Mechamato is an awesome new cartoon with action and comedy that’s ready to power on to screens in Malaysia and around Asia on Saturday, 4 December 2021 on Cartoon Network (Astro Channel 615 HD).
The star of the series is a boy named Amato who becomes the master of a destroyer robot called Mechabot with the ability to mechanize objects. Together they track down other robots that escaped from a prison ship that crash-landed on Earth. The show is created by Monsta, which is based in Cyberjaya in Malaysia and is actually a prequel to their previous animated series, BoBoiboy.
Courtesy of WarnerMedia Malaysia, we were lucky enough to participate in a roundtable interview with Monsta Chief Content Officer and Mechamato showrunner Anas Abdul Aziz (above), as well as WarnerMedia Head Of Kids Asia Pacific Leslie Lee (below). This interview has been edited for clarity.
You collaborated with Bandai for Mechamato. Can you tell us more about what that process was like?
Anas Abdul Aziz: Actually, we teased that before when we met Bandai like a few years before COVID-19 to share more about Mechamato. Actually, we were just showing what the animation is about, and trying to get what they thought about it and they loved it. But most of it, the development was mostly from Monsta. The story is from us, the design and the characters, everything was internally from us.
On when we will be announcing anything with them, I think we will have to wait for announcements in the future. I just wanted to let you know that the main development of the story, the production, it’s all internally from Monsta.
How long did it take to produce and animate Mechamato?
Anas Abdul Aziz: I met with Leslie a long time ago that we pitched the idea of Mechamato to him and as he said in the other session, it was a long evolution of many designs and many ideas. I actually can’t remember when was the first time. I think it was sometime in 2017 or 2018 that we showed the first idea to Leslie and then it’s just a matter of waiting for the right timing to write the episodes and meet the production. At Monsta, we are an animation company that does multiple IPs, so when the timing was right, we went straight into the Mechamato production.
Mechamato‘s development started as a whole not just as a series first, just as a concept of the characters, what the world was about, and then we wanted to make a movie and everything else. But when we wanted to start the series, then it’s just writing the series’ episodes and because everything was already laid out. The whole concept was already formalized then, and next was just showing it to Leslie’s team and getting their feedback. Everything else was history. I think we first started in 2017, or 2018. For the production itself, I think we started in 2019.
Leslie Lee: I think with Mechamato, the first time I watched it was very, very different. If I remember, it was aimed at a slightly younger audience, like a preschool bridge kind of programming. We exchanged ideas and all that. That’s how it became a bit older. Amato became a little bit older, the robot Mechabot became a little bit edgier, that kind of thing. I think, in terms of the evolution that Cartoon Network and I and Anas had, it’s gone through a lot of iterations and evolutions to what it is today, four or five years ago.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you couldn’t release the Mechamato movie before the series comes out. How will that affect viewers?
Anas Abdul Aziz: Don’t worry, we’ve made the series in mind that it has to be something that anyone can watch and understand immediately. You don’t have to watch the movie or whatever. That’s the purpose of a good theme song that tells us about the story. So, we want the episodes of the series to be self-contained. You watch one episode and if you watch another episode, even if you miss the previous episode, you can still know what the story is about. Mechamato is more about the concept, the relationship between Amato and Mechabot, the powers, and what they do with it on a daily basis.
What a singular episode is about is more important than watching previous episodes. We want it to be this way and we talked about this with Leslie’s team. This way will be able to penetrate more markets and will also enable us to get more audiences. They can watch one episode, like it, and they can be part of the fanbase.
How are you planning to market Mechamato outside of Malaysia and Southeast Asia?
Leslie Lee: The show is going to be available on Cartoon Network across Asia Pacific, meaning Australian and New Zealand kids will be able to see it. Kids from Korea and Japan and all of Southeast Asia will also be seeing it in December. It will be dubbed in local languages. For example, in Japan, it’s in Japanese. In Korea, Korean. In Thai, it’s going to be dubbed in Thai as well. Obviously, in Malaysia, it will be available in both Bahasa Malaysia and English.
