Kampung Boy (TV series)

Last updated

Kampung Boy
Kampung Boy title card.jpg
Title card
GenreComedy drama
Created by Lat
Theme music composerDave Andrew, Farid Ali
Country of origin Malaysia
Original languages
  • Malay (Malaysian release)
  • English (International release)
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes26
Production locationsNorth America, Philippines
Running time26 minutes
Production companies
Original network
Picture format PAL
Original release14 September 1999 (1999-09-14) 
12 September 2000 (2000-09-12)

Kampung Boy is a Malaysian animated television series broadcast from 14 September 1999 to 12 September 2000. It is about the adventures of a young boy, Mat, and his life in a kampung (village). The series is adapted from the best-selling graphical novel The Kampung Boy , an autobiography of Malaysian cartoonist Lat. Twenty-six episodes one of which won an Annecy Award  were first shown on Malaysian satellite television network Astro before being distributed to sixty other countries.


A main theme of Kampung Boy is the contrast between the traditional rural way of life and the modern urban lifestyle. The series promotes the village lifestyle as an environment that is fun and conducive to the development of a healthy and intelligent child. It raises the issue of modernisation, proposing that new values and technologies should be carefully examined by a society before being accepted.

Lat's animation has won praises for its technical work and refreshing content, although questions have been raised by Southeast Asian audiences over its similarities to Western animation and its deviations from the local style of spoken English. Malaysian animation critics held up Kampung Boy as the standard to which their country's animators should aspire, and academics in cultural studies regarded the series as a method of using modern technologies and cultural practices to preserve Malaysian history.


In 1979, the autobiographical graphic novel The Kampung Boy was published. The story of a young Malay boy's childhood in a kampung (village) proved to be a commercial and critical success, establishing its author Lat as the "most renowned cartoonist in Malaysia". [1] The Kampung Boy's success prompted Lat to consider using other media to reach out to the masses. [1]

The seeds for the animated adaptation of The Kampung Boy were sown in 1993 in a conversation between Lat and Ananda Krishnan, founder of Astro. [2] Western and Japanese cartoons flooded the local television channels during the 1990s, [3] and Lat decried those productions for violence and jokes that he considered unsuitable for Malaysia and its youths. [4] [5] Recognising that the younger generation preferred colourful animations over static black and white drawings, [6] Lat was keen for a local animated series to promote local values among Malaysian children. [4] After Krishnan's company offered Lat financial support to start an animation project, [7] [8] the cartoonist began plans to adapt his trademark comic to the television screen. [4]


A frame from a Kampung Boy storyboard (from left to right): Ana, Mat, and Bo Kampung Boy storyboard.png
A frame from a Kampung Boy storyboard (from left to right): Ana, Mat, and Bo

Lat imagined several stories he wished to see in animated form, and then looked abroad for help producing them. Lacewood Studio in Ottawa, Canada, was in charge of animating the pilot episode. World Sports and Entertainment of Los Angeles was involved as well; Norman Singer organised the production and Gerald Tripp helped Lat to write the script. Bobdog Production was responsible for animating another five episodes. [9] However, Krishnan and Lat were disappointed with the results, which had taken two years of work to produce. [8] They thought the pilot was "slow-moving". Lat believed Lacewood had accommodated him too often during the production, accepting his input without question. They failed to inform him that although a slow pace worked for static cartoon drawings, a good animation was often "lively, fast-moving, full of action and fantasy". [10] [9] [11]

In 1995 Lat and Krishnan engaged Matinee Entertainment to complete the project, and Lat started to fly back and forth between Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles to work closely with Matinee's employees. His experience with Matinee's team of writers and animators was positive; they were more proactive than Lacewood's, brainstorming his ideas and turning them into viable scripts and storyboards. [9] Director Frank Saperstein performed the final edit, polishing up the scripts. [8] Lat, however, had the final say with regards to cultural depictions, overriding several suggestions such as characters kissing in front of others and the use of Western street slang, as these were unpalatable to the Malaysian public. He also enforced accuracy in the depictions of objects such as bullock carts, noting that the American artists thought Malaysian carts were identical to their Mexican counterparts. [9]

