The characters all Valentine’s couples will be sharing on LINE and WhatsApp.
With all the talk of emoji this and emoji that, it’s easy to overlook the fact stickers and emoticon characters are actually more in vogue with East and Southeast Asians, the biggest group of chat app users today.
While we in the West chuckle over ‘Italiano’ pinched finger gestures and frowning poop, those in the East are making use of original characters like Brown the LINE bear, Kakaotalk’s butt-shaped Peach and – perhaps especially on Valentine’s Day – Milk & Mocha.
The cute teddy bear couple above have managed to invade chat applications around the world. You’ll no doubt have seen them at some point, a white bear (Milk) and brown bear (Mocha) with plump cheeks and heads bigger than their sticky rice-like bodies.
The duo are beloved by users in United States and India, with a massive social following helping them to spread into merchandise, a weekly comic strip on social media and the lovey-dovey GIF section of your WhatsApp.
The character couple are most popular in their home of Indonesia, where they were created by Melani Sie in 2016. They and Centilia creator Gigih Hartanto would go on to form Klova Studios in 2018, partnering with licensing and merchandising team Inez and Disa in 2019.
“Basically we’re joined forces,” the Klova team tell me by email. “We think we can do much more in our IP developments if we work together as team rather than do it alone.”
The group have been successful enough to form their own company, PT Semanggi Kreasi Indonesia, as a home for Klova Studios. Interviewing Milk & Mocha’s creators by email though, I learn the bears almost originated from very different climes.
“They firstly got designed as a panda and polar bear,” Klova reveal. “But we scrapped that idea and redesigned them.”
“(Back in 2016) Milk & Mocha were inspired by a lot of cute characters out there. To be honest, they were made spontaneously with a ‘I want to make cuuute characters!!’ spirit in mind. So we didn’t really think about their personalities at first; later we started to develop them.
“We wanted them to have opposite personalities, like Milk is so cheerful while Mocha is pretty gloomy because it will be so cute to see their dynamics.”
The bears started out as LINE static stickers and then later as animated stickers on the Japan-owned app. Soon they entered the top rank of stickers in LINE Indonesia, but Klova tell me that more and more fans are discovering the twosome via GIPHY and its portals on WhatsApp.
The animations are made with Photoshop, with the story behind each one inspired by real-life romance.
“Milk & Mocha’s stories feel relatable because we took inspiration from real-life events. The ideas came from small things that happened in daily life, (that most) people experienced.
“Honestly, their story can be relatable not only for couples but also for best friends,” Klova adds.
“As example, when people eating together, sometimes your lover/friend’s food looks tastier than yours. From this inspiration, we imagine how Milk and Mocha will act if they’re in this situation, and viola! The comic’s idea is created.”
When asked how artists can recreate that romantic feeling, the studio keeps it as simple as their wholesome tales.
“It should either make you go ‘aaaw’ or make you go ‘I feel that’ when reading it!”
Finally, I ask Melani and team how Milk & Mocha will be spending this Valentine’s Day.
“Milk & Mocha will be cuddling together (with their pet Matcha too) since the weather is pretty cold lately :)”
Check out Milk & Mocha on Twitter and Facebook, plus Instagram. The Klova Studios homepage is here.
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