(Sharing my thoughts)
The year was 1973 when I was only 11.
I would have been destined for failure from the very moment the Disney emblem was emblazoned across the grainy screen of a Cathay’s Cinema as I sat with others in the small town watching Snow White & The Seven Dwarves, and for forty-five cents apiece was mesmerized by this new form of entertainment where human voices echoed from the lips of artisan drawings which moved with fluidity and grace that mimicked real life.
Would have been destined for failure from the very moment where I knew that this was the future that was in store for me, the future I wanted for myself.
Would have been destined for failure, because how else would a small-town boy learn about animation from the masters miles and miles across the sea? How could he hope to convince anyone in post-industrialist Malaysia that there was value to the art form that was beginning to capture the imaginations of people around the world?
Through it all however, a single thought stood out from the stormy sea of doubts and questions like a lighthouse shining into the night; That I was going to do it, that I would make it because I believed.
Belief is a funny thing in that all it needs is one soul to grasp it like a flame in the darkness to light the path ahead.
I believed that I could travel the world to learn from the best, and my footsteps now mark an ascending path from Japan, to New York, to France and the UK.
I believed that Malaysia’s rich wealth of culture and tradition could be represented in full splendor on the world stage, and that belief alone drove me to conduct a yearly pilgrimage since 2007 to Cannes, France for the MIPCOM TV and Film market where I strove with the arduous task of making others believe in the same vision I saw for the state of animation in the country; That what we had was good, that what we had could be great and that it was worth the trials and tribulations to have it compete against the international artistic greats.
I believed I could one day be blessed with the opportunity to direct a full-length animated feature, and as I write this, my magnum opus and a first for the country, an animated musical entitled Oh! La La will be slated to air in theatres nationwide in mid-2015.
Was it worth it though? This is a question I have received often and one I repeat to myself even today when the struggles of an industry still in its infancy and is taking baby steps to catch up with the rest of the world get to me.
Were the sacrifices repaid? The sleepless nights and the money spent and the hours which I will never get back?
And then I realize, everything I have mentioned from my life’s point of view were only material.
What I am creating is meaning. Meaning cannot be bought with money and in the hands of an auteur, the impact it has on the world may last beyond a lifetime.
It is a risky venture to put so much faith in a concept so intangible. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any cause for worry when one chases after their dreams or tries to find the meaning in life. There would be no heresy, no sidelong glances, no muffled laughter when someone dares to think outside the box, dares to take a step forward, dares to go after something they believe in.
It is an imperfect world we live in however, one that will remain imperfect unless there are those brave enough to mold it with their own hands, resilient enough to weather the burns and in pushing forward in the face of adversity for more than thirty years, I hope to carve a new path and light the way for a new generation of artisans, visionaries and creators who will not be afraid to discover their talents and make wonders, the same wonders which had enthralled myself and an entire generation of filmgoers as children.
Mistakes will be made. Many will fall along the path but we fall so we can learn to pick ourselves up again and for that we are stronger. We learn to pick ourselves up as long as we believe that we can.
I believe that animation is more than mere child’s play. It is the marriage of new and old, of culture and tradition with modern sensibilities and technology. Of fantastical whimsies from the imagination and technical expertise from the human mind.
I believe that our youth has the talent and the drive to succeed if only there were more paths to tread upon and more hands to help break down the towering wall that tells them they cannot, that this isn’t a viable job, that they are destined to fail.
I believe Malaysia has what it takes to capture the world with its intricate, multicultural tapestry and that our stories are stories worth telling to the world.
Having directed 300 episodes later, my belief has brought me here today, as a 53-year old man; the producer and managing director of a company, small but resilient and steadfast in its work and the auteur of the nation’s very first animated musical feature.
Dato’ Abdul Rahman Bin Sallehuddin.
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