The storyboards were translated into animations by the Philippine Animation Studio in Manila. Lat again took several trips, this time to the Philippines, to advise the animators and ensure that everything was depicted accurately. [12] Once the animation had been completed, the prints were sent to Vietnam for processing. Finally, the films were delivered to Krishnan's studio in Kuala Lumpur for voice recording in English and Bahasa Malaysia. [10] Like Lat, Saperstein flew back and forth among the involved countries to coordinate efforts and make sure production standards never dropped. [13] Saperstein's efforts for his first twelve episodes were enough to convince Lat to continue working with Matinee for the project. [8]

The entire project took four years to complete; [8] each episode cost approximately 350,000 United States dollars (about one million Malaysian ringgit), partly funded by Measat, [11] and took four to five months to produce. [14] The pilot was shown over TV1 on 10 February 1997, and the series began its broadcast over Astro Ria two-and-a-half years later. [15] Kinder Channel (Germany) and Teletoon (Canada) broadcast the series after buying the rights through London-based distributor Itel, [11] and the series has been broadcast in more than sixty countries since its first airing in Malaysia. [16] Measat expected to recover their investment in about ten years. [11] Although Kampung Boy originated in Malaysia, most of its production took place abroad. [17] It was local in concept, but could be construed as a foreign production in terms of animation. This led to laments that had Malaysian studios been hired to participate in animation work, the country's industry would have benefited by learning from foreign animation expertise and methodology. [18]


The protagonist of the series is a nine-year-old boy named Mat, who typically wears a sarong pelikat and a white singlet. Sporting a broad nose, small eyes, and untidy black hair, the short and rounded boy resembles his creator, Lat, as a child. [19] Mat has a younger sister, Ana, and they live in a house with their father and mother, Yap and Yah, respectively. Their nuclear family structure is predominant in the village. Yap's mother, Opah, does not live with them but is often seen in their house. [20] Also frequently appearing are Mat's buddies, Bo and Tak, whose names are components of the Malay word botak (bald). [21] The two are styled after comic characters of traditional wayang kulit (shadow play); [19] Bo is the more intelligent of the pair, while Tak has a tendency to be a show-off. [11] Other supporting characters include Normah (a girl formerly from the city) and Mrs. Hew (Mat's teacher). [22]

The Malay and English voices of the characters were dubbed by Malaysian voice actors. Child actors were employed for the younger roles; [10] however, Mat, Ana, Bo, and Tak were voiced by actors who were in their early twenties. [23] [24] Certain actors had the task of voicing multiple roles; for example, the voice director was responsible for speaking the roles of Yah and Mrs. Hew. Initially, voice talents were hired in Los Angeles to dub the English version, but they "kept slipping into a Jamaican accent". [10] Although this soundtrack was not used in the series, the producers felt it was too humorous to waste and included it in The Making of Kampung Boy, [10] which was broadcast a week before the start of the series. [25]


Whereas Kampung Boy the comic book was based on life in the 1950s, its animation spin-off was set in the 1990s. [14] Although the scenery and details are exaggerated, the animation is accurate in its depiction of the Malaysian village and the life of its inhabitants. [26] Dr. Rohani Hashim, of Universiti Sains Malaysia's School of Communication, called the series a "detailed recreation of a rural Malay childhood". [27] The layout of Mat's village and the style of its houses are patterned after those in the rural areas of Perak where clusters of houses line a river which provides water for the villagers' needs. The children play in the surrounding jungle, while the adults toil in the fields and commute to the city to work. [28]

Saperstein directed the use of warm and soft colours in the series; this colour scheme was modelled after that of Winnie the Pooh , [10] bestowing a "soft, cuddly feel", according to Far Eastern Economic Review journalist S. Jayasankaran, to the animation. [8] Much of the show's visuals followed Lat's art style. Outlines are drawn in a bold manner, making objects stand out from the background an effect particularly aided by the rich use of brown, green, and yellow as the dominant colours. The last two colours are heavily used in the depictions of nature, contrasting well with each other and separating the background from the middle ground. Aside from being the main colour for the houses, brown is used as the skin tone of the characters. Drawn with "short and round shapes", Mat and his fellow Malays are highlighted with bright colours. [19]

