Animated Short′s Indonesian Flare Has Interest Abuzz

27 December, 2011 | Source: Jakata globe

Highly refined and comically detailed, “Pada Suatu Ketika” is, hands down, the best animated creation ever produced by an Indonesian team.

Though still obviously owing a lot of its stylistic details to major animation studios such as Pixar or DreamWorks, the film’s biggest strength is its distinctly Indonesian touches: food stalls, Indomie, and rows of futuristic bajajs. A mix of Hollywood-styled aesthetics with local elements, the film — the title of which translates as “Once Upon a Time” — manages to excite our nationalistic senses with a childlike glee. The idea that an Indonesian studio is able to present something of this quality is a promising feat. And it is only the first installment.

Created by local animation studio Lakon Animasi, the short film runs just a little over four minutes. It has garnered rave reviews and a lot of hype from the Indonesian Internet community. It was an unexpected success story for its producers, who had originally only wanted to share drafts of their work-in-progress on a Facebook forum with a limited audience.

The studio seems appreciative of the hype, but is clearly reluctant to be swept up in it. In a Facebook posting, the studio stayed secretive, writing that it would not be able to respond to the inquires about whether the online clip was part of a final product, a standalone short or a film teaser for a future release. That last speculative query comes from the fact that the dialogue-less animation ends with a blank screen and text proclaiming, “2012.”

Whatever the clip really is, the studio assures us that the film’s intentions are of a far less commercial kind.

“We had been sharing parts of the film on our forum through uploading it on [the video sharing site] Vimeo. We expected a small response because we only shared it with a couple of groups and we only had about 1,000 views in the first month,” said Siswanto, Lakon Animasi’s training manager.

But those 1,000-plus views boosted Lakon Animasi’s confidence and it soon decided to upload the whole finished video to Vimeo. “The result was that the video started spreading to the public,” Siswanto said. So far, the video has garnered more than 113,000 views, with numerous re-posts on YouTube and other video-sharing Web sites.

Siswanto explains that the original video was intended to be used as a training tool for Lakon Animasi. “It was to be applied to a curriculum, module, or as tools,” he said.

Using a short animated clip was a natural pick as a training tool because Lakon Animasi’s current focus is on “character animation.”

It made sense to create a film that featured lots of human and non-human characters, so the animators could concentrate on gestures and facial expressions. “And since our current and prospective students are Indonesians, it only made sense to have a local setting,” Siswanto said.

The unexpected popularity has brought a wide range of comments from viewers, Siswanto said. Although there have been a lot of positive comments, a fair amount of criticism has also been voiced.

“The popularity of the film has let us know what we are still missing as a studio,” he said. “For example, we learned that it was the actual design of our characters that still needs improvement.”

Fans of “Pada Suatu Ketika” shouldn’t hold their breath though. Siswanto said the studio plans on eventually releasing a second part of the film sometime next year, but that’s as specific as he’ll get.

“We’ll use the second video to continue our evaluation of the training method,” he said. “But our main priority is still on our other training tools that don’t include [‘Pada Suatu Ketika’], so there is no way to determine when the second part will actually be released.”


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