Outstanding Malaysians: Meet The Malaysian Artist Who Worked On All Of Your Favourite Disney/Pixar Movies

Her recent work includes something that will race into your hearts – ‘Cars 3’.

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Outstanding Malaysians: Meet The Malaysian Artist Who Worked On All Of Your Favourite Disney/Pixar Movies
Images: Iylia/Rojak Daily and Walt Disney Studios
'Outstanding Malaysians' is a series of original articles where we honour and pay tribute to our fellow Malaysians who are making our country proud. 

This edition, we spoke to Kiki Poh, a shading artist who is currently doing excellent job at one of the world's biggest animation studios - Pixar! 

We’ve all grown to love Disney/Pixar animated movies and shorties such as Monster’s University, Finding Dory, Inside Out, Piper and Toy Story 3, to name a few.

These films have successfully found a way to our hearts, regardless if we are aged 6 or 26 (let’s be honest, we’re full-grown adults who look forward to each Disney/Pixar movie), thanks to their unique narratives and eye-catching animation.

But did you know that a Malaysian lass has worked on all of the movies mentioned above?

Meet Kiki Poh, a Johorean who is now a full-time Shading and Grooming Technical Director at Pixar Animation Studios, California.

Here's a fact that made us very proud: she was the first Malaysian to be recruited by Pixar!

Kiki posing with a life-sized Lightning McQueen.
She recently came back to Malaysia to promote the latest movie that she worked on, Cars 3, and she was dubbed a ‘Hometown Hero’ during her homecoming.

Kiki graduated with a Masters in Visual Effects from Savannah College of Art and Design and while pursuing her degree at the same college back in 2008, she was selected for an internship at Pixar. Her first production project with Disney/Pixar was Toy Story 3.

The rest, they say, is history.

Racing Into Our Hearts With Cars 3

New and old characters in the latest instalment of 'Cars'.
We know many of you are curious – what exactly did Kiki do in the movie?

Well, for starters, Kiki worked on shading the characters such as Guido, Filmore, Doc Hudson and the Crazy 8 Racers. She is also responsible for working on the surface texture and the colours of the characters.

Not only that, she was also assigned as the team leader who oversaw the entire operation.

Working on a high-profile animated film may be tough, and being a leader isn't always an easy feat, but the 40-year-old managed to overcome the challenges that came her way.

“We needed to shade about 60 different car variants while running on a very tight schedule. We had to find the fastest and easiest way to work efficiently and give 60 variants in a very short period of time,” Kiki told Rojak Daily when we caught up with her.

Cars 3 also bears a significant meaning to her but not only because she worked on it.

“This movie is very special to me because I have a little nephew who’s a big fan of Lightning McQueen. I’m so glad that I’m able to come back to Malaysia and share the movie with him.”

When she was asked which character in the movie she resonated with the most, she answered without skipping a beat.

Her favourite character, Cruz.
“The character I resonate with the most is Cruz, because she grew up with big dreams and as a female, we can see her challenges to achieve her dreams. As a girl who grew up in JB and finally achieving my dreams abroad is probably why I can relate to her.”

An Artist By Day, A Mother By Night

Here's another pretty impressive tid bit about Kiki: she was actually pregnant while she was working on Cars 3.

“My little baby kind of helped in the production of the movie and his name is actually in the credits! He’s now 10 months old.”

According to Kiki, Disney/Pixar really takes care of the welfare of their staff members and promotes a healthy working environment.

In each Disney/Pixar movie, Kiki pointed out that there's a section called ‘Production Babies’ at the end credits where they pay tribute to all the babies that were born during the production of the movies.

We can't help but feel a little bit jealous of Kiki's baby, because not only does he have a cool mom, his name is also immortalised in a Disney/Pixar movie.

Malaysians, Unite!

What a dream come true to work here, imagine all the perks!
Kiki’s face lit up when we asked if there were other Malaysians working with her in Pixar, because she too feels that her fellow countrymen deserved recognition as well.

“There are a total of five Malaysians including an intern who recently joined us. I worked with Pixar the longest so I was really glad when the others joined in.”

The other Malaysians worked in various departments such as finance, layout, and simulation, she said.

“We miss Malaysia and Malaysian food so much, so I’m looking forward to have a Malaysian lunch together with them when I get back.”

Meeting fellow Malaysians at Pixar wasn’t the only thing that got Kiki excited; she also had the opportunity to meet some of the cast members of the movies she worked on.

“I’ve previously met Amy Poehler who plays Joy in Inside Out!”

Her All-Time Favourite Disney/Pixar Movie

We love this movie, too!
Everyone has their own favourite Disney/Pixar movie, so what about the girl who actually worked on them?

“My favourite has got to be Monsters Inc. I really liked the cute relationship between Boo and Sullivan," she gushed. 

We bet working on Monsters University was a dream come true for her then.

So, what's next for Kiki?

She told us that she is currently working on the The Incredibles sequel - gasp! - but the one thing that she can't wait to do is to show her son all the movies she's worked on.

“I can’t wait until my baby grows up, I’d like to show him all the movies I’ve worked on!”

Who is Lightning McQueen's newest rival?

'Don't let anything stop you'

Kiki's journey is nothing short of an inspiration to us all. She's a living proof that your dreams are not impossible, as long as you are not afraid to reach out for it. 

Her journey to landing a full-time job at an esteemed animation studio such as Pixar wasn’t an easy feat, she told us, but she did it in the end because she did not give up.

“You need to work on it step by step. Along the journey, you will face failures and that’s totally normal. Just don’t let anything stop you and try to understand that each failure is temporary.”

“Always check up on yourself to make sure that you’re on track. As long as you’re on the right track and you keep working hard, you’ll get there!”

We’re so proud of you Kiki, and we’re looking forward to your future projects!

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