Themes and hallmarks

Kampung Boy's episodes follow a structure reminiscent of Hollywood cartoons. Each episode contains two separate stories whose themes interweave each other as the show switches between scenes of the two stories. By the end of the episode, the two threads are resolved by a common idea. Generally, one story focuses on the kampung children, and the other on the adults. [29] The creators of Kampung Boy refrained from copying ideas commonly found in Western and Japanese cartoons. Other Malaysian animations produced since the 1990s have not been as meticulously faithful to portraying images and themes familiar to the locals. For example, Sang Wira's (1996) protagonist bears a striking resemblance to Doraemon, and the bear and bee in Ngat dan Taboh (2002) play out antics similar to those of Tom and Jerry . Lat's close involvement with the project kept its portrayals faithful to Malaysian culture. [17] Kampung life in the animation features "true-blue Malaysian elements" such as supernatural superstitions (pontianaks or female vampires), monkeys trained to pluck coconuts, and traditions that are forgotten in the transition from rural to urban living. [10] [30]

The cartoon series explores ideas through the activities of the characters, especially their interactions with one another. [21] Rohani classified the genre of the show as comedy drama. [1] According to her, the main theme in Kampung Boy is nostalgia, carrying Lat's intention to portray rural childhood as a "much more interesting and creative" experience than growing up in an urban environment. [26] Several episodes champion the kampung way of life. In "Antara Jaguh & Rakan" ("Between Champions or Friends") Mat and his friends defeat a city soccer team because of their toughness bred from doing hard work in the village. "SiMat Manusia Pintar" ("Smart Like a Flying Fox") suggests that the unpolluted environment of the kampung promotes the upbringing of a healthier and more intelligent child. Normah arrives from the city in "Mat Main Wayang" ("The Shadow Knows"), and although she disdains the kampung initially, she is won over by the villagers' tenderness toward her. [31]

The intrusion of modern technology and attitudes into this idyllic kampung way of life is also a main topic in the series. [21] Several episodes introduce electrical appliances and ideas associated with urban lifestyles to the villagers. [8] [10] For example, the convenience of motor cars versus the traditional use of bullock carts is debated by the characters in "Naik Keretaku" ("Dad's Driving Test"). Despite the show's support of the kampung lifestyle, it portrays aspects of modern living in a positive light as well. Opah, an old woman, is depicted as a capable modern woman, proficient in driving a van and fixing televisions. [32] The city is characterised as a gateway to a range of cultures and ideas that are not found in a Malaysian rural village, as illustrated in the encounter and formation of a friendship between Mat and a Chinese boy in "Naik Keretaku". [33]

The series also explores changes in Malaysian rural society that had taken place during the 1950s to 1990s. For example, through flashbacks, "Yah, Kahwinkan Kami!" ("Well, Marry Us!") displays traditional marriage customs that are no longer practised by urban dwellers. Family ties are shown to be strong in the rural community family members show close attention and concern to one another. Conversely, those who immersed themselves in city life are depicted to have lost their communal bonds. Although Mat's family is depicted to follow the rules of the Malay patriarchal society, modern values are in its portrayal. Yap does not leave the responsibilities of child-rearing all to Yah; he takes care of Ana while she watches over Mat. Although the series presents the female characters as housewives, it makes the point in "Nasib Si Gadis Desa" ("The Fate of The Village Girl") that the traditional family role of the Malay woman is as equal and valuable as the man's. The episode also mentions the achievements of women in careers such as space exploration and science. [34]

Overall, Rohani said Lat's cartoon series was subtly recording a story of "rapidly vanishing Malay tradition and innocence", while advising viewers to consider the societal changes around them. [27] According to her, the cartoonist's concern was to inspire the audience to consider the pace of urbanisation and to realise that the adoption or rejection of new values is a common decision by them. [35] The show, in her opinion, suggests that changes should be carefully examined and adopted only if beneficial to the society. Furthermore, the adoption of new ideas and culture should be a gradual process, and the changes tailored accordingly to the society. [36]

