Thomas Chabalier : Upin & Ipin -In The Running For The 2020 Oscars
The Malaysian film Upin & Ipin: Keris Siamang Tunggalis is currently being considered for an Oscars nomination under the Animated Feature Film category. The feature is currently fighting for a nomination spot along with big shots from Disney, DreamWorks, Sony, and Warner Bros. The movie made $25 million in the local box office in the first three weeks and won an award as Best Film Story in the 2019 International Animation Film Festival (Animaze) in Montreal, Canada.
Created five years ago, Upin and Ipin is an animated cartoon series produced by Les’ Copaque Productions about 5-year-old twin boys and their adventures with friends. Supported by Disney Asia Studios, the series has been made into a film and is currently number one on the Southeast Asian box office and was released in the USA (on Netflix), China and Southeast Asia in Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia.
We caught up with the orchestrator (Thomas Chabalier) about the new release of the Upin and Ipin’s soundtrack and when we met with him, he had just finished the arrangements and orchestration on Andrew Bong’s music.
How important is the music in the Upin and Ipin production?
The music is always so important to the film! It is how the audience in this case, young children will translate and internalize what they are seeing visually. Also, children learn the main songs of their favorite hero by heart and it will be on repeat for a very long time. The music must be smart and catchy! The original score was composed by Andrew Bong for ‘Les Copaque’. Our audience is huge, Upin & Ipin is the first YouTube Channel in Malaysia to have 3 million subscribers with a view count closer to 2 billion. Most of the ‘Les Copaque’ subscribers are not from Malaysia, but from all over the world including Indonesia, Brunei, and the United States.
What is the job of an orchestrator and arranger?
I was honored when Composer Andrew Bong selected me to join him in this role from more than 250 online applicants. The orchestrator composes the sound and music for each instrument in the orchestra, and then combines, balances and arranges the instrumental components by function in a specialized order and according to the tone of each instrument. In this balancing act the orchestrator is mastering the technique of the various instruments, and the way that they relate to each other. Fortunately, the possibilities are endless! The arranger is the “artist” of the musical work.
This role could be compared to that of a cinema director, the arrangement work transforms the original idea, integrates the elements that will animate it, and structures it’s style. Much like the lighting and editing processes assemble the visual framework of the written narrative, the musical arrangement provides thematic and harmonic ideas, orchestration and structure to the piece. Most of the orchestration was done in studio and I traveled to Malaysia to complete with the production team.
How did you become involved in creating music for animated films and what is it that makes a film score great?
It is very funny, how at ease I feel composing for animation, which has something to do with my childhood love for Disney animated films. In 2016, I composed a soundtrack for a short animated film I came across, “Little thing” I submitted it to the Soundtrack Cologne European Competition Talent Awards and I won first prize. I have also composed music for video games, including Eric Niubo’s ‘A Street Story’. This game was presented at the Cannes Festival des jeux.
As for the future, I look forward to my next chapter and project, which is on the horizon soon and I can’t wait.