Animation studio headed to Asia via Malaysia

The animation studio Anima Vitae entered into a joint venture in Malaysia which is a good entry point into the growing Asian market.

The Finnish animation studio Anima Vitae is best known for the film Niko and The Way to the Stars, released in 2008. The animation was a big success and was sold to 118 countries. The sequel Niko 2 – Little Brother, Big Trouble is on a world tour at the moment. Europe and North America have traditionally been the key market areas for the company, which was founded in 2000. Now it is trying to gain a foothold in the growing Asian market.

According to CEO Petteri Pasanen, the company started building networks in Asia in 2006 and spent a couple of years trying to find a partner there. The project was supported by Finnanimation, the network of Finnish animation producers, whose research in Asia led them to the Malaysian company Creative Media Point. “Their plans to start their own animation training centre especially caught our interest,” Pasanen says.

Good partner for a Finnish company

An animation training centre was ideal for Anima Vitae’s operational model which relies on a production line based on their own technology. The training centre would offer an excellent basis for staff training.

The negotiations between Anima Vitae and the Malaysian company progressed rapidly. In 2012, Finnpartnership granted support for Anima Vitae to carry out the pre-feasibility study in order to enter into the joint venture. A memorandum of understanding concerning the joint venture Anima Point was signed in November 2012 and the first production at the studio started in the summer of 2013. “The joint venture gave us the opportunity to set up our own studio with local professionals and to develop the company’s operational culture.”

Another reason for Pasanen to be interested in collaboration with Creative Media Point is that the Malaysian company is already well established in media and has good contacts all over Asia. “Our partners speak Chinese as their mother tongue and have operated in the Chinese market for 15 years.”

3D expertise as an asset

Research and development have always had a key role in Anima Vitae. Finding suitable partners is also important. “Through collaboration, a small or medium-sized company can expand its resources. For example, there were approximately 300 people involved in the making of the Niko film.”

Anima Vitae’s most important contribution to the joint venture is 3D animation expertise. The Malaysian company did not have this type of production. For a company to have their own 3D production is rare in many places in Asia despite the fact that a third of the world’s animation studios are located there. “Thanks to our 3D expertise we have something to offer for the Asian market. Hopefully by doing well in Kuala Lumpur we will bring some of the work back to Finland.” Pasanen points out, however, that the studios in Helsinki and Kuala Lumpur form a single production line which strengthens the company’s competitiveness and presence in the growing Asian market.

Malaysia’s incentive system attracted the company

According to Pasanen, Malaysia’s benefits include talented creative content professionals with good language skills as well as good infrastructure. Another benefit was the Film in Malaysia incentive system which allows cinema or television productions which meet certain criteria to apply for a partial refund on production costs from the government. “In Malaysia this ‘cash rebate’ is 30 percent. This means that if you use 100 currency units in production, you get 30 back. There is nothing like this in Finland.” Pasanen says the Malaysia cash rebate now allows companies to offer their services for projects which previously could not afford them.

Full-length films keeping company busy

Anima Vitae applied for Finnpartnership’s Business Partnership Support to cover the costs of preliminary studies related to founding the joint venture and travelling and consulting related to the business planning.

Anima Point started its operations in Kuala Lumpur using Creative Media Point’s premises and moved into its own studio in December 2013. “We have had a good start but in Malaysia we are still in the discovery stage. We encounter new things every day.”

One of the first jobs of the joint venture includes subcontracting work for the German animation The 7th Dwarf. It is also working on a Hugo film whose main producers are Anima Vitae and Einstein Film from Denmark. Both The 7th Dwarf and Hugo are full-length 3D animations.

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