Reception, legacy, and achievements

Kampung Boy was submitted to the 1999 Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France. One of its episodes, "Oh, Tok!", won the Best Animation for a television series of 13 minutes and more. [37] The episode was about a spooky banyan tree that became the object of Mat's fear. [8] Because of the local contents in the animation and the nostalgic appeal of the kampung lifestyle, Malaysian comics scholar Muliyadi Mahamood expected success for Kampung Boy in his country. [21]

The 26-episode series was popular with the young and received positive reviews for technical details and content. [38] [39] It has also attracted criticism for similarities to United States cartoon series The Simpsons ; audiences noticed that Mat's Malaysian family was similar in several ways to Bart Simpson's dysfunctional American family. Similarly, some critics pointed out that the English spoken in Kampung Boy is substantially different from Malaysian English, which is heavily influenced by British English; [19] reporter Daryl Goh perceived an American accent to the English-language voices. [11] Lat explained that the producers had to tone down the use of "traditional Malay customs, locales and language" to market the series to a wider global audience. Rohani found the decision "regrettable"; it made the animation less than an authentic Malay product. [19]

The animation was regarded by Dr. Paulette Dellios, of Bond University's School of Humanities and Social Sciences, as a cultural artefact: a reminder and preservation of a country's old way of life, created and produced by an international team, and displayed via modern technologies to the world. [40] According to Rohani, Kampung Boy was a record of Malay traditions and transitions experienced by the rural community during the 1950s to 1990s. [36] Among the several Malaysian animations that used local settings, Lat's series was in veteran film director Hassan Abdul Muthalib's view the best in portraying the country's culture and traditions; Hassan also said that the success in marketing the series overseas made Kampung Boy the benchmark for Malaysia's animation industry. [18]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kuala Lumpur</span> Federal territory and capital city of Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, officially the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and colloquially referred to as KL, is a federal territory and the ceremonial, legislative and judicial capital city of Malaysia. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Asia and the largest city in Malaysia, covering an area of 243 km2 (94 sq mi) with a census population of 1,982,112 as of 2020. Greater Kuala Lumpur, also known as the Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7.564 million people as of 2018. It is among the fastest growing metropolitan regions in Southeast Asia, both in population and economic development.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">13 May incident</span> Sino-Malay sectarian violence in Kuala Lumpur

The 13 May incident was an episode of Sino-Malay sectarian violence that took place in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, on 13 May 1969. The riot occurred in the aftermath of the 1969 Malaysian general election when opposition parties such as the Democratic Action Party and Gerakan made gains at the expense of the ruling coalition, the Alliance Party.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lat (cartoonist)</span> Malaysian cartoonist

Datuk Mohammad Nor bin Mohammad Khalid, more commonly known as Lat, is a Malaysian cartoonist. Winner of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2002, Lat has published more than 20 volumes of cartoons since he was 13 years old. His works mostly illustrate Malaysia's social and political scenes, portraying them in a comedic light without bias. Lat's best known work is The Kampung Boy (1979), which has been published in several countries across the world. In 1994, the Sultan of Perak bestowed the honorific title of datuk on Lat, in recognition of the cartoonist's work in helping to promote social harmony and understanding through his cartoons. Lat also works for the government to improve the city's social security.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">P. Ramlee</span> Malaysian singer, scriptwriter, actor, songwriter, and film director (1929–1973)

Tan Sri Datuk Amar Teuku Zakaria bin Teuku Nyak Puteh, better known by his stage name P. Ramlee, was a Malaysian actor, filmmaker, musician, and composer famous in both modern-day Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern Thailand. Due to his contributions to the film and music industry and his literary work, which began with his acting debut in Singapore in 1948, to the height of his career and then later in Malaysia in 1964 to his decline and death, he is regarded as a prominent icon of Malay entertainment. His popularity has reached as far as Brunei, Indonesia, as well as in Hong Kong and Japan.

