U.S. Embassy Jakarta and Walt Disney Animation Studios Promote Storytelling and Youth Skills Building in Indonesia

JAKARTA – U.S. Embassy Jakarta in collaboration with Walt Disney Animation Studios through the American Film Showcase (AFS) is bringing  Dr. Steve Arounsack, lead cultural advisor and visual anthropologist for Disney Animation’s Raya and the Last Dragon, to Indonesia November 9-17, 2023. The Oscar-nominated Raya and the Last Dragon is Disney Animation’s first feature film fully inspired by the people and cultures of Southeast Asia.

The program in Indonesia will include a series of skills-building activities for future writers and filmmakers alongside feature length screenings. The program is part of U.S. government’s support for Indonesia’s creative economy and strengthening networks within film and animation production industries.

“Film is a huge area of potential growth between our two countries. We hope to see more collaboration between our film companies and educational institutions in this and other creative industries,” explained U.S. Embassy Jakarta Cultural Attaché, Emily Norris.

Throughout the week, Dr. Arounsack is leading a series of workshops and discussions on aspects of animation and visual storytelling with the next generation of Indonesian animators and filmmakers in partnership with film and art schools and animation studios in Batam, Surabaya, Semarang, Kudus, and Jakarta.  The sessions will also explore the themes of intergroup tolerance and cooperation and broader Southeast Asian identity woven throughout the film.

“These masterclasses celebrate the synergy between writers and story artists in the creation of animated films and unveil how ‘Raya and The Last Dragon’ was inspired by the strong affinity filmmakers have for Southeast Asia,” said Vineet Puri, Vice President and General Manager, The Walt Disney Company Southeast Asia. “By exploring the creative journey behind this fantasy adventure feature, we hope to ignite young future storytellers and creatives in Indonesia to also pursue their passion in the world of animation.”

Raya and the Last Dragon head of story Fawn Veerasunthorn, who grew up in Thailand, noted, “The challenge for this movie was that we are inspired by the whole region, which is eleven countries. It was important that, no matter where in Southeast Asia they are from, people can watch this movie and see part of themselves in it.”


About Dr. Steve Arounsack
Dr. Steve Arounsack is an award-winning professor, filmmaker, and visionary world builder whose ethnographic field experiences span almost 30 years. He has collaborated with some of the entertainment industry’s most renowned visual development teams to bring to life iconic Southeast Asian-themed characters and environments. Notably, he served as the lead cultural advisor and visual anthropologist for the Oscar-nominated film Raya and the Last Dragon, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ first feature film inspired by the cultures of Southeast Asia. Before working on Hollywood films, Dr. Arounsack produced acclaimed documentaries that have aired on PBS and screened at major Asian American film festivals and international venues. He empowers youth around the world through storytelling presentations and workshops with partners such as Disney Global Public Policy, U.S. Embassies, and the American Film Showcase.

About the American Film Showcase
The American Film Showcase is a U.S. Department of State cultural diplomacy initiative, supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs through a grant to the University of Southern California’s renowned School of Cinematic Arts. U.S. embassies bring award-winning American documentaries, feature films, and animated shorts to audiences around the world through the AFS program. The program gives foreign audiences the chance to see unique views of contemporary American society and culture in films from American independent film directors. To find out more about American Film Showcase please visit: https://americanfilmshowcase.com/films/documentary-features/.

About Walt Disney Animation Studios
Combining masterful artistry and storytelling with groundbreaking technology, Walt Disney Animation Studios is a filmmaker-driven animation studio responsible for creating some of the most beloved films ever made. Disney Animation continues to build on its rich legacy of innovation and creativity, from the first fully-animated feature film, 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to 2019’s Frozen 2, the biggest animated film of all time, to the upcoming Fall 2023 feature, Wish. Among the studio’s timeless creations are Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Frozen, Zootopia, and Encanto.

Dr. Steve Arounsack with animation department students at Politeknik Negeri Batam, Friday, November 10. (Photo: State Dept.)

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