQ (apparently)

The main reason I was at Annecy was in fact because there’s a business segment – MIFA, which is a mini-market with a strong European focus. My meeting schedule wasn’t actually that packed as I had wanted to make room for some conference sessions.

In the end though I swapped those for workshops by Disney Animation Studios. I figured rather than hear a bunch of executives talk about ‘issues and trends’ – which tend to be either repetitive or end up being really more about their own projects (believe me I’ve been to plenty of those), it’d be a better deal to hear Disney artists talk about story art, acting in animation, story reels etc. with real examples as they go through their recent films. How often do we get to see THAT?

‘Art of Story’ talk by Disney Animation Studios.

There were of course the required business meetings and buyer pitches, and they went well enough, by and large. But I definitely get the feeling that even the suits are at Annecy because it’s a more relaxed environment, and certainly more scenic and personable than the craziness that are the Cannes markets. Granted the scale of MIFA is a fraction of MIPTV / MIPCOM, but it is ALL animation and most would agree that when it comes to these meetings, quality time is far better than 30 min back-to-back meetings all day long.

Food in Annecy, for the most part, is decent. Except for Quick Burger, the only fast food joint in the area, which was horrible (I passed on the mayonaise). Still, it was a life saver between tight screenings. Food prices were lower than those in Cannes (although the quality doesn’t come close). Waiters and waitresses are also friendlier, although they still take ions to appear for an order.

As for my daily hotel ‘buffet’ breakfast (by that I mean a borderline respectable assortment of flour-based products), by the 5th day I had developed a vengeful resentment towards croissants. I wanted to make the crossaint eat itself so it knows how bland it tastes, then drowned it in the weak foamy coffee I’ve been drinking for what seemed an eternity.

Back to the festival (cos that’s where most of the fun is) – there is a conspicuous absence of Asian short films in the official selection. Why that is the case I don’t really know. I’ve seen plenty of Japanese and Korean shorts over the years that have blown my mind, and even China has some amazing talents coming through. I’ve seen their commercial work and they’re not only great artistically but just in terms of sensibilities they would surely add a richness to a festival full of great films but nonetheless are dominated by European fare.

My second favourite Scotsman (after Kenny Dalglish), Ken Anderson, told me he has a friend in the Annecy jury and she told him plainly that the entries from Singapore just did not cut it. I don’t know many filmmakers locally that are doing independent animation work, so it’s likely they’re mostly students’ work. It’s a rather sad state of affairs that many people less in touch with the industry may not care much for – that much, much more need to be done to help develop the craft rather than the business of it all – and it’s definitely an ailment that will exacerbate the chronic lack of strong animation directors as well as writers in Singapore.

To be concluded.