Immortalised in vinyl

21 Mar 2019 / 15:31 H.

FOR Michael Chuah, designing a vinyl figure in the image of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was a culmination of chance, passion, admiration, and opportunity.

“It all began with a small thumbnail I drew of Tun Mahathir,” said the award-winning cartoonist, who is now better known for creating designer toys.

“Some of my friends said it didn’t look like Mahathir, but I was determined to make it into my next project.

“I was inspired by Lat (cartoonist Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid) and how he tried to capture the look of Tun Mahathir – and [I wanted to] make one of my own.”

Formerly known as C2V, Chuah is the artist behind the comic serials Gengkey, the first comicbook character in Malaysia turned into a series of vinyl figures.

Since then, Chuah has produced vinyl figures based on his artwork of Mr Pao and Pan from Office Survival, Teddybee and Ruff from The Never Ending Tales, and Yuurei Neko Sama.

For his fifth designer toy project, Chuah decided to make a figure in the image of an older Mahathir. This is because of his admiration of the prime minster’s stamina for work, even at 94 years old.

“I followed him on Instagram, and I got to see Mahathir attending meetings and events every day,” Chuah said.

“I cannot imagine doing what he does at his age! So I decided to make him look as he is now, not when he was younger.”

Using a 3D design software to create the vinyl figure, he completed the look by including certain elements that are very much part of Tun M himself such as an Artline 210 pen in his breast pocket and Bata sandals on his feet.

It took him approximately six months to develop the figure from concept to the final product.

Vinyl figures, such as this Tun M figure, are not your everyday toys children play with but art pieces kept as collectibles. Often referred to as designer or art toys, these are created by independent artists and designers, and usually produced as limited editions.

According to Chuah, the most challenging elements to designing the Tun M figure was its hair and toes.

“It was tough to get the hair to be symmetrical, and it took a while before I settled on this swept-back style,” he said, adding that he also didn’t know what to do with the toes at first, whether to make it round or square.

Chuah went on to create two prototypes before finalising the look of Tun M.

The 4in figure is designed to be easy to carry around and fits inside a pocket. It has six points of articulation: wrists, shoulders, neck, and waist. The glasses and flag accessories are designed to be removable to make customisation and manufacturing easier.

There are only 150 of these figures worldwide. But Chuah hopes to make more of Tun M in different styles, and maybe even one of Mahathir’s wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, since the designer is known for creating figures in pairs.

Chuah added: “This Tun M figure is his casual look. I hope to make a figure with a formal look or a younger figure as well, but it all depends on the reception that this figure gets.

“I also hope that I could one day present the figure to Mahathir himself.”

Chuah said designer toys are a niche market in Malaysia and its popularity here pales in comparison to that in our neighbouring countries, such as Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore.

“Take Funko Pop for example,” he explained. “A widely available and commercialised vinyl figure line, there is a line of Funko Pop vinyl icons specific to Thailand (Hanuman), the Philippines (Jollibee mascot) and Singapore (the Merlion), but no figures specific to Malaysia.

“So I really wanted to make Tun M the first vinyl figure to uniquely represent Malaysia.”

Chuah’s Tun M vinyl figure made its debut at the Wonder Festival in Japan in early February.

Nevertheless, he hopes Malaysians would be more appreciative of the figure as it was designed specifically for fans in the country.

To increase the public’s awareness of designer toys in Malaysia, Chuah plans to invite fellow Malaysian artists and designers to join in the upcoming TAGCC (Toys/ Anime/ Games/ Comic Con), which is happening from June 22 to 23 this year at Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur.

Chuah hopes that each of them will customise their own Tun M figure, and display it at the event.

For those keen to get their own limited edition and numbered Tun M figure at US$90 (RM366.90) each, visit michaelchuah.bigcartel.com.

However, Chuah is offering Malaysians a chance to purchase the Tun M figurine through his Facebook page at only RM300, with free shipping within Malaysia.

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