SINGAPORE - 5 JUNE 2023 - Robot Playground Media celebrates a colourful decade of animated filmmaking this June. Helmed by Singaporean co-founders Ervin Han and Bernard Toh, the studio is known for its ability to craft locally-themed animated stories that transcend genre, age and geography.
A stalwart in the animation industry in Singapore, Robot Playground Media has produced over a dozen short films and series including hits such as Singapore’s first and most popular adult animated series, Downstairs, currently in its third season and available on Mediacorp’s digital entertainment service MeWatch and Netflix and the NDP2021 Animated Show Film. As part of their celebrations this year, they will launch an artbook of their award-winning short films around National Day and preparations are currently in high-gear for their feature animation film, The Violinist.
“This project, The Violinist, has been in development for about seven years. It tells the story of two childhood friends and musicians set against the backdrop of the Japanese occupation during World War II,” says Han. “It’s very much a story about courage, conviction and resilience in the face of adversity. It has elements of a historical drama, romance and also thrilling action sequences. Of course, we envision a stirring musical score as well.”
With interest high in Asian animated content, the studio was invited to the Marché du Film in this year’s Cannes Film Festival that took place in mid-May. They took centre stage at a panel focusing on animation and co-productions, “Colorful Collaborations: Sketching New Exciting Possibilities for European-Asian Animation”. Han showcased The Violinist to major global industry players and took the lead in discussing the tripartite production behind the making of the first feature animation to be produced out of Singapore in over a decade, which will be released internationally in 2025.
“This project is currently set up as a Singapore, Malaysia, Spanish co-production. Most of the story takes place in Singapore and Perak, so it feels appropriate to work with Malaysian partners - in many ways it’s a shared story. Our animation director, Raul Garcia, is Spanish and brings with him a strong pedigree in European 2D animation. We also lean into the influence of anime in the visual style of the film.”
The Violinist is based on their award-winning animated short film, The Violin, that was produced as part of the Singapore Memory Project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence (SG50) in 2015. The Violinist received funding support from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) for its script development. The film’s release will coincide with the nation’s 60th National Day in 2025, which also marks the 80th year since the end of the Japanese occupation.
The Violinist received funding support from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) for its script development. The film’s release will coincide with the nation’s 60th National Day in 2025, which also marks the 80th year since the end of the Japanese occupation.
After a decade of working in animation aimed largely at a younger, western-oriented audience, Han and Toh co-founded Robot Playground Media as a studio focused on developing Singapore and Asian-themed stories and projects for all ages that can resonate internationally.
“The focus is always on what we believe are universal themes, emotions and experiences in our stories. They just happen to be set against backdrops and contexts that are culturally more relevant to us as Singaporeans, Southeast Asians and Asians,” says Toh. “The Violinist is an accumulation of everything we have done.”
This year, Robot Playground Media became part of 108 Media, a privately held institutional capital-backed international creative IP and media asset company. This strategic move provided immediate access to global markets, structured financing and a growing slate of IPs ripe for development.
The studio is also currently in production for A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts, an adult horror animation anthology series about Chinese customs and cuisine that is based on the best-selling book of the same title by chef-author Ying Chang Compestine. The series will be released internationally via a partnership with UK/Singapore’s 108 Media and Singapore’s Mediacorp.
“The goal is to entrench the studio as a prolific creator and producer of local and regional IP for an international market, while never losing the Asian flavour in our storytelling,” says Han. “A Banquet For Hungry Ghosts and The Violinist are the perfect projects to kick this off.”
About Robot Playground Media
Robot Playground Media is a Singapore-based animation and creative studio that specialises in content production across media platforms - from 2D/3D animation to visual effects and motion graphics. It is a subsidiary of London- and Singapore-based 108 Media. The studio has a proven track record in original productions, including animated series, short films and feature projects. Clients include Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount Global, Mediacorp and StarHub.
About Ervin Han
Ervin Han, CEO and Executive Producer, leads Robot Playground Media’s original development of content across all formats and platforms. An 18-year veteran in the local animation industry, he hopes to help elevate Southeast Asia animation as a well of talent, craft, and stories for a global audience.
About Bernard Toh
As COO and Executive Producer, Bernard Toh oversees all aspects of creative and production operations for Robot Playground Media’s projects across series, features and VFX work. Beginning as a multimedia designer nearly two decades ago, he continues to champion local and regional artists in the animation industry.