Sunday, April 09, 2006

Malaysia producing first high-tech TV animation series on Islamic hero Saladin
By EILEEN NG Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press

Muslim-majority Malaysia unveiled plans Friday to produce its first high-tech television animation series for the global market on the life of Saladin, the 12th century Islamic warrior who drove the Crusaders from Jerusalem.The 13-episode show, "Saladin," is part of efforts to accelerate growth in Malaysia's decade-old information technology industry hub in the Multimedia Super Corridor -- renamed MSC Malaysia on Friday.Officials also hope that the animated series will spur growth in Malaysia's digital content industry and help it tap into a global animation market expected to be worth US$644 billion (euro541 billion) by 2009.The project is being undertaken by MDeC, the agency that runs MSC Malaysia, a 750 square kilometer (300 square mile) zone shaped after California's Silicon Valley that offers tax breaks and grants to information technology companies and researchers.
"Once completed, 'Saladin' will employ more than 400 creative minds to produce a world-class 3-D series that will put Malaysian talents on the radar screen of the animation industry," MDeC vice president Kamil Othman told reporters.The project, expected to be completed by late 2007 or by mid-2008, could cost up to 10 million ringgit (US$2.7 million; euro2.25 million) in production and marketing, he said.MDeC will market the television series in the Middle East, China and the West once the first two episodes are completed by the year-end, he said. It will also entice companies to develop merchandizing, comics, computer games and mobile content based on the Saladin characters.Saladin, born into a Kurdish family in present day Iraq, is one of the greatest Islamic heroes, hailed as a chivalrous and valiant caliph. He united the Muslim world and drove the Christian armies out of Jerusalem in 1187 after 88 years of Crusader rule.Kamil said two companies from China and the Middle East have expressed interest in funding the project."This project is not about making millions. It's a showcase of Malaysian talents. It's about opening doors for us to break into the global animation market," he said.Malaysia produces some 2,000 graduates in this industry each year, and such projects will help retain local talent, he added.An eight-minute trailer of the series was shown to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and some 500 guests at a ceremony Friday to mark MSC's 10th anniversary.Abdullah pledged to redouble efforts to woo major content companies to invest in the MSC, noting that Disney, Sony, Nintendo, Gameboy, Channel V and some Hollywood studios had outsourced parts of their work to Malaysian firms."We are not short of ideas but we are short of implementation. Along the way, others have overtaken us. We seem to have lost the staying power," he said. "We must act fast. We need to take the MSC to greater heights."

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