Lemon Sky’s the limit
November 30, 2023
By: Karolina Kaminska, C21
Loo Hon Gene, head of production at Malaysia-based Lemon Sky Studios’ animation division, discusses partnering with DreamWorks on Netflix kids’ series Not Quite Narwhal and how the company has evolved from game art to animated series.
Malaysia-based animation studio Lemon Sky Studios predominantly works on game art for gaming companies including Naughty Dog, EA, Capcom, Insomniac Games and Bandai Namco.
But the company has expanded into longform animation through projects with the likes of Disney, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros Discovery and more recently DreamWorks.
“Starting out with small projects back in 2006, we have since grown and established ourselves as one of the region’s most prominent art studios,” says Loo Hon Gene, head of production at Lemon Sky’s animation division.
“Our studio is home to artists of many disciplines in the industry and we cover every step in the production pipeline, from line producers to concept artists, 3D modelers to animators, rigging artists to compositors and so many more.”
Lemon Sky’s credits in the animated series space include Battle Kitty, Middle School Moguls, Trucktown and Santiago of the Seas. One of its latest projects, with DreamWorks Animation, was Not Quite Narwhal, a series for Netflix based on Jessie Sima’s book of the same name about a unicorn who was born under the sea to a family of narwhals.
“We have always had a great rapport with DreamWorks and leadership from both studios always spoke about one day collaborating,” Hon Gene says. “When DreamWorks expressed their interest in recreating this quirky children’s book with magical creatures that revolved around embracing individuality, for TV screens, we jumped at the opportunity.
“Many of our artists grew up watching DreamWorks gems like Madagascar, Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, so we were absolutely pumped to be given the chance to work on this series with them.
“They were everything you can ask for in a creative partner. In addition to having an amazinglyimaginative and clear vision for what they wanted for Not Quite Narwhal, they were also verygenerous in giving us a fair amount of creative liberties, understanding our core values in art.”
Launching on Netflix earlier this year, Not Quite Narwhal began production during the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced Lemon Sky to completely rethink its working practices.
“It was a steep learning curve for us. The project came about in the midst of lockdown and we had to take a different approach in terms of estimating deliverables and timelines. Our team had to work remotely and setting up the right infrastructure that was both efficient and secure was a test to our technical capabilities to say the least,” says Hon Gene.
A key message in Not Quite Narwhal is about self-acceptance, acceptance of others and inclusivity, which Hon Gene hopes will encourage children the world over to celebrate their differences.
“It feels great to be able to say we worked on an animated series that tackles these subjects. At its core, diversity and inclusion can be quite a serious subject but animation can help deliver it in a light, magical and fun way to children,” Hon Gene says.
In addition to Not Quite Narwhal, Lemon Sky recently completed work on Playdate with Winnie the Pooh for Disney and web series Pokémon: Path to the Peak, both of which launched this summer. The studio has further projects in the pipeline but is keeping quiet on what those are for now.
Lemon Sky has also produced its very own IP, AstroLOLogy, an animated comedy web series of short skits based on the members of the Greek Zodiac and their wacky personalities and relationships. The non-dialogue, slapstick animation has over 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube with fans from all over the world.
Looking to the future, Lemon Sky aims to continue realising its motto ‘Make Good Art.’ Beyond animated series, the studio hopes to work on a feature film one day and produce more of its own IPs.
“We’ve never really had a detailed road map to the things we want to achieve specifically. Our growth so far has happened pretty organically and we hope this natural growth continues and allows us to express and create,” says Hon Gene.
“The growth from less than 10 artists to the healthy 500 artists that we are home to now is amotivation for us to pursue more creative ventures. We are grateful for all the opportunities that have allowed us to collaborate, and Make Good Art.”
We are grateful to C21 for this lovely interview. The original article can be found here.
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