Ubah’s runaway success astounds its designer

THE MAN BEHIND UBAH: Ooi Leng Hang and the bird toy designed by him at DAP’s thanksgiving dinner in Sibu.

SIBU: The soft toy mascot of the DAP, affectionately called Ubah, has been so well received during the recent state election that it surprised even its designer, Ooi Leng Hang.

Even kids love them.

The DAP Election Bureau executive director, who took only a few days to design the Hornbill toy, has described the bird as “too hot to handle in the election; within three days, the fluffy toys, numbering 20,000 small ones and 3,000 large ones, were almost all grabbed”.

When Ooi was behind the drawing board, he had never expected such a passion from Sarawak for Ubah. He was satisfied with his art piece. It was the first mascot he had designed .

He said when he was at the drawing board, he had come up with two designs – one that showed the bird with strong characters of might while the other a cute lovely bird with a large yellow beak.

“Sarawak DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen, who supervised my design, chose the latter one – the lovely Ubah that kids and grandpas alike could not resist.”

Ooi was satisfied with the pick but he did not expect the toy to become a hit.

Despite that, he quickly chipped in to explain that Ubah was not the reason for DAP’s resounding victory.

“The people factor is. Ubah the bird just boosted their spirit.”

He said the inspiration to call the bird Ubah had come from him in line with the party’s aspiration.

“I told Chong I called the bird Ubah. In my design, I left its name on the vest. There was no objection from Chong.”

Ooi is a young graduate in fine art from Kuala Lumpur College of Art.

He started working with the DAP in 2000. He is also the party’s political education bureau director.

In the interview after DAP’s thanksgiving party here on Sunday, Ooi related how the design of Ubah the Hornbill came about.

“I was already in Kuching in March to attend a meeting with the state leaders to chart out the election preparation.

“Chong insisted there must be a mascot to boost the spirit of the people.”

He said this was followed by a brain storming session, and emerging from this, the committee wanted a hornbill to reflect the passion of the people.

He said the meeting wanted three elements to be incorporated – the rocket, the colours of Sarawak and the culture of this land.

“The challenge was thrown back to me. I dwelt with it for the rest of the days until Ubah the Hornbill was born.”

Ooi said he had initially asked another artist to design it but the idea did not work well.

“In the end, the challenge was thrown back to me.”

The young designer said he worked on it for a few weeks before he went to the drawing board to put the pieces together in just a few days.

He said they then went through another brainstorming for perfection of the toy, “and just before nomination day, Ubah   the Hornbill was put up for sale”.

“I found some kids might not  know the bird was a hornbill, but, they all knew it was called Ubah.”

Ooi was with the just-concluded tour of DAP to Kuching, Sibu and Miri for the thanksgiving dinners from April 30 until last night.

While in Sibu on Sunday, three large Ubah toys were put up for bidding.

They fetched a total of RM7,020.

The first one bore his signature and the signature of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. It was sold at RM2,000.

The second one with Lim’s signature and those of the 12 elected representatives fetched RM3,000 and the third with the signatures of Lim and Teresa Kok fetched RM2,020.

The successful bidders were Nee Lai Woo, Law Kung Meng and Choi Man Siaw.

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