Friday, October 5, 2012

Scary robots animated in Yak: The Giant King

In an industry where animators have always struggled for years to release a movie – Thai film executives have traditionally eschewed animation as too labor-intensive and prefer the cheaper and faster turnaround of live-action movies – 2012 is turning out to be a banner year, with two animated features.

Earlier, there was Kantana's Echo Planet, and this week in Thai cinemas is Yak: The Giant King (ยักษ์).

Released by Sahamongkol, it's produced by Workpoint Entertainment, the company best known for its noisy TV game shows, comedy-variety series and live-action comedy feature films.

It's the brainchild of Workpoint co-founder Prapas Chonsaranon, who scripted the Bt110 -million picture, and Chaiporn Panichrutiwong, the U.S.-schooled animator behind the PangPond cartoon series.

Yak is yet another one of those computer-animated cartoons about robots, but it has a Thai twist, in that it's inspired by the Ramayana – the Indian epic poem that is the basis for the Thai epic, the Ramakien. In Yak, the giant robot king awakens a million years after a war to find himself chained to a tiny "Hanuman" robot. Neither robot remembers they were enemies, so the two become friends as they set out on an adventure to free themselves.

In a Nation article today, the two co-directors are eager to dispell comparisons between their film and such Hollywood animated features like Blue Sky Studios' Robots and Pixar's Wall-E. They point out that they started working on Yak years ago, long before those slick U.S. productions came about. They tell The Nation:

"We believed the story would make it different." Prapas notes.

"There is nothing new in the animation world. Whatever we do, someone will have already done it before," Chaiporn points out. "If we use animal characters, we'd be like Madagascar. If it's fish, it would be Finding Nemo. The difference lies in the storyline and the character design."

Aiming for broad appeal in the international market, there's already an English soundtrack recorded, supervised by American expat musician and TV presenter Todd "Thongdee" Lavelle. In Bangkok cinemas, the English soundtrack is playing with Thai subtitles at CentralWorld, Emporium, Esplanade Ratchada and Paragon. The English-language trailer is embedded below.

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