The Federal Route 2 is a major east–west oriented federal highway in Malaysia. The 276.9 kilometres (172 mi) road connects Port Klang in Selangor to Kuantan Port in Pahang. The Federal Route 2 became the backbone of the road system linking the east and west coasts of Peninsula Malaysia before being surpassed by the East Coast Expressway E8.

<i>Usop Sontorian</i> Malaysian television series

Usop Sontorian is a Malaysian animated cartoon series aired on TV1 from 1996 to 1997. The country's first animated series, it was created by Ujang and Kamn Ismail (1956–2019) and produced by Kharisma Pictures. Ismail was the managing director of Quest Animations until his death in 2019. Ujang, the creator of the Usop Sontorian characters, was forbidden to draw any cartoon characters similar in likeness to Usop Sontorian, after a failed legal battle to acquire rights to the character. After the series demise and Kharisma Pictures' closure in 1997, many of the production team were switched to different animation companies while others become full-time cartoonist for magazines Ujang and APO?, both under Kharisma Publications.

Federal Route 68, also known as Jalan Gombak or Jalan Karak Lama, is a federal road in Malaysia that links the city of Kuala Lumpur to Bentong, Pahang. Before Kuala Lumpur–Karak Expressway E8/FT2 was built, the road was used to be a part of Kuala Lumpur–Kuantan Road FT2; however, due to its sharp corners, narrow roadway and lack of safety features, a replacement highway known as the Kuala Lumpur–Karak Highway FT2 was built, causing the former Kuala Lumpur–Bentong section to be re-gazetted as the Federal Route 68.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur</span>

Kampung Baru or Kampong Bharu is a Malay enclave in central Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. One of the most valuable tracts of land in the capital, it has been estimated to be worth up to US$1.4 billion.

Ishak Haji Muhammad, better known as Pak Sako, was a Malaysian writer, active in the 1930s until the 1950s. He was a nationalist and his involvement began before independence and continued thereafter. He fought for the idea of the unification of Melayu Raya where Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei are united in one collective.

Keluang Man is a Malaysian comedy superhero who is based on the fruit bat. His costume and appearance is based on DC Comics' Batman. The Keluang Man cartoon series was very popular since his first appearance back in 1998 through Malaysian local TV channel, TV1. However, production stopped for a while due to the economic crisis in 1997 and 1998, but later continued in 2000 until the series finally ended in 2005. In 2008, Keluang Man was re-aired on TV9.

<i>The Kampung Boy</i> Autobiographical graphic novel by Lat

The Kampung Boy, also known as Lat, the Kampung Boy or simply Kampung Boy, is a graphic novel by Lat about a young boy's experience growing up in rural Perak in the 1950s. The book is an autobiographical account of the artist's life, telling of his adventures in the jungles and tin mines, his circumcision, family, and school life. It is also the basis for the eponymous animated series broadcast in 1999. First published in 1979 by Berita Publishing, The Kampung Boy was a commercial and critical success; its first printing was sold out within four months of its release. Narrated in English with a smattering of Malay, the work has been translated into other languages, such as Japanese and French, and sold abroad.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sazzy Falak</span> Malaysian actress and television presenter

Sazlini binti Shamsul Falak or professionally known as Sazzy Falak is a Malaysian actress, TV host, entrepreneur and fashion icon. She is best known for her breakthrough role as Shasha in the 2005 film Gol & Gincu, for which she won the Best Supporting Actress Award at the 19th Malaysia Film Festival, as well as for being the host for Season 1 of the Asian spin-off to Style Network's hit US makeover series How Do I Look?.

Animation in Malaysia has origins in the puppetry style of wayang kulit, wherein the characters are controlled by the puppeteer, or Tok Dalang. Chinese shadow play inspired German filmmaker Lotte Reiniger to create the animated The Adventures of Prince Achmed in 1926 that was based on one of the stories in the 1001 Nights stories. Many of the world's animators have credited Prince Achmed`s recognisable style for generating their initial interest in animation as well as in their works.

