Cartoon kicks its way home

An almost-entirely Singaporean effort, 3-D cartoon Dream Defenders was launched first in the United States because the market there is bigger.

SINGAPORE - Made-in-Singapore children's animated series Dream Defenders finally made its premiere on home soil on Monday night, when it aired on the okto channel.

This comes more than two years after the 26-part programme was first broadcast in the United States on American 3-D TV channel 3net in September 2011.

The series, which is available in both traditional and 3-D formats, was also launched on major American Internet video streaming site Hulu in July last year.

Executive producer of the series David Kwok, 42, sees the irony of a home-grown programme airing in Singapore so much later.

"Singaporeans generally need to see something make it big overseas before they want to see it here," he tells Life! over the telephone.

Which is why Kwok, who is also chief executive of Tiny Island Productions, the home-grown animation company behind the show, made the conscious decision to first launch it in the United States.

It just makes more sense from a business perspective, he says.

"The Singapore market is really small. That's why we really wanted to penetrate the US market first, since it is the big pay master. Once you do that, it makes it much easier for the show to be sold in other countries."Dream Defenders, the first Singapore-made stereoscopic 3-D animated series, centres on twins Zane and Zoey as they battle Icela, the evil ruler of Dreamworld, who threatens the real world with nightmarish creatures.

Kwok declined to reveal how much the series was sold for in the US, other than to say that for 3net, it was a "six-digit sum". For Hulu, it was "based on royalty sharing", and the first year's royalty has "already reached five digits".

The series has also been sold worldwide to 60 countries in markets across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Last year, it won an award for Best 3-D Animation from the Asia Image Apollo Awards, a regional awards programme that celebrates the best in Asia Pacific's production and post-production industries.

From concept to design all the way to production, the US$5.2 million (S$6.6 million) series was done here by Tiny Island Productions.

Only the scriptwriting process was outsourced, when the company partnered a team of scriptwriters based out of Los Angeles.

"But it was all our vision, and we told them what we wanted. This is a proudly Singaporean product," says Kwok, who adds that his company has a staff count of about 80, of which "90 per cent are Singaporean".

The version shown on okto will not be in 3-D. But he hopes that viewers here will still "show support" and watch the programme.

"I hope Singaporeans can be more supportive of our own products. People tend to have the perception that anything made in the West is good and better than our own, but that's not true."

Singaporeans will also get the chance to participate in an augmented reality experience next month, where the public can "enter into the realm of the Dreamworld and help the heroes fight the evil" at an event at Changi City Point shopping mall. It is jointly organised by Tiny Island Productions and okto.

Kwok says: "We are just really happy that the show is finally here in Singapore. All our staff are very excited about it. Now they can share it with their families and friends here too."

yipwy@sph.com.sg

Dream Defenders airs on okto on weeknights at 5.30pm, starting February 24, 2014. The augmented reality experience will be held at Changi City Point from March 14 to 16. Check the Dream Defenders Adventure Facebook page for details (www.facebook.com/DreamDefendersAdventure).

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