Google Doodle celebrates the 67th birthday of the late Kamarudin Ismail, more often referred to as Kamn Ismail, who was a leading figure in Malaysian animation. Notably, he was a pioneer in the use of computer technology and digital applications in animation during the 90’s.
Early days of Kamn Ismail
Kamn was born on this day in Pengkalan Balak, Masjid Tanah, Malacca, in 1956 and received his early education at the Methodist Boys’ School, Sentul, Kuala Lumpur. His interest in art and drawing began when he was still in school and when he had come of age, Kamn worked with a UK-based company,
McMillen Film Company, to produce its “Paper Tiger” film that was released in 1975. He was in charge of the Art Direction Department and gained knowledge of film techniques and production. As the local animation industry was not yet a successful industry at that time, Kamn had to put aside his passion for art and pursued other jobs which include an administrative clerk with Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB). After 17 years with the company serving various positions, he decided to leave to pursue his interest in animation.
As computers and technology gained traction in the 80s, Kamn became so interested to expand the use of computer for drawing purposes and attempt at producing more sophisticated cartoon animations. He used to refer to Walt Disney’s animation techniques which emphasized on quality – however, funding was a problem. He decided to find a simpler and faster way to create his own animations while still maintaining its quality. In 1989, with the help and confidence of Syarikat Mega Universal Sdn Bhd, Kamn was tasked with creating 2D and 3D presentations for product launches, for private companies and government bodies.
Malaysia’s first animated series
From 1991 to 1997, Kamn joined Kharisma Pictures (M) Sdn Bhd to form and train the first batch of animators to create the first animation series, titled ‘Usop Sontorian’. It took almost 3 years and 94 dedicated staff to produce a total of 49 episodes. Their hard work paid off when the animated series was released for public viewing on RTM’s TV1 and became an instant hit throughout Malaysia and was also a boost of confidence for the local animation industry at the time. In 1996, Kamn represented the Malaysian delegation to the 6th International Animation Festival held in Hiroshima, Japan, where he was given the opportunity to shed light on the animation scene in Malaysia and showcased an episode from the Usop Sontorian series to the eyes of the world.
Kamn then joined UAS Animation Studios (M) Sdn. Bhd. as one of its directors in 1997. His first task was to produce a hit animation series, thus ‘Keluang Man’ was born that same year. It tells the story of a patient in a mental hospital in Tampoi named Borhan a.k.a. Keluang Man, who becomes a crime-fighting superhero at night with the help of his trusted sidekick Tiong Man. Keluang Man was the first local animation that combined 2D animation with 3D background. The difficulty of producing animation motion and camera motion in a more interesting way was the reason why Kamn decided to combine both methods.
Making his mark
When the economic crisis hit, it also affected the economic stability of the company he was with. However, his strong passion in producing local animations had led him to establish his own company, Quest Animations (M) Sdn. Bhd. in 2001 to publish and direct his own animation series.
Among the animations that he had produced under his own company were Che Nat, Kumang, Toman 1, Kumang Lagenda Sarawak, Lagenda Kinabalu, Pusaka, Pejuang, Duwi, Kiddo Science World, and Mat Kilau.
In 2016, Kamn decided to retire from the animation industry due to health concerns. His last project with Quest Animations was Mat Kilau, a patriotic-themed animation series. Spanning across 13 episodes, Mat Kilau has won several awards and has also been translated into other media platforms such as comics, Augmented Reality (AR), and a digital game.
Kamn was not one without recognition. In 2001, Che Nat was awarded third place at the 1st International Festival of Television Productions of Islamic Countries, held in Tehran, Iran while in 2003, the telemovie Kumang was awarded ‘Best Animation’ at the 16th Malaysian Film Festival.
At the Anugerah Seri Angkasa 2005, Kumang Lagenda Sarawak was awarded ‘Best Local TV Animation Series’ of 2004, and Lagenda Kinabalu won the same award for the year 2005 at the same award event in 2006.
He was also awarded the 2012 Cartoon Activist Award (Tokoh Penggiat Kartun) for the achievement of producing Malaysian animation series, which was presented by the prime minister at the time during the ‘Anda, PM & Kartunis’ programme. On April 1, 2018, the Malaysia Cartoon and Comic House together with Animas nominated him as the Malaysian Animation Icon on the Cartoonist Day awards night.
Community building and giving back
To further enhance the animation industry in the country and create public awareness, Kamn Ismail together with fellow animators Hassan Abd Muthalib and Hisham Harun Hashim founded Animation Society of Malaysia (Animas) in 2001, which was officially registered with the Registrar of Societies (RoS) in 2007. Among its objectives are to promote the standards of animation, support and encourage animation education, and also create public awareness on animation, its storytelling capabilities and expansion into emerging media.
To give back to the community, Kamn also accepted a position as a lecturer at the Faculty of Creative Writing, National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (Aswara) and served until the end of his life.
On what would be his 67th birthday, Google is celebrating Kamn Ismail and his significant contribution to Malaysia’s animation. Special thanks to the family and friends of Kamn Ismail for their partnership on this project.
Below, his daughter shares her thoughts on the Doodle and Kamn’s legacy. “This project is a good platform to give tribute to Malaysian achievers who have given so much contribution to the country until the end. This project is inspirational and to include Kamn Ismail is very big and special. On behalf of my family, I would like to say thank you to Google Malaysia for this recognition of Kamn Ismail and the opportunity to be part of this project. I am honored.” – Dalila Kamarudin, daughter of Kamn Ismail