Perak Malay is one of the Malay dialects spoken within the state of Perak, Malaysia. Although it is neither the official language nor the standard dialect in the whole state of Perak, its existence which co-exists with other major dialects in the state of Perak still plays an important role in maintaining the identity of Perak. In spite of the fact that there are five main dialects traditionally spoken in Perak, only one of which is intended by the name "Perak Malay". There are subtle phonetic, syntactic and lexical distinctions from other major Malay dialects. Perak Malay can be divided into two sub-dialects, Kuala Kangsar and Perak Tengah, named after the daerah (districts) where they are predominantly spoken.

Kampung Padang Balang or Padang Balang is the oldest surviving traditional village in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was circumferenced by Gombak Road, Jalan Kampung Bandar Dalam, Duta–Ulu Klang Expressway (DUKE), Kuala Lumpur Middle Ring Road 2 and Gombak River.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Douglas Lim</span> Malaysian actor, comedian, TV host and emcee

Douglas Lim is a Malaysian actor, comedian, television presenter and emcee. He is well known for his involvement in local television, theater and film and comedy show.

Dr. Mohamed Ghazali bin Abdul Rashid or better known by his pen name Malim Ghozali PK was a Malaysian writer and laureate from Perak. He was crowned as the Sasterawan Perak in 2014. He authored a variety of literary works such as Novels and short stories. He also received numerous awards including the Southeast Asian Writers Award in 2013.

Mechamato is a Malaysian animated series produced by Animonsta Studios, focusing on a boy named Amato and his partner robot MechaBot, who fight against bad robots. Mechamato is a part of the BoBoiBoy franchise and the series also takes place before the BoBoiBoy and BoBoiBoy Galaxy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Malaysian art</span>

Traditional Malaysian art is primarily composed of Malay art and Bornean art, is very similar with the other styles from Southeast Asia, such as Bruneian, Indonesian and Singaporean. Art has a long tradition in Malaysia, with Malay art that dating back to the Malay sultanates, has always been influenced by Chinese, Indian and Islamic arts, and also present, due to large population of Chinese and Indian in today's Malaysian demographics.


  1. 1 2 3 Rohani 2005, p. 390.
  2. Lat 2001, pp. 153–154.
  3. Lent 2008, p. 32.
  4. 1 2 3 Muliyadi 2001, p. 146.
  5. Unhealthy Elements 2004.
  6. Crossings: Datuk Lat 2003, 39:35–40:07, 41:09–41:41.
  7. Campbell 2007.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Jayasankaran 1999, p. 36.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Lat 2001, p. 154.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Manavalan 1999.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Goh 1999.
  12. Hassan 2007, p. 296.
  13. DeMott 2004.
  14. 1 2 Lat Cartoon Series 1996.
  15. Muliyadi 2001, p. 145.
  16. Seneviratne 2002.
  17. 1 2 Hassan 2007, p. 292.
  18. 1 2 Hassan 2007, p. 293.
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 Rohani 2005, p. 391.
  20. Rohani 2005, p. 397.
  21. 1 2 3 4 Muliyadi 2001, p. 147.
  22. Rohani 2005, pp. 391–392.
  23. Haliza 2000.
  24. Chandran 2005.
  25. Haliza 1999a.
  26. 1 2 Rohani 2005, p. 392.
  27. 1 2 Rohani 2005, p. 389.
  28. Rohani 2005, pp. 392–394, 396, 398.
  29. Hassan 2007, pp. 292–293.
  30. Rohani 2005, p. 396.
  31. Rohani 2005, pp. 394–395.
  32. Rohani 2005, pp. 393–394.
  33. Rohani 2005, p. 394.
  34. Rohani 2005, pp. 396–397.
  35. Rohani 2005, p. 395.
  36. 1 2 Rohani 2005, p. 398.
  37. Haliza 1999b.
  38. Muliyadi 2001, pp. 147–148.
  39. More than a Cartoonist 2007, p. 257.
  40. Dellios 2000, p. 1.



Academic sources

Journalistic sources