Anas Abdul Aziz: We’ve already listened to some of the auditions that Leslie’s team sent for the different languages and we’re quite impressed with the amount of support and effort that their team did to make sure that the voice actors in different languages really sounded as good as it was in the original language, English and Bahasa Malaysia. I grew up watching anime, so listening to the Japanese and Korean dubs, I was quite surprised by the voice actors that they selected for us to choose. I haven’t listened to the full episodes because we got to wait for when they release later on Cartoon Network. But very, very excited and thanks so much to Leslie’s team for that great support on the localization.
Which character was the most challenging to adapt from the movie to the series?
Anas Abdul Aziz: Personally, I don’t think there were any problems with interpreting any characters from the movie to the series because like I said before, when we developed the show, we developed it as a whole concept of a show. It can be a series, it can be a movie, I think there wasn’t much of a challenge there.
I will tell you that the main ones we focused on have always been Amato and Mechabot and their relationship together. Amato is like this kind good-natured boy who has crazy ideas, creative ideas, and Mechabot was sort of like a grumpy robot that wants to destroy robots. He has this ability to ‘mechanize’ objects into other devices, so they’re basically on opposite ends. But because of the show’s nature that they have to work together because Amato is the master to Mechabot, Mechabot has to listen to whatever Amato says.
So, there’s a cool dynamic that’s sort of brotherly love. You know, you don’t like your brother but you still love him and you have to listen to him and do whatever he says. That’s the kind of dynamic relationship that we show in the episodes. You’ll see that more as the episodes go along. So, I think there’s not much difficulty in that.
Just to add, even though the story is about robots, it’s about those relationships that I think everyone can relate to. Like a sibling rivalry, like brotherhood, like friends, and that is at the core of what Mechamato is about. It’s about two guys having different opinions and belief systems but working together perfectly to become Mechamato.
What else were you inspired or influenced by while making Mechamato?
Anas Abdul Aziz: The creator of this show is Nizzam. He did a lot of the early episodes, writing, and then he worked with me for me to be the showrunner. Our inspirations have been mainly from shows that we watched as kids or from our childhood years that inspired this creativity. I think one of them is Doraemon, that kind of show where, “oh my god, I wish I had a robot that can make my life easier”. That’s one of the main inspirations.
Also, Nizzam loves shows that have big robots, Gundam and stuff like that. That’s also the main inspiration but I think those are inspirations from cartoons but our inspiration for the story itself is mostly just our childhood experiences from when we were kids. You know, when we would put on some cardboard around when our moms and dads bought a big TV, we take the box and we wear it and we were suddenly robots and stuff like that. That is an experience that I believe all kids from around the world actually went through once upon a time.
I think it’s that kind of child-like behaviour, imagination and innovation that we were inspired, that we want to bring back into our animation that modern kids can actually embrace. At the end of the day, in a life filled with gadgets, computers and TVs, when it comes to a kid, the most powerful part is their imagination. We can make kids start imagining again and they’ll be entertained for hours. I mean, I was entertained for hours when I was playing with my friends as kids.
Leslie Lee: For us at Cartoon Network, it’s also about the fact that the show, and the quality of the show, is going to make Mechamato an evergreen hit. Very much like Ben 10, for example. Ben 10 is maybe 20 years and if you watch the first season of Ben 10, it’s still as relevant as before. I think Mechamato will be in that kind of league where, if you watch it 15 or 20 years from now, whatever the advances in animation quality, the story is still ultimately at the heart of the core of what makes a great show and I think Mechamato has that relevance for generations to come and that’s one of the wonderful things about it.
At the end of every episode, the end credits feature a Mechamato-themed DIY craft sequence. Whose idea was it to put that during the credits?
Anas Abdul Aziz: That was Nizzam’s idea. We were already animating episodes back-to-back and still figuring out the new song and opening sequences. And then, let’s say we’ll do an end credit sometime, we’ll just figure something out. Nizzam came up with the idea and said, “I watch a lot of TikTok videos and there’s a lot of creative DIY stuff. Why don’t we do something like that?” Something that kids can do.
