EXCLUSIVE: UK production and distribution firm 108 Media has acquired a majority stake in Singapore-based animation studio Robot Playground Media (RPM).
Co-founded and run by Ervin Han and Bernard Toh, RPM specialises in developing and producing animation IP for clients including Warner Bros., Disney Southeast Asia, Discovery, MediaCorp, StarHub and Viacom.
In 2019, Toh directed Mickey Go Local, a short animated series commissioned by The Walt Disney Company marking the first original animation series produced by the studio in Southeast Asia.
Han directed and was the showrunner on Downstairs, which is now into its third season and was acquired by Netflix. He also created Singapore’s first animated prime time series Heartland Hubby for MediaCorp.
In 2021 the company won two awards at the Asian Academy Creative Awards – one for Downstairs (Best Animated Programme) and the other for Spectrum (Grand Final Winner (Best Shortform Content)).
The acquisition deal was brokered by Abhi Rastogi (CEO – 108 Media), Justin Deimen (President – 108 Media), 108 Media’s Finance Director Eamon Sullivan and Financial Analyst Andrew Gwilt, with RPM’s joint founders Han and Toh.
RPM will work “in direct coordination” with 108 Media’s distribution and production teams led by CEO Abhi Rastogi and President Justin Deimen, with Rod Smith, 108 Media’s Head of Acquisitions (UK) as well as Ryo Ebe, Managing Director of 108 Media (Japan), based in Tokyo.
The first phase of their integrated slate includes RPM’s pre-production title The Violinist, a $3M-budgeted animated feature set in World War 2 era Southeast Asia and based on their short film; 108 Media’s LA-Taiwan-Singapore co-production A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts, an 8x30min adult horror animation; and a 6x30min series adapted from Sonny Liew’s graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, which is co-produced with Finding Pictures in Singapore.
This is the first of multiple planned acquisitions for 108 in Singapore this year, the company says. The firm has also recently acquired UK outfit DCD Rights and a majority stake in Revolution Media.
“We’ve always held a strong belief in being able to share exciting and diverse stories from the Asia Pacific, in particular Southeast Asia, with the world, while showcasing the unique talents in the regional animation landscape. Aside from the injection of new growth capital towards accelerating our scale-up plans in order to drive and co-produce larger and more strategic international projects, we also welcome a new global partner in 108 Media, who shares our passion and ambition in realising the importance for Asian animated stories in all genres to be produced for global audiences”, said Toh and Han in a joint statement.
“We’ve been so impressed with the world-class quality and creativity on display from Robot Playground delivering to international and regional clients since their inception in 2013. They fit the DNA and culture we’re building at 108 Media so well with the artistic teams they’ve assembled, mentored, and led. We’re laying the groundwork of something truly special with the teams we are carefully building in our corporate and creative expansion across markets as we move into production,” added London-based Abhi Rastogi.
“Having been big fans of their work and experiencing first-hand their integrity and business acumen over the years I’ve known them, Ervin and Bernard are definitively some of the most respected creative producers in their field, and keenly synced with our ambition to scale internationally with the IPs we’ve acquired and cultivated. Animation is an important element of our production and financing playbook moving forward, and we couldn’t have found better captains with their own distinct verve to lead the fleet we’re backing them to build,” commented Justin Deimen, who is based in Singapore.