Exploring Warbie's world

Exploring Warbie's world

Arut Tantasirin shares the stories of characters from the award-winning animation Cheez...z in a reveal-all exhibition

Exploring Warbie's world
Arut Tantasirin, creator of Warbie Yama, at 'It's Me Warbie! The Inside World Of Warbie Yama'. (Photos: Somchai Poomlard)

When Thai animator Arut Tantasirin was young, he helped an injured sparrow and took care of it until it was able to fend for itself. Due to that experience, Arut felt a connection to birds which inspired him to create Cheez…z, an award-winning short animation as his thesis for his master's in animation at the Academy of Art University in the US.

"As a mischievous boy, I wanted to touch birds, but I could not because they always flew away. One day, I saw an injured sparrow and was able to touch it. It was a feeling that was difficult to explain. Birds used to be animals that I could not pet. I felt sorry to see that sparrow hurt but when it healed and flew away, I felt good. That was how it was supposed to be," Arut said.

Cheez...z is a story of an old man, Yama, who tries to photograph chubby yellow bird Warbie. However, the mischievous Warbie does not let Yama get a photo easily. This hilarious animation landed Arut a job at Nickelodeon Animation Studio in 2010. It later won the best animation at ION International Film Festival and Kids First Film Festival. It was screened at many events in the US such as Burbank International Film Festival, Angelus Student Film Festival and New Orleans Film Festival.

Arut's works at Nickelodeon includes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years, Santiago Of The Seas, Wallykazam and Monsters Vs Aliens. In 2015, Arut was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Main Title and Graphic Design for Wallykazam.

In Thailand, Warbie Yama is a popular Line sticker collection. Users adore Warbie's cute round shape and cheeky expressions. Recently, Arut collaborated with River City to create the exhibition "It's Me Warbie! The Inside World Of Warbie Yama". At the exhibition, visitors are transported to a world of whimsical wonder, where they rediscover their inner child. Arut explained that the exhibition would bring visitors back to their childhood.

"I wanted to be happy as a child again. I also hope visitors feel the same way. I worked on Warbie Yama for more than a decade and there still are a lot of stories to tell. I feel blessed to have come this far. I never expected to turn Warbie Yama into a money-making project because I already had a full-time job. At work, I create characters for the company, but I also want to create my own characters, stories and messages," Arut said.


"It's Me Warbie! The Inside World Of Warbie Yama" was created on a grand scale with many zones. "An Introduction To Warbie Yama" greets visitors with Warbie Yama Line stickers and introduces them to all the characters -- Warbie (the cheeky yellow bird), Yama (the old man), Mali (the old woman), Bambu (the dog) and Chuchu (the boy).

"A Man With A Passion" replicates Arut's bedroom studio in San Francisco where he created Cheez…z. This zone exhibits Arut's original works such as memos, sketches and storyboards of Warbie and Yama.

"The exhibition displays behind the scenes of Warbie Yama. There is my sketchbook which has water stains and sketches of Line stickers before I added colour. I hope visitors will enjoy viewing them," said Arut.

"Inside World" is one of the highlights because Arut created a new story to strengthen the connection between Warbie and Yama.

"'Inside World' is a flashback of young Yama and Warbie. As a boy, Yama accidentally falls through the roof of Warbie's house. He promises Warbie that he will fix the roof. It is a meaningful message that shows his sense of responsibility. If children see this, they may learn to take responsibility when they break things. Then, Warbie and Yama go into a magical world together and have an adventure before returning to fix the roof. After they finish fixing the roof, they spend time in another zone watching the moon together."

Sculptures of Warbie using the Chiang Mai pottery technique.

"Arut's Originals" showcases the artwork of Warbie Yama in different media such as handmade sculptures and watercolour and acrylic paintings. Arut went to Chiang Mai to create sculptures using the Chiang Mai pottery technique. Arut explained the zone "Fanart And Collaborations" means a lot to him.

"This zone is important because I invited international artists who are my friends to create Warbie Yama. While Julia Yellow is a digital artist, Tina Term and Eugene Garcia are stop motion artists. Naoshi is notable for her sand art and Kim Woo-young is an illustrator. I was thrilled to see how they interpreted Warbie Yama in their own way. It was amazing to see our familiar characters designed and interpreted through the eyes of other artists," Arut said.

Another special collaboration is with Bhudinant Deeswasmongkol, aka ModMan, a film score musician who created three orchestra pieces -- Warbie Yama, Inside World and Moments -- for this exhibition. The songs are also available on Spotify. The final zone, "Screening Room", shows Cheez…z and a music video for the song Balloon Boy by Pod Moderndog.

In order to break the language barrier, Arut intends to create Warbie Yama without any conversation or description. People may know Warbie Yama in different forms such as Line stickers, animations and comics on Arut's social media and character merchandise, but all these forms can bring joy to people equally.

Watching the moon together.

"It is difficult to create comics or animations without any dialogue, but I discovered that people from different cultures like Warbie Yama because they relate to the characters despite the lack of dialogue. I wanted to keep it this way. I have to illustrate more details, but it is fun and challenging," he explained.

Since Warbie Yama is loved by people around the world, Arut experienced positive feedback from his audiences.

"At an event in Taiwan, a girl cried when she saw the Warbie dolls. After she stopped crying, she told me that she was happy to meet Warbie because she always used Warbie Yama stickers and the Warbie character gave her encouragement. Another woman in Taiwan told me that she could not sleep in the dark, but after she had a Warbie doll beside her bed, she could turn off the light and sleep. And I received an email from an American mother. She wrote that her nine-year-old son really liked Cheez...z and rewatched it several times. She thanked me for creating the animation."

Arut spent several years creating "It's Me Warbie! The Inside World Of Warbie Yama", so he hopes that many people will visit the exhibition.

"When people are here, they will feel like children again and have fun. I hope the exhibition can be an inspiration to people who work in this field and to children who are interested in art. Visitors will feel transported to a comic world. They may leave with happy smiles and may have positive thoughts that can be useful to their lives," said Arut.

"It's Me Warbie! The Inside World Of Warbie Yama" runs until Jan 25 at RCB Photographers' Gallery, 2nd Floor, River City Bangkok. Tickets cost 290 baht (190 baht for students and seniors) and are available at ticketmelon.com and zipeventapp.com.

Artwork at the 'Arut's Originals' zone.

Where Is Warbie by Julia Yellow, a digital artist.

'An Introduction to Warbie Yama' introduces visitors to all the characters from Warbie Yama's Line stickers.

The zone 'A Man With A Passion' replicates Arut's bedroom studio in San Francisco where he created Cheez…z.

The zone 'Inside World' provides a flashback of young Yama and Warbie.

Play by Tina Term and Eugene Garcia, stop motion artists.

Visitors will feel transported to a comic world at the exhibition.

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