Malaysian doodle artist reimagines Disney characters in traditional attire

Left: Pocahontas reimagined in traditional Kadazan attire. Right: The artist. Photo: Amir Sabri / Instagram
Left: Pocahontas reimagined in traditional Kadazan attire. Right: The artist. Photo: Amir Sabri / Instagram

Malaysian doodle artist Amir Sabri has amassed a following on TikTok for drawing Disney characters dressed in traditional attire, making Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora, Aladdin’s Jasmine and Frozen’s Elsa look like locals in their baju kurung, cheongsam, and saree, respectively. 

Known as Do Da Doodle on social media, the 28-year-old Shah Alam native started doodling ten years ago. Now, Amir works as an architect and cites doodling as his side gig.

How Amir’s foray into TikTok began

Moana transforms from Polynesian princess to nyonya kebaya gal. Photo: Amir Sabri / Instagram
Moana transforms from Polynesian princess to Nyonya kebaya gal. Photo: Amir Sabri / Instagram

Amir, who started his TikTok channel in late February, said he was inspired by another TikToker, Indonesian artist Aprilia Muktrina, or @heyapriliaa, to localize the Disney characters. 

Aprilia spawned an online challenge after drawing Frozen’s Elsa in traditional Indonesian attire and posting the Elsa versi Jawa Tengah (Central Javanese version of Elsa) video on May 5. The challenge uses the same soundtrack as the “Lathi Challenge” that is currently taking over Indonesian TikTok, performed by Indonesian acts Weird Genius and Sara Fajira.

Aprilia did various iterations, including Disney’s Moana and Aladdin. 

“I love Moana’s story, so I transformed Moana to wear kebaya, for Hari Raya,” he told Coconuts KL this week. Amir drew the Polynesian princess in kebaya using the Procreate digital painting app and uploaded the video to TikTok on May 16. It has since garnered more than 35,000 views.

@dodadoodle##disney ##moana versi kebaya nyonya ##brocuba ##tiktokmalaysia ##procreate ##kebayanyonya ##tiktokindonesia♬ LATHI (ꦭꦛꦶ) – Weird Genius & Sara Fajira

“After this, I received positive responses from my social media friends. They asked for more traditional attires with all the Disney princesses,” Amir said.

But it was his fifth video that racked up the most number of views so far — at least half a million. It showed Princess Aurora aka Sleeping Beauty in a flowery pink baju kurung Kedah (Kedah traditional attire for women). Amir named the princess Makcik Aura (Aunty Aura) in his captions. 

@dodadoodleMy fifth Disney Princess in Malaysian Traditional Attire: Princess Aurora berbaju kuring Kedah versi baju basahan duduk kat rumah. Makcik Aura.😅🙏🏻♬ LATHI (ꦭꦛꦶ) – Weird Genius & Sara Fajira

Amir has at least two Disney princess favorites.

“Although my all-time favorite Disney princess is Rapunzel, my personal favorite (drawing) is Ariel, the little mermaid!” he said. He drew the long-haired princess in Minangkabau attire and the mermaid in Nyonya kebaya.

Of course, his transformations aren’t just limited to Disney’s iconic princesses. With more than 15,000 followers on TikTok, the artist has also reimagined other characters such as Tarzan in traditional Dayak (Borneo native) attire, demigod Maui in traditional Malay attire, and Prince Eric in kain pelikat (sarong).

But drawing Disney characters can be stressful at times, he said.  

“Random doodles don’t require me to think much. I just enjoy myself and draw everything that comes to mind. With Disney characters, I need to think first, about how to draw the attire, and how to deliver the best interpretation of the outfit,” he said. His TikTok followers would sometimes give him suggestions on what characters to draw. 

One person known as Queen Sylvania online had asked him to transform the Evil Queen from Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs to look like Saloma, the famous Malaysian singer/actress from the 1950s. Amir hasn’t done it yet but implied that the future looks promising for a Disney villain series.

“The weirder the suggestion, the better,” Amir said.

More than just Disney princesses

Amir creates embroidery and tote bag art. Photo: Amir Sabri / Instagram
Amir creates embroidery and tote bag art. Photo: Amir Sabri / Instagram

When he is not drawing the characters, Amir creates other forms of art, such as making colorful tote bags, doing embroidery, and making good old-fashioned drawings on paper, which he showcases on Instagram.

@dodadoodlePrince Eric (Little Mermaid) in kain pelikat and baju pagoda! 😊 ##tiktokmalaysia ##disney ##fyp ##doodle ##dodadoodle♬ LATHI (ꦭꦛꦶ) – Weird Genius & Sara Fajira

Self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic has not dampened Amir’s creative spirit either.

“This quarantine season really is the time for me to gain more creativity. I did a lot more doodles than ever before, I explore all kinds of mediums — painting, watercolor, fluid art, embroidery, to name a few,” he said. 

The artist is also quite the wordsmith and wants to be more involved in producing children’s books. He has already written two: Sarah dan kerusi ajaib (Sarah and the magic chair) and Dunia Billy (Billy’s world).

Amir is currently also working on a guide to cyberbullying for children, in collaboration with University Sains Islam Malaysia.

The artist’s dreams don’t end there. Amir has also set up art company DreamStreet Studio and hopes to inspire the world through his art.

“I don’t have any physical studio yet,” he said. “It’s just me in my little bedroom and my humble workspace in it.”

“I want to spread positive messages and good vibes through my art,” he later added. 

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