Sun, 13 Aug 2000

New cartoon series a forum for long forgotten folktales

JAKARTA (JP): If you ask kids today who is Si Kancil or Pak Belalang (Mr. Grasshopper), they will probably shake their heads in bewilderment.

Many Indonesian children are unfamiliar with characters from local folktales because their parents, who themselves grew up hearing the tales, no longer have time to tell them bedtime stories.

Instead, many parents have entrusted their TV sets to babysit their kids with a long line of imported (mostly Japanese) cartoons and TV series. They include Doraemon, Dragon Ballz, Ninja Hatori, Ultraman, America's Mighty Morphine Power Rangers and Disney's animated classics.

To introduce young TV audiences to traditional stories and legends, Indosiar has Dongeng Aku dan Kau (Tales for Me and You), a 13-episode animated series featuring Indonesian folktales and legends, broadcast every Sunday at 7 a.m. and Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

Among the stories are Keong Kecil dan Rumahnya (The Little Snail and its Home), Si Kurus & Harimau Loreng, (Skinny and the Striped Tiger),Kilip dan Putri Bulan (Kilip and the Moon Princess), Si Malang Pemimpi (The Foolish Dreamer), Kancil dan Pohon Ajaib (The Mouse deer and the Wondrous Tree), Untung Ada Si Belalang (Luckily There Was the Grasshopper), Mengapa Anjing Tak Bertanduk, (Why Dogs Don't Have Horns), Palasara si Lembut Hati (Palasara, The Kind Boy) and Kancil dan Kerbau (The Mouse Deer and the Buffalo).

Directed by Erwin Aargh, a graduate of the School of Fine Arts of the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), and jointly produced by Red Rocket Animation and Nestle-Dancow, the 30-minute shows are an attempt to provide alternative and more educative entertainment for local kids.

They are also intended to show the richness and diversity of Indonesian culture and traditions.

Kilip dan Putri Bulan, for example, recounts the legend of a Dayak Benuaq boy. Through the animation, children learn about the music, culture and customs of the Dayak people of Kalimantan.

Adapting oral tales and legends for the screen poses a great challenge for filmmakers, who must try to win over fiercely loyal fans of the more advanced computer-generated Japanese and American animations.

Take Bayu, 11, and his younger brother Adi, 8. They prefer watching the Japanese cartoon Kobo Chan on RCTI every Sunday at 7. a.m. On Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., Dongeng Aku dan Kau must compete with the children's program Animax on SCTV.

"Kobo Chan is much funnier than Keadilan Seorang Raja screened on Indosiar," said sixth-grader Bayu.

Compared to the imported animations, Dongeng Aku dan Kau is far from perfect in terms of techniques, themes and plots of stories.

Each episode of Dongeng Aku dan Kau was produced within a month, while animation projects usually take about three months. The entire series was produced in 10 months, probably too short to make a good animated production.

Yet, beginnings are always difficult. The program could still become the starting point for kids and their parents to reacquaint themselves with their own culture. The producers also may be able to involve more talented animators and artists to create more appealing shows for Indonesian kids. (raw)