That was Nizzam’s idea and it was basically a concept of we wanted kids to watch the episode and then, when the credits come, oh my god, and we want them to run over to their room and get their materials and make their own DIY creations. Because like I said, the whole core of this show is about creativity and innovation. It’s not all about the robot battles, it’s about the creativity of the child. That was Nizzam’s idea that he came up with, and that was very difficult to shoot during the pandemic. We had one guy shooting at home and another person editing in another house and two people communicating through Whatsapp and email on giving ideas and trying to get materials during the pandemic was difficult. We managed to do it and it looked pretty good.
Will Mechamato be available on HBO GO?
Leslie Lee: Yes, it will be available on HBO GO as well. But we don’t have a release date yet.
Did any of the Monsta team voice any of the characters?
Anas Abdul Aziz: I voiced Amato’s father, Aba. BoBoiboy’s grandfather. A lot of the internal team voiced some side characters that you have to see when it comes out. Nizzam does not voice anyone. He doesn’t want to do any recording for now because he’s too busy nowadays. But I think the only person is just me. I do voice a few robots, you’ll have to see when it comes out. I can’t tell you which one. As a teaser, I think I voiced a robot with a very bad French accent. But he’s voiced by a different person in English at the Miami dubbing studio. But I voice him in the Bahasa Malaysia version.
Do you already have plans for a movie or anything else?
Anas Abdul Aziz: We do have plans to release a movie. The movie, as we mentioned before, that is on hold, because first, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but more importantly, because we had to focus more on the series that is coming out in less than two weeks. Our production shifted towards the series. We’ll be talking and announcing the movie when the time comes sometime next year (2022).
What are your thoughts on the current animation industry?
Leslie Lee: For us, it’s a testament to the quality and universality of Malaysian animation, especially with Mechamato, for us to be able to travel all the way to Australia and New Zealand, to Japan and Korea. You wouldn’t see that in many of the other shows and I think that’s really how great the show is in terms of being able to cut across demographics and cultures. I think Malaysian animation has come a long way. It’s not just made for Malaysians anymore. It’s made for the world and I think that’s what sets it apart from other countries as well. Kudos to Anas and the team for being able to achieve that in such a short time.
Anas Abdul Aziz: I agree with Leslie. I think the Malaysian animation industry is really healthy. As you remember, in 2019 there were three animated movies that came out at the same time. People were calling it ‘tahun animasi’, animation year. It was really good and then COVID-19 happened, so that disrupted everyone’s plans. But I think on our side, Monsta just keep on working when the pandemic happened, just kept on developing and planning our new animation that we were going to release. We were trying to keep ourselves busy and sure enough, when we started to release Mechamato’s information and animation and trailers, the support had been really, really great.
I think it’s just a matter of time for us to actually test our own strength to see how far our animation can go further and it’s always been a dream come true to be able to release animation in the Asia Pacific region. Thanks so much to Cartoon Network for helping us and hopefully, since Cartoon Network has lots of counterparts around the world, hopefully, the other counterparts can pick it up. I hear there are some negotiations from other regions but we’ll have to wait for Leslie’s official announcements when it happens.
Can you tell us more about the plans for the merchandise and toys?
Anas Abdul Aziz: Internally, at Monsta, we’ve been producing a 1:1 scale of Mechabot and a lot of people have been asking about that. We’ve definitely been developing something internally to make consumer products, to make toys and merchandise. We have not shown it yet, but there’s definitely things cooking in our kitchen, and we’ll be able to share sometime soon. Hopefully, as soon as the series comes out, but we are planning something.
When can we expect a soundtrack of Mechamato to release?
Anas Abdul Aziz: I think our branding team is already working with a music distributor to release the songs on multiple platforms. We’re working on that because we at Monsta produce a lot of the songs and there are also new songs in the show itself. There’s one episode where a few characters sing in a rap battle, so we have to release them as well.
The first and second episodes of Mechamoto will debut at 3pm GMT+8 on Saturday and Sunday, December 4 and 5 2021, respectively. New episodes air every weekend same time thereafter.